The public library: a whole new world

Have you heard? Libraries are cool again!

When was the last time you set foot in your library?  Or checked out their website? Or their app? 

If you think the library is an out-of-date concept – think again! 

For starters: free Wi-Fi and gobs of downloadable digital content.

Yes, of course, libraries do still have all the old-school stuff like physical books (much to the book-lover’s delight) narrated books on CD, and films on DVD.  However, these days, their content has expanded and morphed to remain accessible, useful, and convenient to new generations of curious minds.  

Here are a few examples of what you can find at a public library:

Digital Content: With the help of apps like Hoopla, and OverDrive (among others) libraries now offer an ever-expanding selection of digital content, and you can borrow all of it for free! From movies and books to periodicals and music. You download the app, select the content you want, and get on with it!  This means you don’t even have to make it down to the library to check out a book – and you don’t have to worry about returning it on time because it simply disappears from your device on the date it is due back!

Tutoring: Need help with a certain subject?  Check out their tutoring schedule.  In some cases, you can even fill out a request form and they will contact you if a tutor is available.

Meeting spaces: Libraries have rooms available for you to use – for meetings, for study groups, for tutoring, etc.  Some rooms are even equipped with projectors, laptop connections, etc.  The smaller rooms are typically first-come, first-served, while the larger meetings rooms require reservations.

Free Courses: Check out their calendar of events.  Here in Jacksonville you can find everything from beginner guitar lessons to digital photography, ESL, Yoga, and basic coding!  (Each branch offers different things, so make sure you are looking at the right location!)

Copy/Print/Scan: Public computers are available to library card holders and guest passes (“guests” being those who do not have a library card) are available for a nominal fee.  Printers and copiers are accessible to library card-holders for a small fee to cover supplies (check pricing at your branch).  Some locations even offer mobile printing and 3D printing! Yes, that kind of 3-printing where you can actually create a three dimensional object!  

Fine Arts: Some locations occasionally offer free concerts, presentations, galleries, exhibitions, craft fairs, and debates.  The Jacksonville Main library features a Lunch @ the Lounge concert on a monthly basis, where you can bring your lunch, grab a table, and enjoy live guitar music.  They also feature a monthly Music @ Main Sunday Intermezzo.

Work space: Of course, libraries also have lots of space to sit and read or study. Coffee shops may be a popular place to go do some homework, but libraries are much more spacious and less chaotic. Plus, you don’t have to make a purchase in order to hang out at a table for three hours. So, if blowing your budget on coffee and pastries is an issue for you, the library is an ideal alternative!

Variety and personality: Some public library buildings are massive works of art with beautiful design and architecture; others are tiny and quaint.  The Jacksonville Main Library is a good example of a large and beautiful building.  It even has murals and a roof-top patio complete with potted trees and a fountain!  Others locations have cozy indoor spaces, craft rooms, and tiny theaters.  The branch closest to our TBC campus (West Branch) offers a quiet space with comfy seating, charging stations, and a fireplace!  The Willowbranch location is housed in a gorgeous building next to a public park and across the street from a community garden – a beautiful setting to sit and read!

When all is said and done, the public library is pretty much the perfect place to start if you are interested in what you can do, learn, enjoy, and use for FREE in your area!  Practically the only prerequisite for accessing it all is having a (free) library card.

Keep in mind that every library in every city will have different things available.  Much of it depends on the size of the city, but even small-town libraries can have some great perks!  Sign up for their newsletter – it will give you a run-down of community happenings and any new things coming to your library. Bottom line: it is ALWAYS a good idea to try the library first – you never know what you will find!

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Decoding Financial Aid

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As you begin the process of applying to college, you will notice that college and university financial offices tend to have a vocabulary all their own.  Don’t panic!  It is completely normal and to be expected, so don’t be intimidated and don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarification if at any point you feel confused. 

Acronyms in particular tend to be intimidating.  Seeing a string of capital letters popping out at you from the page can make you wonder if you’re actually reading English!  Don’t let it shake you!  Very often, once you know what words the letters represent, the meaning becomes clear without any further explanation.  Think of them as the text abbreviations of the financial aid world.  Most young people recognize acronyms like LOL, TBT, TBH, etc., because these are used often in everyday messaging.  If you take the time to familiarize yourself with a few basic financial acronyms, the mystery of it all will disappear and you’ll feel much more confident when it comes time to discuss your options with your school’s financial advisor.

Three very common acronyms that are used when discussing the financial side of college life are FAFSA, COA, and EFC.  You may have already come across these since they are frequently mentioned during the admission process.

 

FAFSA = Free Application for Federal Student Aid

This is a form that enables you to determine how much financial aid you can receive from the federal government*.  The form can be completed entirely online from the comfort of your own home by visiting fafsa.ed.gov or you can check out their app: myStudentAid. You will need to have some documents handy in order to complete this form – go ahead and view the list here so you know what to expect.

(By the way, any NEW student at TBC who completes and submits their FAFSA by November 1, 2018 is eligible for a $500 scholarship!  If this applies to you – don’t miss out!)

 

COA = Cost of Attendance

Your cost of attendance includes direct education expenses (tuition, fees, etc.) at your college of choice plus estimates for indirect expenses associated with your college education.  Financial aid offices develop COAs by student classification: campus resident students, commuter students, etc.  All students in a certain classification will have the same COA.

Typically, your COA will include:

  • Tuition
  • Miscellaneous fees (registration fee, graduation fee, etc.)
  • Meal plans/food
  • Housing costs
  • Textbooks
  • School supplies (computer, printer, materials for projects, etc)
  • Transportation

 

EFC = Expected Family Contribution

The EFC is a measure of how much the student and his or her family can be expected to contribute toward the student’s COA for a given academic year. Each school’s financial aid office uses your EFC to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.  Your Federal Student Aid eligibility should be the same at all schools.

If you would like to dig a little deeper into how your EFC is calculated, you can learn more here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

We hope this helps as you move forward in your college search and application adventure.  We wish you all the best!  Please do not hesitate to contact us at Trinity Baptist College if you have any questions we can help answer.  You can email us at financialaid@tbc.edu or call us at 904-596-2451.

 

*and under which category your eligibility falls: need-based or non-need-based.

What does a budget do? {Or: How to eat churros instead of gas money.}

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Budgeting.  What emotion do you associate with that word?  Boredom?  Fear?  Stress?

It should make you feel secure.  In control.  Confident, even.

There is a misconception floating around that budgets are restrictive.  That they zap all the joy out of life and limit your dreams.  That they make you give up your churro addiction. Continue reading

(How to) Rise and Shine!

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Getting out of bed in the morning tends to be a challenge for many people.  Yes, there are “morning people” in this world – those rare human beings who naturally enjoy beginning their day before the sun peeks over the horizon.  But it seems that the majority of individuals don’t fall into that category.  What about you?  Are you trying to figure out how to get a grip in the mornings?

Welcome, my friend.  You are not alone!

Here’s the bad news: it takes work to unlearn bad habits and learn new ones.  But here’s the good news: it is completely doable!  Below are four helpful ideas to keep in mind as you train (yes, train) yourself to get up earlier in the mornings.

1. Peer Pressure

Plan to meet up with someone in the morning.  Once in a while, peer pressure can be a good thing!  In this case, it could be your saving grace.  Team up with a friend who does get up on time and make plans to meet for coffee, go for a run, or anything else that peaks your interest.  The key is to make it something pleasant (to you).  If you’re meeting up to do something you detest, you’re setting yourself up to fail!  So, if running is misery to you, don’t plan to run.  Instead, tempt yourself with the prospect of a really awesome breakfast, or a trip to your favorite coffee place before class, or a workout that you actually enjoy.  How about yoga? Kickboxing?  See what your local gym has to offer – something might catch your attention.

2. Patience

If you’re serious about changing your habits to wake up earlier in the mornings, you have to be methodical and patient. Change is rarely easy and going from an 8:30am wake-up to a 5:30am wake-up will likely be a challenge!  Take baby steps!  Start with getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual the first week.  The next week, move it back 15 minutes more.  Within two weeks you’ll be waking up a full hour earlier without feeling drastic effects.

3. Persistence

Being patient with yourself is one thing – not holding yourself accountable is another. Don’t allow yourself to slide back into old habits! Challenge yourself to beat the clock and reward yourself when you do.  Track on a calendar – check the days that you get up on time and plan to celebrate when you reach an entire month of check marks.  Give yourself pep talks the night before.  The point is to do whatever it takes to get yourself in the mindset to want to overcome this challenge!

4. Prep

This is your chance to see what life is like as a control freak!  The night before, think through the next morning in detail.  Are you going to work out? Go to class?  Go to work?  Let’s assume you’re doing all three in that order.  Your prep should look something like this:

  • Set out workout clothes (including shoes and socks – no need to wake up your roommate digging around looking for a missing shoe)
  • Decide on your outfit for class. Don’t just assume it’s ready – actually take it out of the closet for two seconds to look at it.  Make sure it’s clean and presentable.  Finding out the next morning that your shirt has a mustard stain on the front will totally defeat the purpose of choosing your clothes the night before.
  • If your job requires a uniform, make sure that’s ready to go too.
  • Pack your book bag and definitely make sure any due assignments are included.
  • Set your alarm and place it somewhere that forces you to get out of bed to turn it off in the morning.
  • See ideas #1 – #3

Here’s to getting started on the right track!  Set a goal and amaze yourself!

Your College ID: A Diamond in the Rough

diamond-807979_1920There are a whole slew of firsts that come along with the first week of college.

There’s move-in day, orientation day, saying goodbye to family, locating the laundry room, living in a building full of other humans who are all roughly the same age as you (whoah!), keeping track of your own schedule (for better or for worse!)… aaaaaand posing for your first-ever college student ID picture.  Exciting stuff, huh? Continue reading

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!)

Continue reading

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!


Three Ways a Small College Can Deliver a Big Experience

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Small-college life has a lot to offer!  While we can’t boast large crowds, we certainly make up for it in atmosphere and personality!  One of the best things about a small campus is the close-knit environment.  That family feel impacts almost every aspect of life, and can enhance your studies and personal growth in ways you may not have considered before.

Small campus life can broaden your horizons.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but a small campus can accelerate personal growth.  Sure, a mega campus sounds exciting, but when it comes down to experiences that impact us deeply, friends that really care, and opportunities that are tailor-fit to your interests, crowds can become more of a challenge than an opportunity.  A smaller student body tends to foster personal relationships between individuals who may otherwise never come in contact through everyday life.  When athletes and musicians, theologians and business students rub shoulders day-to-day, it provides opportunities for everyone to broaden their perspectives.   It allows for healthy conversations and discussions to take place that can build mutual respect and understanding, and possibly even create avenues for students to experience new things they would never participate in otherwise.

Small campus life can mean increased safety.

Are you more likely to check on a friend or a stranger?  If you notice your friend hasn’t been to class in three days, chances are, you will try to find out why.  When a stranger misses class for a week you might not even notice!  A certain amount of mutual care and concern naturally develops within a small student body.  Not only does this create a very friendly and personal environment, but also a safe one.  Students in a close-knit environment are able to instinctively pick up on unusual behaviors and activities and are better able to support one another through stress and crises.

Small campus life is convenient.

It may sound a bit shallow, but let’s be just honest with each other – convenience is a big deal!  A massive campus can really cramp your schedule if you have to race eight miles to make it to your next class.   Yes, a class on the opposite side of campus can still be a bummer at a small college, but here’s the good news: it’s still only a 5-minute walk to get there!  (Though you may want to invest in comfy shoes or a bike.)  You’ll also have quick and easy access to any other resources on campus such as the library, technology, activity centers, and even athletic and social events – no transportation required!

Small-college life certainly deserves a lot of credit and the benefits extend beyond graduation!  A close-knit student body translates into strong alumni bonds that can open doors to things you never dreamed possible.