6 ways to help your brain this winter break

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Winter break is upon us!  You are probably holding your breath for that glorious moment when you turn in our last exam!  Finally, you can sleep in without missing your first class or paying for it in a low grade!

First up on your to-do list: catch up on sleep and binge-watch your favorite TV shows.

Sounds like the PERFECT winter break routine.

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Establishing credit: two baby steps and a warning

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Let’s say you feel ready to handle the responsibility of credit and all that entails.  How do you get started? 

Before we even get into that, let’s take a moment to revisit the main take-away from our last post [Credit: what is it and why should you care?]  Let’s say it all together now: No credit is better than bad credit! 

Yes, we are starting with the warning mentioned in the title.  That is because it is so important!

Moving on.

Demonstrating that you are responsible with your finances is key to qualifying for a loan or credit card… but how can you prove that you are financially responsible with credit when you don’t yet qualify for the very things that help you build that credit?

Baby Step #1: Open a bank account in your name, if you don’t already have one.  Try your best to deposit on a consistent basis. Even if it is only a few dollars a month.  It all ads up, and a history of deposits looks good even if they are small.

Baby Step #2 Apply for a secured credit card.  You use it like a regular credit card, but the spending limit must be backed by a deposit.  (Your spending limit is typically dictated by the amount of your deposit.)  You can use the card to pay bills or make purchases, and you will be responsible for paying off your balance just as you would with a regular credit card.  Another option is to become an authorized on someone else’s credit card.  This means that the other person will need to be able to trust you! (A typical scenario is for a parent to add their child as an authorized user on their card.)  They will be held responsible personally for any bad decisions made with the card, so you will be expected to be on your best behavior!  On the flip side, your name can benefit from the correct usage of that card.

Looking for more baby steps/ways to get started on building your credit?  There are several other valid options, each of which have their own set of pros and cons.  Nerdwallet.com may be helpful to you as you navigate the world of finances and learn what will work best for you.   This page on their website offers several more options for building credit from scratch: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/how-to-build-credit/  

Ultimately, your level of responsibility will determine how well they work for you.

What is a good target age for establishing credit?

The decision to use credit or not and when to begin establishing that credit is a subjective one.  Every person has different goals and varying degrees of responsibility.

That being said, you will need to be 18 years of age or order to apply for most credit cards, but can open a bank account when you are much younger (sometimes as young as age 13).

Warning: Building good credit is fairly easily done, and can be accomplished in just a few months.  Bad credit can haunt you for hears.  It is not a bad idea to work toward building good credit while still in high school.   However, your self-control plays a significant role in the success of this plan.  Some students are better off waiting.  Be honest with yourself and seek advice.  Make sure that the temptation to spend is something you can handle.

 

 

 

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

What’s the difference between grants and scholarships?

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Are grants and scholarships two different ways to say the same thing?  Or are they actually different?

This is a question that may be rolling around in your mind as you look ahead to your college search.  The world of financial aid can sometimes sound confusing and intimidating.  The truth is that minimal research on your part can answer most of your questions.  Financial aid advisers are there to help with the rest!  So, when you do get that far in your college search, be sure to take advantage of the advice that they have to offer! Continue reading

The down side of having a plan

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There’s a down side?  Really?

If you are a planner, you are probably staring daggers at your screen right now.  “What kind of incompetent person would suggest that planning is less than the epitome of being responsible?”

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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!