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If you think the library is an out-of-date concept – think again!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

 

 

 

You don’t know what you don’t know (Or: Why taking “that class” is a good idea)

56206868_9ea35e3694_zIt seems inevitable.  At some point in your college career you will find yourself taking a course that seems disconnected to your major.  You may begin to question the decision-makers who determined that this should be a required course in your program of study.  When mid-terms roll around, your patience can start to wear thin. Continue reading

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’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

Keyboard shortcuts every college student should know

We humans are funny.  No matter how easy something is, we are always looking for a shortcut.  This could stem from a genuine desire to be as effective as possible… but then again, it could come from laziness.  You may have heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  But swapping the word “necessity” for “laziness” sounds more accurate. Continue reading

5 Things To Learn Before Moving Out

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Many times, going to college means “moving out.”  Moving out is exciting!  It means you’ve reached a new level of independence and maturity.  If that is where you find yourself today, congratulations!

You’ll find that independence and maturity don’t happen magically – they require responsibility.  And responsibility itself is a learning process!  Have you learned the basics of living on your own?  There’s a lot to learn!  But don’t worry – no one expects you to know it all right away.  Since we could never cover everything here, we have chosen five basic life skills that are a good idea to master before moving out on your own.   Not only will these skills make your life easier, but they also have the potential to make you a better roommate and a more capable adult!

  • Learn how to clean a bathroom. Traditionally, the bathroom is the room where we get clean.  But in order to be able to get yourself clean, the bathroom itself must first be clean.  Otherwise, it’s like washing a white shirt in the swamp.  Pointless and gross.  Showers, sinks, counters, mirrors, and floors – they all get nasty if you don’t clean them.  And toilets… well, let’s just say that toilets need to be cleaned regularly (trust me!).  And before you make excuses about not having time to clean… in reality, it only takes 3-4 minutes to clean any one area of the bathroom (provided you do it regularly and you don’t have to chisel 2 inches of grime off the tiles.)

If you’ve never cleaned a bathroom and feel the need for guidance, you don’t even have to ask your mom to teach you – you can look it up on Youtube!  This one shows you how to clean a toilet in less than 3 minutes.

  • Learn how to make an appointment (and keep it). No, this isn’t a joke! Have you ever made an appointment on your own?  Making an appointment is simple enough, but you’ll need to know several things before making that call.  For example: you’ll need to know what days/times you’re available (take into account the time it takes to get there and back), how long the appointment may last, and what kind of transportation is available to you.  This applies to everything from a meeting with your professor to a job interview or doctor’s appointment.  If it is a doctor’s appointment, you will likely need to have cash or a card on hand to make a payment.  If you don’t make your appointment on time, the office or individual waiting for you has every right to move on. When that happens, you’ll have to reschedule, which is a big pain.  Also, be aware that most medical offices charge a no-show fee.  That’s an even bigger pain.  Biggest lesson here: plan ahead.  Do what it takes to make it there. If you don’t think you can make it, call ahead to cancel or re-schedule.

Speaking of doctors…

  • Learn how to use your insurance. Let’s just be honest for a moment: health insurance is a royal pain.  No one is denying that or expecting you to know all the details of your particular plan.  That being said, it is highly recommended that you know your provider (name of the insurance company) and carry proof of insurance in your wallet (usually a credit-card sized card that lists all the basic information and numbers to call with questions).   Do you know how to find a doctor in your insurance plan?  Do you know if your plan requires a co-pay?  Or is it a high-deductible plan (you pay a bit more out of pocket)?  These are all things you’ll need to know when making a doctor’s appointment.
  • Learn when to go to bed and the importance of getting up on time.   Make yourself get up on time.  You’ll be less likely to forget what you need and more likely to make a good impression (either in a class presentation or in that chance encounter with your crush).  And if you budget your time well, you’ll find there is also time to goof off and have fun!
  • Learn to memorize. Your social security number.  Your pin number.  Your bank account number. Your license plate number. Important phone numbers.    Phone numbers.  Think parents, siblings, and close friends. These days there is little need to commit contact numbers and addresses to memory since we can just look them up on our phones!  But what if you drop your phone in the toilet?  (Go ahead and laugh – you know it happens!)  What if you lose it on a hiking trip or you drop it trying to take that perfect selfie at the pool and it sinks under six feet of chlorinated water?  What is your backup plan for contacting family if you can’t access your phone? Knowing one person’s phone number can be a lifesaver.

Don’t let life catch you by surprise!  Do your best to plan in advance so you can enjoy your independence confidently!  On the other hand, try not to be intimidated by what you don’t know.  Be willing to ask for help.  Everyone needs help at some point.  One day, you’ll be the one helping a freshman figure out their insurance card!