6 Tips for Taking Out Student Loans when the Debt is Inevitable

Student Loans

It’s common sense that if you have the means to avoid taking out student loans, then you should pay for school some other way. However, for a lot of students – especially in this day and age – taking out student loans is quite necessary. It’s become so common that it’s actually rare to encounter a student or graduate without debt.

When you’re beginning to finance your education, it’s important to do it wisely. Following these tips will have your future-self thanking you.

Start looking for assistance as soon as possible.
Loans are a great way to make sure that you are able to experience college, but paying them back is not so fun. Many students overlook the fact that there are so many potential grants and scholarships that they can earn, or they’re simply too lazy to apply for them all. Use a scholarship matching website to find scholarships that you could potentially qualify for, and apply for a few per day. Also, if you’re employed, find out if your work has education compensation.

Borrow federal loans, and only borrow privately if necessary.
By now you’ve probably heard about the FAFSA form, or the Free Application for Federal Aid. This is the information that the government uses to determine how much money to lend you while also potentially offering you grants and workstudy opportunities. It’s important to fill this out because federal loans are superior to private loans for a number of reasons: they have a fixed interest rate, for example, whereas private lenders often increase their interest rates over time. Federal loans can also be deferred while you go to school or if you are in tough financial times. All in all, it’s much easier to budget for federal loans over time.

Don’t get duped by private lenders.
Many private lenders advertise an extremely low interest rate to get you to apply. Then, they increase the rate the next month. They will never be more economical or predictable than federal loans, so only resort to these companies after you’ve maxed out your federal loan capacity. Even then, do lots of research and shopping around.

Consider community.
There are a lot of states that will pay for your education if you do your first two years at a community college and finish up at a state school. You could literally save yourself tens of thousands of dollars by going this route. You could also take supplemental college courses online or during summer break at a lower cost offered by your community college, which will help you catch up without being so expensive.

Try not to fall behind in your degree.
It’s best not to declare a major until you feel certain about it, because sometimes, switching majors puts you back so far that you need to take another year of schooling. This means another year of loans, which your federal loan capacity may not allow for. Plan your courseloads wisely and with a schedule for graduation in mind.

Be frugal.
Remember that excess loan money isn’t just “free money.” Pick up a job if you can, and send your excess money back to the lender so you have less debt in the long run. If you can’t get a job or don’t want to, try to live somewhere with lower rent, cut costs on textbooks, et cetera to make your money stretch further.

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Best Options for Online Tutoring


When you’re struggling to grasp a concept in school, a lot of people will tell you to visit your professor during office hours. However, a lot of the time, the reason students struggle to grasp what their professors are saying is because that teaching style simply doesn’t resonate with them. Sometimes, having someone explain the same material in a fresh way is all it takes to get the information to “click.”

It’s always a great idea to schedule a study session with students from your class that seem to understand the subject matter better than you do. But what do you do if you’re taking college classes online? One great resource is online tutoring – and there are, surprisingly, a lot of reliable sites to get it.


InstaEDU is a site through which you can hire tutors by the minute. Get tutored in anything from geography to program – all you have to do is input the specifics of what you need help with and you’ll be matched to a personalized tutor who is best suited to help you. Typically, the tutor will be available immediately and you can text chat, video chat, and communicate via a digital whiteboard. You can even upload your homework material so that you can both be looking at the same document.


HelpHub is another tutoring on demand service with thousands of college-educated tutors who specialize in all different subjects. Again, this is a pay-as-you-go, no-commitment site that allows you to chat with tutors for free so you can get to know them and decide if they’re right for you before you pay. If you find a tutor to be particularly helpful, you can schedule recurring sessions with him or her so that you can get help throughout the semester.


Home to 200,000 teachers, WizIQ is slightly different from the aforementioned tutoring resources. On this site, you can take pre-recorded classes to learn more about a topic that interests you or for supplemental learning. Alternatively, you can enroll with a private teacher for classes and/or tutoring sessions. This site allows teachers and professors to “run tutoring businesses,” so prices vary depending on what that teacher wants to charge.


Finally, there’s eAge, which is a digital tutoring service for non-native English speakers or those who would like to learn public speaking skills. It focuses primarily on vocabulary, comprehension, communication, grammar, and writing so that you can learn to better communicate – which is one of the most important skills in todays world.

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How do I Know Which Degree is Right for Me?

185520715When you near the end of your high school days, you’re going to have a lot of people essentially asking you what you want to be when you grow up. In spite of the implications, don’t let this lead you to believe that you need to choose a career path before you enroll in school. When figuring out what degree is right for you, timing is [almost] everything.

Before choosing, you need the ability to balance your interests with your skills; your strengths with your experience. Unfortunately, you can’t expect to just choose what sounds the most interesting and expect that you will excel career-wise. It takes a lot of trial and error.

So, before you spend four years’ worth of college tuition only to realize you haven’t chosen the right degree path, take these tips into consideration while enjoying your final months of high school.

You don’t have to decide until you’ve already started school – but you should probably decide by your junior year. College is a time of experimentation, as we all know. The great thing about needing core classes to graduate is that you get to try your hand at a few different fields so that you can figure out what you like, what you’re good at, and what has a future to offer you. As long as you don’t set yourself back credit-wise, you can fit classes from all sorts of subjects into your semesters and narrow it down from there.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Surely you’ll be visiting a number of different schools and meeting with potential advisors. Your questions don’t have to revolve around what clubs are offered, how the dining hall food tastes, and what on-campus life is like. You can ask questions about specific degree programs, such as how frequently graduates get hired from certain programs or what the course load will be like. You might also want to ask if they offer online college courses for certain degrees, in case you decide that’s more your speed.

Don’t stress too much about salary. In the long run, you do have to pursue a field that correlates with something you enjoy doing. Don’t throw yourself into engineering if it truly makes you miserable just because you want the big paycheck. Try to picture yourself working in a field for the rest of your life, and think about how that makes you feel.

Know the details. If you do choose a major, figure out what exactly your schooling will entail. For example, teachers will require an extra year of schooling at some colleges, while psychiatrists need to pursue a doctorate. It’s important to figure out whether the necessary schooling fits in with your life plan in order to avoid abandoning your degree.

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The 7 Best Motivational TED Talks For College Students

TED Talks Logo-1

Although exciting, it’s frightening to leave home and start a new college life. You are entering a new world surrounded by new people, and you’re getting ready for new experiences. You have done everything you can to prepare yourself by choosing the right classes and packing up your necessities, but have you prepared yourself mentally?

Below are 7 of the best TED talks that can help prepare and motivate you during your college adventure.

30 Day Challenge By Matt Cutts

Watch the video:  30 Day Challenge by Matt Cutts

College is all about new experiences. It can be exciting discovering your new town, your new friends, and your new life. Matt Cutts explains in his TED talk how a 30 day challenge will benefit your college experience in many new and exciting ways. Following in the footsteps of philosopher Morgan Spurlock, Matt shows how in 30 days you can achieve goals, create new habits, and make substantial changes to your life. Don’t wait, try something new for the next 30 days.

Dare to Disagree By Margaret Heffernan

Watch the video: Dare to Disagree by Margaret Heffernan

Over the years, you may have been told that when an expert speaks on a given topic, you are to believe every word, even when you have honest questions, or you think you should challenge the point. Margaret Heffernan challenges you to dare to disagree. She explores the idea of challenging the known and discovering new ideas.

The Key to Success? Grit By Angela Lee Duckworth

Watch the video:  The Key to Success? Grit By Angela Lee Duckworth

Getting into college is challenging, let alone getting into the college you want. But now that you’re here, what’s going to make you stand out? What’s going to make you succeed? Angela Lee Duckworth has devoted her time to studying success and has found that it’s not necessarily one’s intelligence that makes them successful. It’s their desire and perseverance, or their grit as Angela calls it, that helps them to succeed.

How to Start a Movement By Derek Sivers

Watch the video:  How to Start a Movement By Derek Sivers

Feeling a little lost in the crowd? Have a few spare minutes? Pull out your mobile device and listen to the TED talk “How to Start a Movement” by Derek Sivers. Derek uses a short video to show how a young guy who is dancing alone and who is clearly not part of the crowd turns his dancing into a movement when others begin dancing beside him. Often it is the one who dares to be different that starts something new. So dare to be different and start a movement.

Secrets of Success in 8 Words, 3 Minutes By Richard St. John

Watch the video:  Secrets of Success in 8 Words, 3 Minutes By Richard St. John

Everyone wants to know how they can be successful. However, when you are in college, figuring out how to succeed is critical to how you will move forward in life and your career. Richard St. John presents a three-minute TED talk that showcases eight words that successful people say have made them successful. Take a few minutes to listen, because these eight words might make all the difference in your success.

How to Graduate College With a Job You Love and Less Debt By Jullien Gordon

Watch the video:  How to Graduate College With a Job You Love and Less Debt By Jullien Gordon

For years, there has been an ongoing battle between book smarts and street smarts: which is better? In his TED talk, Jullien Gordon discusses how both are equally important. He also discusses what he believes are the key components for this generation to succeed. Jullien can help motivate you to do what you love in college without accumulating a mountain of debt.

Life’s a Great Teacher, Are You a Great Student? By Jeffrey Cufaude

Watch the video:  Life’s a Great Teacher, Are You a Great Student? By Jeffrey Cufaude

Everyone desires to be a lifelong learner, but not everyone knows how they can achieve this. “Life is your greatest teacher,” Jeffrey Cufaude points out in this TED talk. Life is happening all around you and constantly trying to teach you. It is those who pay attention to what is happening right in front of them that will spend their lives learning and thus gain great success.

Making your way out into the world and starting college is a big step in life. These seven TED talks can orient you towards your success and well-being.

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Top Reasons to Go Back and Finish your Degree

reasons to finish your degreeSome students choose to take a gap year between high school and college, while others actually enroll in college courses, only to put their degree on hold until they are in a better place to finish it. For either reason, though, one fact remains true: some students put their educations on hold for so long, that they can never find the motivation to go back and complete their respective programs. Perhaps going back to school becomes an intimidating concept to them, or perhaps they can’t find the motivation to re-adjust their schedules again – there are any number of excuses that can be found for avoiding the topic.

If you’ve begun your degree or have long wanted to go to school, perhaps you just needed a good reason. Here are a few to consider.

Your degree makes you more hireable.
It’s a known fact that the United States has a shortage of skilled workers, which results in unfilled jobs. Everyone wants job security, better pay, and better benefits, and having a finished degree can improve your chances of acquiring those things. Plus, the fastest-growing industries often require educated employees.

You’ve already spent time and money…but right now, it’s going to waste.
If you’ve already taken some classes, but ended up dropping out, you’re letting your time and money go to waste. A few college credits here and there are useless – it’s having a full degree that makes you hireable and helps you get the pay and promotions you deserve. Don’t let the money and effort spent on college classes go to waste!

Now that online courses are offered, time is no excuse.
Some people love to fall back on the excuse that they can’t fit education into their busy schedules, but now that there is an online college for every brick and mortar school, that’s no longer plausible. Online courses can be taken at your leisure, don’t require commuting, and don’t cut into family time. Work at home, on your lunch break, on the bus, or whenever you get free time to finish your degree.

Worried about spending money? Enjoy the ROI.
It’s understandable that cost would be a factor in getting an education. It’s no secret that college courses are expensive. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with college degrees earn an average weekly paycheck of $1,053 whereas workers with only a high school diploma earn $638 weekly.

Become a better person.
Time and time again, students will admit that their schooling has helped them find their passion, meet new people, make new connections, and get character-building experience. Even if you’re not concerned with getting a raise, getting promoted, or finding a new job, there is more value to education than just monetary value. You become a better communicator, critical thinker, and member of society when all is said and done.

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Online Degree Spotlight: Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Have you always dreamed of entering a field of study that aligns with your desire to give back to your community? This is the exact reason so many people pursue criminal justice degrees. After gaining an understanding of public safety theory, research, principles, and procedures, many students have found that their education paths have paved the way to rewarding careers.

A common misconception is that to kick-start a career in criminal justice, it’s impossible to study online. Another misconception is that such a degree is only useful for becoming a cop or a judge. With this online degree spotlight, we’re about to dismantle both of those notions.

What you can Expect to Learn
Whether studying criminal justice online or on-campus, the skills students take away are invaluable. It’s both fascinating and character-building to learn about crime investigation techniques, the principles of law enforcement and how to properly employ them, the inner-workings of the criminal justice systems, and how this all comes together to serve the community. If something piques your interest and you’d like to delve deeper into a certain aspect, you can always implement a concentration or get specified certifications.

After graduating, you’ll have the skills to identify the causes of public safety threats and know how to manage them. You’ll have a reinforced set of ethical standards and know how to apply them to the justice system. You’ll also learn how to think critically about important issues that affect the very community you live in, and how to communicate your thoughts on these matters. All of these skills are useful both for a career and for daily life.

Potential Careers
There are many different potential jobs and work environments that you can enter after earning a degree in criminal justice. Become a border patrol agent working in the field, a corrections officer working in a correctional facility or prison, a drug enforcement administration agent working for a law enforcement agency, or a parole officer working for a probation agency. You could also pair the degree with another in psychology to become a criminal psychologist, or minor in forensics to investigate crime scenes. The possibilities are endless.

Possibilities with Work Experience
A lot of people choose to get their degrees online because they’re already working in the field and would like to expand their realm of possibilities. This is because some schools will allow you to use your previous learning, work experience, and earned certifications as college credits. This means it takes less time and money to begin advancing your career, and because you can take classes entirely online, you don’t need to worry about your busy schedule.

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Why Self Defense Courses for Women are Gaining Momentum

149475365From a young age, women are reminded that they are biologically weaker, and to add insult to injury, they’re pressured to adhere to a set of standards for femininity. Nowhere in this set of standards does “knowing how to fight” appear. This combination of facts, in the eyes of a criminal, is pretty much a recipe for an easy target. It’s quite the catch-22 for 50% of the population.

Luckily, a lot of those gender norms are being reneged. In 2014, more and more women are taking control of their safety and advantage of their strength by taking self-defense courses. This way, even if a potential attacker sees a woman as an easy target, she has the confidence to get herself out of the situation.

Still not convinced? Here are some reasons more and more women have decided to take classes online or in a martial arts studio so they can kick more butt.

Crime can happen anywhere.
Sure, maybe you’ve researched how safe your neighborhood would be before you moved there, but the ugly truth is that no location is 100% crime-free. Couple that with the fact that women are more commonly seen as prey, and you’ve got a good reason to want to take care of yourself. You can never be too safe!

Set a good example.
Whether you’ve got kids, younger siblings, or nieces and nephews, you want to break through the harmful idea that women shouldn’t know how to fight because it isn’t feminine. It’s simply dangerous for anyone to not be aware of how to react in a situation involving crime.

Do something empowering for yourself.
Do you feel afraid walking alone at night? Do you want to gain a new appreciation for what your body can do? Self-defense classes make you feel empowered, strong, determined, and even beautiful. You should still be cautious when walking alone or when you’re in a bad neighborhood, but at least you can feel slightly more confident and have a heightened sense of awareness. Being able to take care of yourself is a truly enlightening feeling.

Get in shape.
Self-defense classes are workouts that don’t feel like workouts. While it can be hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym, taking a self-defense class begins to feel like a necessity and you’ll be less likely to skip. After a while, your body will begin to reap the benefits of having more muscle tone and a lower percentage of body fat. It’s just one more motivating factor to add into the mix!


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5 Quotes that Offer Perspective on Teachers

professorThe school year is in full-swing, which means that students and teachers alike are once again balancing busy schedules. In the middle of the school year, when stress runs high, it can often be difficult for students to remember that these times are hectic for their teachers or professors as well. It’s easy to harbor resentment when they schedule an exam on a date that coincides with the exam of another class, or when they expect you to learn too much material. But it’s important to remember – especially if you’re studying to become a teacher yourself – that everyone is just doing the best you can.

As you work toward your degree in education online or attend classes on-campus, try to learn from your teachers’ methods as well as the material they give you. These quotes will offer some perspective that will help you to take it easy and look forward to doing the job yourself one day.

“The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others.” – Tyron Edwards
This is an important quote to consider as a student, a teacher, and even a future educator. Teachers shouldn’t want to simply give their students as much information as possible; instead, they should want to help their students hone their skills so that they can effectively use that information and acquire experiences. Perhaps if you’re frustrated with your teacher, this will help you to better understand him or her, and later you can use it to guide you in your career.

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

This quote goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, but acknowledges that passion and curiosity can help to fuel a student’s ability to learn. There’s no end goal – a fire can consume as much as it wants, as long as it has the strength.

“We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.” – Malcolm Gladwell

If you’re struggling with learning new material, perhaps it is time to get your hands dirty. Get yourself into situations where you can learn by experiencing, rather than by listening to a lecture, even if this means asking questions and debating with your classmates. Eventually, you will encourage your students to do the same (and to be better learners).

ECF Blog Conversion“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” –Maria Montessori

Teachers will not always be there to hold their students’ hands, which is why it’s so important to learn through experience and to ignite a desire for them to learn more. Teachers are the training wheels, but eventually, the students will become teachers all their own.

And finally…

“Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.” – David McCullough

It takes a certain type of person to be an educator – and those people love their jobs. Even if the educational process seems difficult for now, it’ll be rewarding to be on the other end.

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Weird College Scholarships you Never Knew Existed

weird college scholarshipsIt’s a common misconception that if you don’t get good grades, play a varsity sport, or chair a prominent club in high school, you won’t be eligible for a scholarship. Too many students envy their classmates who end up with money to help them pay their college tuition, and never consider just how accessible scholarships can be.

Did you know that you can get scholarships for belonging to a certain race, having a certain hair color, or living in a certain region? If that surprises you, you won’t believe just how specific the requirements for receiving certain scholarships can get. This list will hopefully open your eyes to show you that not only are some organizations willing to foot your bills for extremely silly reasons – but also the fact that there has to be a scholarship out there for you no matter what university or online college you plan to attend.

Get a Scholarship for Duct Tape Prom Attire
That’s right: the Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship is available to any couple who is willing to wear duct tape to prom and send in a photo. You and your date do have to endure a night of dancing (and sweating) in a duct tape suit and dress, but it’ll be totally worth it if you win that scholarship money.

Get a Scholarship for Reading an Essay about Sprinklers
Most scholarship contests will award its winners for writing the best essay, but the American Fire Sprinkler Association Scholarship is given to someone who reads an essay about fire safety and then answers questions on video. Each correct answer gives them an opportunity to win a $2,000 scholarship.

Get a Scholarship for Being Left-Handed
It’s that simple. If you want to be entered to win $1,000 to put toward your college tuition (and you’re attending Juniata College), all you have to do is submit an application and be left-handed. For once, lefties can come out on top.

Get a Scholarship for Having the Last Name “Zolp”
If you attend Loyola University in Chicago, are Catholic, and have the last name Zolp, you get a free ride to university. Loyola isn’t the only university that awards students for having a specific last name – at Texas A&M University, Scarpinatos attend for free, and Van Valkenburgs are eligible to win $1,000 for the Van Valkenburg Memorial Scholarship.

Get a Scholarship for Having a Great Duck Call
The Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest awards $1,500 to the best duck caller, as well as smaller prizes for three runners-up. Contestants are given 90 seconds to perform hail, feed, comeback, and mating calls, and all high school seniors in the USA are eligible.

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Back-to-School Tech: From Note-Taking to List-Making

dv740069Around this time of year, there are a lot of different products that are marketed to students as “must-haves.” Because students make up such a specific demographic, and it’s easy to prey on their desire to do well in class, it can be hard to distinguish what pieces of technology could be a game-changer for learning and studying and which ones will collect dust.

As much as you probably don’t want to hear it, Google Glass isn’t exactly the most important tool for learning facilitation. There are, however, a few pieces of tech that could help to lighten your load, keep you organized, or even just make studying more enjoyable. Here are a few.

A kindle, or an app on your iPad, or a Nook — there are lots of options when it comes to e-readers, but all of them share a pretty useful purpose. With e-readers, you can often find texts for class at a lower price than you’ll find at the bookstore. Simultaneously, you’ll have less weight to carry around in your backpack and can organize your highlights in an easy-to-study way. You can even download PDFs and other class documents onto them so that you don’t have to worry about losing them.

Laptop Locks
Yeah, we’re referring to that thing that your totally lame roommate’s dad insisted on buying her. You don’t know what true devastation is until your laptop has been stolen, and while your dorm probably isn’t the most unsafe place in the world, it’s entirely possible that a break-in could happen. Perhaps more importantly: do you want to have to drag your laptop to the bathroom during every late-night library study sesh? Didn’t think so. They’re relatively cheap and save you a lot of trouble.

Flash Drives
A lot of college students have this recurring nightmare: you get up to discuss your senior thesis in front of all the students and staff in your degree program. The projector is already displaying on the screen, and you’ve e-mailed the slideshow to yourself. Do you run the risk of opening your e-mail in front of everyone? Or do you attempt to give the presentation without it? Flash drives make sure that all your school work stays in one place and make it easy to hand off information. Just don’t forget to back yours up.

External Hard Drives
Speaking of backing up… just like you don’t want your laptop to get stolen, you don’t want it to crash, either. Periodically back all your data up onto an external hard drive so you don’t have a mini-heart attack when your computer won’t boot up when you go to put the finishing touches on your final paper.

Noise-Canceling Headphones
Some people don’t understand the concept of being quiet in the library. You don’t want to have to find this out the hard way. With a good study playlist and some high-quality headphones, you can avoid distractions and get in the zone.

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