Credit/Loans

2014 Best Grad Schools:Inside the Guide [An Infographic]

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So you’re about to graduate college – congrats! What now?

As the economy recovers, so does the job market, allowing new opportunities to emerge. This is great news for those who are currently in college! However, many of these jobs require candidates to have more than an undergraduate degree. It is predicted that 2.6 million new jobs will be created between 2010 and 2020, and that individuals with masters or doctoral degrees will be the ones to fill those spots.

Many students are turning to graduate school as a way of carving a niche for themselves in today’s competitive job market. Grad school can be a risky bet which could land you in a deep pit of student loan debt, or it could result in a dream job with a six-digit salary. Such a commitment requires a great deal of research, and with the growing number of programs offered it can quickly become an overwhelming process. Meeting with advisers and professors is a great starting point, but most students will want to do some investigating on their own. It is important to gather a wide variety of non-biased information, but with the endless amount of websites, books and blog articles dedicated to “facts” about grad school, it can be difficult to find high-quality sources. This is why I recommend U.S. News & World Report’s annual Grad Guide.

Best Grad Schools Infographic

 

Each year, U.S. News & World Report surveys thousands of programs and academic professionals to create a guidebook that helps students navigate the world of graduate school. For the second year in a row, eCampus.com has taken some key information from this elaborate, 200+ page grad guide and created an infographic to help students streamline their research. The goal behind this piece, as with all infographics, is to take a large amount of information and condense it into a unique graphic that’s easy to understand. Similar to the 2013 grad school infographic, The Good & The Bad in Bad, this 2014 edition highlights trends regarding admissions, debt and salaries for the top five professional fields (Business, Education, Engineering, Health & Medicine and Law).

New this year is a section called the “Virtual Path”, which describes the growth in options for online graduate programs. There is also the option to attend a partially online program, where some classroom attendance is required. Such opportunities are favored among non-traditional students who may have children or a full-time job. As this trend increases you will find that there are some great resources for affordable online education programs.

As graduate school becomes a more prevalent option for those holding college degrees, it is important that this decision is made with all of the right information at hand. This infographic should not be used to replace your grad school research, but it is a great way to quickly gather information and gain an understanding of new trends in the academic and professional worlds.

Good luck to all who join me in the pursuit of a higher-education!

To view the full infographic, and purchase your copy of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 guidebook at 10% off list price, visit http://www.ecampus.com/best-grad-schools.asp or click the above image.

How Will You Pay For School?

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Paying for school is just flat out tough. Decisions need to be made by not only you, but your parents or guardians as well. Most high school students do not have the kind of money needed to pay for college so there are a few other options.

Financial Aid

Filling out financial aid is extremely beneficial and an absolute must if you are given the opportunity. Financial aid is determined by household income and a bunch of other various categories. It is then determined how much you will receive. This will help you along with your family to pay for college.

Scholarships

Unlike financial aid in which there is a process to determine if you will receive any of it, scholarships are just flat out earned. It could either be straight out of high school in which you may have excelled in, or it may be in smaller forms maybe from an essay contest you applied to. There are various ways to receive scholarships either coming out of high school or even when you are in college. Maintain a certain GPA, earn an athletic scholarship. This will certainly help you pay for college, but you must earn it first.

Loans

Loans are a tough thing to go about. The reason I say this is because paying off student loans for the rest of your life and during your career is just an absolute challenge and it can last all of your life. But of course loans are usually needed when it comes to college, and just because you have to repay these, it is definitely the way to go for most families.

Parents/Guardians

Having your parents and or guardians help you pay for college is another option but again a tough decision. The first thing you need is the permission from your family, or just to know that they will be helping you pay off your college payments.

Work

Working a full 9-5 job during college is nearly impossible but some people do actually manage to pull it off. It is truly and honestly tough to even have a part time job during school but it is an absolute necessity. Sure you won’t be able to pay off tuition and room and board with just a part time job, but having this part time job will keep your wallet a little more filled so you can survive throughout college!

Can You Afford Your Internship?

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Did you just get an internship with a big name company?  Is it the company you’ve always wanted to work for?  Is the internship paid?

Even when the unthinkable happens, the clouds clear and you finally land the internship of your dreams, money can hold you back.  Many of the top companies in big cities offer unpaid internships only.  This can be a problem when it costs $50 a day just to commute.  Here are some things to think about when shooting for that big company name internship:

How are you going to commute?  Trains can be expensive, especially when you consider parking.  Plus, the train may get you into the city you are commuting to, but what about going from there?  You may need a bus, subway, or cab all of which can get expensive (or confusing) if you cannot walk.  Another way to go is taking the bus from the start.  Again, you will need transportation from there.  All of these alternatives are generally cheaper than straight driving your commute due to gas prices, traffic, and parking.  If you take another form of transportation, you can also take that time to nap, read a book, or just relax with some music.

Where will you take your lunch break?  Will you be bringing it or eating out?  Food is the second biggest concern after transportation.  Bringing your lunch and some snacks for the train or bus ride is definitely cheaper, although more time consuming.

What will you need to wear? Chances are, you cannot go to your internship in the same clothes you have been going to class in.  Updating the wardrobe from comfortable college student to professional work attire can cost some dough.  If on a budget, check out stores like Marshals where you need to dig, but can find some great pieces discounted.  Also, search for consignment shops in your area.

Aside from toning down your expenses, there are working options you can take when you aren’t interning that won’t burn you out and leave you feeling too overwhelmed.

Babysitting is one of the best ways to make some extra cash.  Although there is a major risk factor as the kids’ behavior can range from angelic to rude and bouncing off the walls, babysitting has a good time to money ratio.  Chances are you will be getting paid in cash too!  If you’re not sure where to find families to babysit, check out Sittercity.com or other websites of the sort that match you up with families.  All you need to do is add a profile.

If kids aren’t your thing, check out surveying or participating in research studies. Since there are so many scams out there, you may need to know someone who knows someone to find one of these.  The good news is that all you need to do is drive somewhere and give your opinion on shampoo or sneakers or some product, and you will leave with a day’s pay.  This can range from $50 to $150.  The only catch is that you can only participate once every so many months.

Although it may take an arm and a leg to pull this off, that internship on your resume is worth it!

- TravelBug

Bankruptcy and Student Loans

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Disclaimer:  This post is intended to educate students about their options, not to encourage fraud or irresponsible fiscal behavior.  Bankruptcy, no matter what kind,  will severely limit credit for an entire decade if not longer, and makes future bankruptcy next to impossible, even in light of catastrophic circumstances, like outstanding medical debt.

Student loans, like child support payments and criminal fines, can be garnished from wages.  Garnishing means you never see the money.  Like taxes, the payment is sent to the debtor before you receive your check.  That means if you’re a server, when you receive your paystub it will show a negative amount.  Not a pretty scenario.

This circumstance came about when the government (taxpayers) became the sole backers of student loans.  They put banks out of originating federal student loans, presumably to keep banks out of the lucrative fee business on a young, fiscally unknowledgeable group.  At 18, it’s much easier to sign on the dotted line without reading the fine print.  Why?  Because no one has ever held scary amounts of debt over your head, making threatening phone calls and initiating wage garnishments, and Democratic representatives in the Senate fought to keep it that way.  As a result, policy for loan forgiveness on the Federal side is directly tied to taxpayer dollars and private loan options are shrinking.

Fast forward 10 years and some uncomfortable truths require reckoning: students with no assets to speak of are bad creditors by definition, and the sheer size of loans (up to 4x the annual salary of the average graduate, after securing a full-time job with benefits).  Declaring bankruptcy for student debt is very difficult, accruing interest and destroying credit in one fell swoop.

Of course, there are a lot of resources for students and graduates who are delinquent on Federal student loans, including reduced payment plans as part of “default diversion” programs and options to postpone payments in times of temporary hardship.  If the hardship isn’t temporary, students need to know their options, and bankruptcy, though a last resort, is one of them.

A common test of undue hardship is the Brunner test which requires a showing that 1) the debtor cannot maintain, based on current income and expenses, a “minimal” standard of living for the debtor and the debtor’s dependents if forced to repay the student loans; 2) additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period of the student loans; and 3) the debtor has made good faith efforts to repay the loans. (Brunner v. New York State Higher Educ. Servs. Corp., 831 F. 2d 395 (2d Cir. 1987).

It’s very difficult to prove undue hardship, but if it does occur, know that bankruptcy isn’t impossible, and in some cases, even prudent.  Keep an eye out for reforms, which may make it easier to discharge student loan debt in the future.

-Wonderbread

I’m reading America: A Narrative History, Brief Volume 1

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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We have all been there, flipping through a friend’s Facebook pictures that were freshly uploaded from some glamorous city.  It isn’t just a few pictures of them on the beach in Cancun while you’re stuck in the snow over winter break, but this time around you have to deal with a whole semester of statuses and picture uploads of a friend studying abroad.  Ever think that person could be you?

There are a million and one reasons a person should pack up all of their things into two 50 pound bags and fly half way around the world.  Studying abroad is more than just exploiting a difference in alcohol legality and taking easier classes (although those reasons could be factored in…).  Studying abroad is so much more than you have heard from movies, television, even your friends.

Gain independence
Remember the day you packed all your stuff and moved to college?  Remember how that freedom felt?  Remember the first time you really felt on your own?  Imagine this scenario but taken to the next level.

New culture
A person experiences a new culture when studying abroad.  Let’s face it: college is the best time in your life, but it can put you into a four-year routine.  Studying abroad can help you relive that excitement of your freshman year of college.  It also breaks up those four years, giving you more motivation and something to look forward to at that halfway point.

Language
Everyone knows that those who speak more than one language have a better chance of getting hired in any field.  Going to a place whose first language is not English can do wonders for any resume.  Also, you would be surprised how quickly one can pick up a language when forced to use it everyday.  Believe me, it is easier than it seems.  If weary of the language barrier, a person always has Ireland, England, and Australia as options, plus you might end up coming back with one of those nice accents.

Complete relevant coursework towards your degree
One of the rumors about studying abroad is that you will fall behind and end up being a Super Senior.  This is untrue in the majority of cases.  To avoid this, studying abroad earlier on in your collegiate career will give you the most options of classes that will transfer.  In my case, I will be graduating early, partly because of my study abroad experiences.

Intern or volunteer with local organization
Every major is a competitive field in this economy.  Having international experience at any formal organization will give you that edge you need over the hundreds of thousands of people who want to be the same thing you do.   Having an international professional network can only help in our age of globalization.

Global understanding
Unfortunately, not many of us watch the news or stay updated on current events.  Through a study abroad experience, a person may not only end up interested in world news, more often than not, but they also will gain a global perspective.  This ties into gaining intercultural communication skills, which again is needed from here on out.

Problem-solving skills
In any form of travel, problems arise.  No studying abroad trip will go 100% smoothly.  This is actually a good thing because you will learn about yourself and how to deal with stressful situations and also improve those problem-solving skills.

Learning about yourself
Just as going to college gives you a “clean slate” and many people take the opportunity to “turn over a new leaf,” studying abroad is a personal growth journey.  As corny as that sounds, you truly do learn about yourself through a study abroad trip.  It is a maturing and life changing experience.

Top reasons not to go?

  1. Cost: Believe it or not, but depending on where you go, you could actually save money by studying abroad.  If traveling to most of Western Europe, this may not be the case.  Also, the plane ticket to Australia alone is pretty steep.  However, Ireland, anywhere in South America, or even different parts of the US and Canada are available and tend to be cheaper than a semester at your home school.  If looking to stay within the US, check out if your school participates in the National Student Exchange.  A semester in Hawaii or Alaska could be just the change you are looking for, and cost nothing more than a semester at your home school aside from the airfare!
  2. State of the world/Safety: As there are, and will forever be, places in the world that one should not go, many developed cities are no less safe than the developed cities we have in America.  Your study abroad advisor will be able to help you choose a location that fits your needs and wants and that is also safe.  Checking it out yourself does not hurt either.  Registering yourself into Travel.Safe.Gov and keeping updated on current world news could help achieve this.
  3. Boyfriend/Girlfriend: You may regret not studying abroad in college because of that relationship that ended up not going anywhere.  If in a true love, long-term relationship, talk to your partner about it.  Just remember, your passport will never break up with you.  It may get old, but then you can just get a new one pretty easily.
  4. Scared of being alone: You may be away from your friends and family, but you will only gain a new friend and a new support system.  Plus with Facetime, iChat, Skype, Oovoo, you can still stay in touch more than just snail mail (which was how the early travelers did it).  You can also come back home with new friendships with Americans who were also studying abroad.
  5. You just watched the movie Taken: This is a movie could be retitled to How Not to Conduct Oneself Abroad.  Sharing a cab, which tells a stranger where you live, then saying that you and your friend are home alone?  Not the best idea.  A person only is exposed to the catastrophes that happen abroad.  No one hears about the hundreds of thousands of students who study abroad each year from the United States.

Life, and college, is all about the decisions one makes.  Studying abroad could be one of those life-changing opportunities that can be beautifully exploited or regretfully glossed over.  You decide.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

-TravelBug

I’m reading Organic Chemistry