Three tips for every commuter student

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Often, moving out is assumed when people talk about going to college.  However, that is not always the case

In fact, statistics show that the commuter student population is over half that of on-campus students.  Curious?  You can read a US news article about that here.  Of course, this data will vary drastically depending on the university or college in question, and the percentage of commuter students tends to be lowest in the freshman class.  (This might be because many colleges and universities require freshmen to live on campus.)

Wondering why some colleges require freshmen to live on campus?  It’s actually for your own benefit!  Here’s a quick list of solid reasons why it’s a good idea.

Commuter students face a unique set of challenges. 

We met with a commuter student at TBC and her observations echoed that of many other commuters across the country.  There are some obvious perks to living at home and driving to class each day, but there are three main areas that are unique challenges for the off-campus student.   If you are planning to commute and want to get the most out of your college experience, these are three areas that you should consider as you plan your days.

  • Get involved. It takes extra effort to truly get to know fellow classmates and professors and be familiar with campus facilities and events. To be an active participant in college life outside of the classroom, you’ll need to be strategic.  It is easy to just go to class and leave, but by doing that you’re missing out on many of the experiences that make college so exciting.  On-campus students tend to spend a majority of their time together in the dining hall, in the library, walking back and forth to class, in the activity buildings, attending campus events, and, of course, in their dorm or other student housing.  Relationships are built during those times, and you’ll need to intentionally plug in to the campus culture and community outside of class.  It is not impossible, but it can be difficult if you aren’t naturally outgoing.

Helpful tip: Purposefully meet fellow freshmen as well as upperclassmen during orientation and build on those connections.  Freshmen will likely be slightly out of their comfort zone (but the same boat as you!) and you will likely all have a very similar schedule. Chances are, you’ll see each other frequently and probably have multiple classes together.  Upperclassmen will have the inside scoop on how things work and what to expect.  It’s always advisable to have more mature people in your life who can share their experiences and perspective.  Look for those good influences that you can depend on!

  • Traffic is unpredictable.  Depending on your distance from campus you’ll need take into account rush hours and possible traffic flow obstacles (accidents, construction, special events, etc.) Each semester, class schedules change and demand that the commuter student learn a new routine.  Don’t let this discourage you from your goal!  Hundreds of college students accept this challenge every day and pass with flying colors.  Just make a point to give yourself extra time, especially on days when you have an exam or a project is due.  Being late is never a good idea, but it is a really bad idea to be late on a day when a grade-defining event is on the schedule.

Helpful tip: For the first week or two, plan to give yourself way more travel time that you actually need to get to campus and find your classroom.  Get familiar with your route and take note of any rail road crossings or school zones.  If you encounter either of those on your way to campus, you may need to scope out alternate routes to keep in mind if needed.  If you arrive on campus with 30 minutes to spare, take advantage of that time to roam campus and get familiar with the layout.  Or look for a familiar face and start a conversation! 

  • Even if you commute from home, you may need to plan your own meals. It might work out perfectly for you to run home for lunch or dinner, but then again it might not.  Classes, homework, work schedules, and campus activities can conflict with home routines. Meals could easily be one of the main changes you’ll need to account for.  (Skipping meals shouldn’t be part of your plan!)

Helpful tip: Look into the possibility of paying for a meal service plan.  Making a stop at the college cafeteria could be the perfect answer to a crazy class schedule, and most likely be cheaper than buying snacks every day.  (Healthier too, if you choose wisely in the cafeteria!)  Another option would be to pack your own meals to bring with you.  Take that extra money you’ve saved and use it to knock out that college bill!  

In the end, your college experience can be what you want it to be. 

If you want to have a positive experience, make the extra effort to make it so!  Keeping these three points in mind as you make plans can go a long way toward creating the experience you are looking for.  Ask questions, look for creative solutions, and enjoy this exciting phase of life!

 

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Creative Ways to Fund Your College Education: Finding a Flexible Job

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The job hunt can be a tedious task.  College students are in the particularly complicated position of needing jobs that accommodate class schedules. Flexible jobs absolutely do exist, but sometimes it takes a little bit of creative hunting to find something that will work for your particular circumstance!

Don’t be discouraged if you cannot find the perfect fit immediately.  It is called a job “hunt” for a reason!  Keep in mind that your natural strengths and interests may be a good place to start.  If you’re really good at math, look around for tutoring opportunities!  (Tutoring is actually one of the ideas below.) Here are a few ideas that might help spark your imagination:

  • Tutoring: Local schools and academies are a great place to find tutoring jobs, and word spreads quickly – if you’re a good tutor, parents will want you to help their kids!  Your specific expertise in subjects such as English or math is a huge bonus!

  • Freelance writing: Businesses often try to boost their online presence by expanding their website, maintaining a blog, submitting articles and ads to online (or print) periodicals and publications, etc. https://www.upwork.com/
  • Online marketing: This could mean anything from social media management to website maintenance.  Photography and writing skills would be a plus.  If you’re a natural social media addict, could be right up your alley! www.flexjobs.com
  • Translator/Interpreter: Are you fluent in a language other than English?  What about English sign language?  Check with your local City Hall!  They may have translation needs that are not advertised but needed on a semi-regular basis.  This could definitely be a valid way to boost your income in off hours.
  • Fitness instructor: This will require certification if you hope to do this in a professional capacity, but if you have a passion for fitness, chances are that you may wish to earn that certification anyway.
  • Seamstress/Tailor: This might sound old fashioned, but you would be surprised how many people will pay to have their clothes re-sized/fitted, curtains made, or a lining mended.  Your college or local schools may have a drama department – if so, knowing how to operate a sewing machine is a valuable skill!

You might feel like you don’t have any particular skills… don’t underestimate yourself!  Are you organized?  Creative?  Patient? Athletic?  Personality and character qualities play a role in the job hut also!  Consider some of these ideas:

  • Virtual Assistant: Yes, it’s a thing!  This could include anything from managing emails to transcribing records or data entry.  https://www.upwork.com/  Depending on the employer, previous experience could be a plus, but not always required.
  • Babysit/Nanny: This won’t earn points for creativity – but it does pay well!  In case you’re confused about the difference: nannying is a more consistent (and often more demanding) version of babysitting.  A nanny will typically spend regular hours taking care of their charge multiple times a week, and could include chauffeur, meal-time, and bed-time duties.  Be prepared to submit a resume or letters of recommendation.  Your reputation precedes you, and parents have every right to be choosy about who is in contact with their children!
  • Grocery Delivery: This is an increasingly popular business that is taking off in many areas of the country – particularly in larger cities.  Some grocery stores have their own grocery delivery service, but there are also third-party businesses like Shipt, which are a great option for people who need a flexible work schedule. www.shipt.com
  • Usher at Sporting Events: These can be great side jobs – and you get to take in the game while you work (as long as you focus on your job responsibilities!).  Check out what sporting events take place in your city – this could be your ticket!
  • Valet Parker: Many hotels and upscale restaurants offer this service – it’s a fun opportunity to drive fancy cars and get paid for doing it!
  • Barista: Prior experience is always a perk (pun absolutely intended) in these positions, but many college students find this job to be a perfect fit since coffee houses tend to stay open into the late evenings.  Chain coffee houses get all the publicity, but don’t overlook the local shops – you just might find a diamond in the rough!
  • Catering/Serving Staff: Sometimes caterers need extra help serving plates or re-fill chafing dishes at large events.  Get in touch with local small businesses that cater for weddings and other social gatherings and find out when their busy season is – that is when they will need the most help.
  • Restaurant Server/Host: Obviously, being a people person would definitely be a bonus for this kind of job!
  • Senior Care: The requirements can vary greatly with this kind of employment, but could include grocery shopping for or with the individual, driving them around, light cleaning, keeping up conversation, helping with their pets, etc.
  • Dog Sitting/Dog Walking: You thought this was just a NYC thing?  Surprise!
  • Lawn Care/General Home Maintenance: Are you willing to take on odd jobs like painting, cleaning gutters, mowing, or doing small repairs?  Don’t underestimate the value of developing “handy-man” skills!  Many people don’t have the time, knowledge or stamina to do some of these jobs and they’re happy to contract someone to do it for them! You may even be able to find employment on the campus maintenance staff.

Scanning through job listings is always a good place to start, but with a little extra effort you can get a head start on finding employment.   Strategically-placed posters on your college campus, nearby academy campuses, and even community bulletin boards will help get your name out to the general public.  You may not get a lot of response through them, but you never know!   Advertising on your social media is another great idea, since your friends and acquaintances can help spread the word.  And never underestimate the value of word-of-mouth.  If you do a good job for one person, there’s a good chance they will recommend you to others!

Whatever you do, keep your chin up!  Determination, dependability, and willingness to learn will go a long way.  Be willing to try new things… even boring things.  The end goal here is to fund your education.  Dream jobs are a fantastic goal – don’t let go of that!  Just remember that dream jobs typically come after you’ve worked hard to get there.  You have to start somewhere!   Here’s to a successful employment search!

Filling Financial Aid Gaps: Creative Ways to Fund Your College Education

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Paying for college is likely one of your top concerns as you make your higher education plans.  And for good reason!  No one wishes to be weighed down with debt at graduation, and yet, it seems that many young people are facing just that!

What if there was another way? 

What if there were options besides loans?  What if there were people, businesses, or foundations out there who were interested in sponsoring YOUR education?

Sound too good to be true?

Maybe.  But, to quote Sherlock Holmes, “…when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”  (Yes, Spock said it too, but – fun fact – he was paraphrasing Sherlock!)

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Tips for Stress-Free College Admissions

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So, you’ve decided upon the college(s) you’re interested in – that’s fantastic!

…Now what?

Now, you get to apply for admission!

Yes, it’s a big step, and yes, there’s a good bit of work that goes into the process.  But most colleges have a fairly streamlined process and advisers who are happy to assist if you have any questions. Also, (if it helps) know that you are not alone – there are literally thousands of individuals who are going through this same process all across the country!

Feeling better?  Good!  One last word of caution: Institutions have deadlines for submitting certain documents and fees.  Those deadlines are important!  Missing a deadline could possibly mean forfeiting your acceptance, available grants, housing space, athletic eligibility, or financial aid for which you may be eligible.

Yes, again, that sounds stressful.  But, as long as you stay on top of your game, you have absolutely nothing to worry about!

That being said, the typical admissions process looks something like this:

1. Contact the college admissions office and complete the application form (this can be done online in most cases).   Yes, there are deadlines even for submitting the application!

2. Be prepared to submit documents such as:

  • Copy of your photo ID
  • Copy of your social security card
  • Official High school transcripts or GED test results
  • Your SAT or ACT scores
  • Copies of financial documents (bank statements, tax documents)
  • Copies of medical records

3. Depending on the institution you have chosen, there may be additional requirements.   This could include but is not limited to:

  • Reference letters from mentors/pastors
  • Athletic information
  • Detailed health history information
  • Any applicable dual enrollment or college transcripts you may have
  • Schedule and take the admissions test
  • Essays
  • FAFSA Application (It is always advisable to fill out the FAFSA, which will help determine any financial aid for which you may be eligible at an accredited institution.  You can fill out the form online herehttps://fafsa.ed.gov/)

4. Once you have submitted all required forms and documents, it is time to relax a bit and wait!  The admissions office will contact you and let you know of their final admissions decision. Some colleges can give you an acceptance decision very quickly, while others may take longer.  Usually, the expected wait time is posted somewhere on their website.  (Go ahead and look for that right now – it’s good to know what to expect!)

5. Be aware that acceptance is not the final step!  After receiving notification of your acceptance (congratulations!), you will need to follow the guidelines indicated by your chosen institution.  Typically you will be asked to place a deposit in order to finalize enrollment. Enrollment is what reserves your place on class rosters and campus housing (if applicable), and starts the process for requesting your student email and technology information, meal plan details, etc. Basically, all the details about your college life!

It can be a lot to keep track of, but don’t let that scare you!  Simply listen carefully to advisers throughout the entire process, make note of important dates, and plan ahead to submit documents and forms before their actual due date.

When in doubt get in touch with your admission representative!  Their job is literally to answer your questions and help you plan for a fantastic college experience.

Here’s to stress-free college admissions!   Go, get started on step #1, and take control of your future!