How Much Do You Really Know About Credit?

Imagine walking into an auto dealership with a stack of cash that you want to use to put a down payment on a car.  You have worked hard and all you need is to get the small auto loan.  Problem is that your credit score is not high enough to finance you and you have to walk out of the dealership empty handed.  This happens much to often because people are not well informed about their credit score.

Do you know your credit score? As a college student, chances are you don’t.  Credit is something that most people know nothing about until they actually need it, and many times that is too late.   Your credit score is a number that is used to judge how trustworthy you are with money.  The higher your credit score, the more trustworthy you are.  Your credit score is used for auto loans, home loans, insurance rates, leases, and even by potential employers.  Bottom line is that your credit score really matters. Fortunately, there are ways to help you establish and maintain a good credit score.

A credit score is a number that ranges from 300-850.  Anytime you borrow money, whether it is for a loan or credit card, it is reported to three credit bureaus.  The three credit bureaus are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.  Some companies report to all three, but some only report to one or two.  Regardless, all three of your credit scores matter.  The borrowers report how much money was lended and how much and how quickly it was paid off.  The more responsible you are in paying off the money loaned to you, the higher your credit score.  Remember that you must establish credit.  In some cases, having no credit can be as detrimental as having bad credit.


Because of the Credit Card Act of 2009, anyone under 21 must have a trustworthy co-signer in order to obtain a credit card.  There was a reason that this law is in place.  It is important to truly understand credit prior to using it.  Let’s face it, freshmen aren’t the most responsible individuals.  However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot establish credit and start building your score.  Talk to your parents about opening your first credit card and make a game plan for it.  Having good credit when you leave college can be helpful in more ways than you could imagine.

As a rule of thumb, credit bureaus give the best considerations to people who spend 30% of their available credit and pay in full every month.  This means that if you have a credit card with a $300 limit, you should plan to spend no more than $100 a month and be able to pay each month’s bills in full.  If for some reason you are not able to pay your full balance, make sure and pay the minimum balance on time.  A late payment is really detrimental to your credit score.  Every time you pay a bill late, it negatively affects your score.

After learning to manage a credit card or small loan, the next step is to track and maintain your credit score.  A great way to do this is to use a credit monitoring company to view your credit report.  Online companies such as www.annualcreditreport.com give you a free credit report from all three credit bureaus once a year.  Your credit report shows every line of open credit and how much and how often you have paid your debts.  It also shows any companies that have looked into your credit recently.  Looking at your credit report can also help you to ensure that no one has stolen your identity.  If you want to track your report and score more than once a year, you can use a program like www.freecreditscore.com.   It costs $14.95 per month, but you are able to monitor your credit score as often as you would like.

The bottom line is that you need to be aware of your credit score.  Be smart in establishing it and seek assistance from someone who can you trust for guidance.  A credit score can affect many life changing events such as buying your own home.  Make sure to stay aware and stay smart when it comes to your credit score.



I’m reading Campbell Biology

How to Use Your Study Abroad Experience in a Job Interview

I’ve always enjoyed traveling to new places. Whether it be a summer vacation to Disney Land or a field trip to the museum downtown. As a business major, it only seemed natural to pick up a minor in international business. Maybe I’d get a job at a big multinational corporation and live out of my suitcase as I jet set around the world. That would be pretty sweet…right?

I started taking Japanese courses in order to fulfill my minor requirements. My Japanese professor also taught a summer study abroad program in Akita, Japan. I jumped at the opportunity faster than a 12 year old girl getting backstage to a Justin Bieber concert. I won’t bore you with the details, so I’ll sum it up in two words and three punctuation marks–TOTALLY AWESOME!!! Study Abroad in Japan, Oga Penninsula, Namahage Demons I finished my last semester of undergrad after my summer sojourn to Japan. I went straight into graduate school the following semester and spent the next two years grinding out my degree. When I started interviewing for my first big boy job, I started to realize that hiring managers spent more time talking about my three months in Japan than my MBA. The companies I interviewed for had absolutely nothing to do with Japanese technology, manufacturing, or trade. But they spent the majority of the interview asking me questions about my exotic extended vacation. Why?

You have to think about it from their point of view. Hiring managers conduct the same monotonous interviews from pretty much every applicant that is straight out of college. My GPA was blah…I majored in blah…I was in blah fraternity/sorority….BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! At a certain point, they probably stop caring about how much fun you had in college. Because they sure as heck aren’t having the time of their life working 9-5 talking to inexperienced kids like you.

How do you make yourself stand out? Can you sell yourself in a five minute story? What would that story be? Back packing through Europe or building clean water wells in Africa are a lot more interesting than winning the championship game of your flag football intramural league.

Unfortunately, you need more than an entertaining tale to land your first job out of college.

Hiring managers are looking for someone that is a secure investment. College students with part time experience in a totally unrelated position are not a safe investment. But someone who voluntarily moved across the world in order to pursue their dream and further their education might seem a little more reliable. There are key personality attributes that hiring managers are looking for. Some of these can be exemplified by studying abroad and living to tell the tale. I’ve listed four key characteristics that you can emphasize in a job interview.  I’ve also included some sample interview questions that I’ve heard in the past.

1. Ability to Adapt  If you can flourish alongside strangers in a strange land, you can probably do so on your home turf. Employers are looking for someone who can start producing as soon as possible. New hires must be able to learn quickly, so having documented examples of your proactivity is a plus. More importantly, new workers must be able to integrate into existing departments and teams. In a lot of cases, personality type outweighs skill set. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you can’t work well with others.

Interviewer: As a new hire in a managerial role, how would you deal with department members that are older and have been working here longer than you?
Reply: I’m sure everybody has reservations about the new guy. I don’t blame them; hopefully I can convince them through hard work and relentless dedication that I’m a good fit for the organization. I’m used to being the fish out of water, so I know how to approach strangers and win them over. 

2. Willing to Travel No brainer right? Having study abroad experience on your resume is the best way to show potential employers that you’re willing to go that extra mile…literally! Being able to travel is a requirement for a lot of awesome jobs (from pharmaceutical salesman to Antarctic researcher). Saying that you’re willing to travel in an interview is one thing, but having real experience is another.

Interviewer: This position requires a lot of travel two months out of the year. Are you comfortable being on the road for that amount of time?
Reply: I have backpacked through Asia, kayaked across the Gulf of Thailand, slept in a bullet train and accidentally woke up in a different country; all while having zero contact with friends and family. I think I’ll be straight.

3. Non Verbal Communication Skills After my first week in Japan, I realized that I should have studied more Japanese before my trip. Due to my broken Japanese, I had to rely on basic phrases and body language. It took some time, but I became a master of non verbal communication. Fortunately, I could use this skill in a corporate environment to easily interpret the behaviors of my superiors and co-workers. Being able to tell what direction my boss is leaning is pretty sweet. Getting along with your teammates is vital as well; it helps to know when to back off or when to step in.

Interviewer: You will be working with department heads, regional account managers, and executives, but you won’t necessarily see them on a day to day basis. How do you make the most of your meetings and interactions with them?
Reply: I prefer to be overly prepared for meetings so I don’t spend the majority of my time taking notes instead of working with my peers. It’s hard to read your bosses reactions when you’re scribbling down buzz words on a Starbucks napkin. I like to do all my research ahead of time so I can provide sound recommendations and answer any questions someone might come up with.

4. Self Awareness You learn a lot about yourself when you are forced to survive on your wits alone. Sure you’ll make friends, but they are essentially familiar strangers. In order to be a successful, you need to know what you’re good at and what you could improve upon. If you have any major weaknesses, like not being able to read a frickin’ language, you need the humility to find help.

Interviewer: What is your biggest weakness?
Reply: I figured you would ask this question and I don’t want to give a B.S. response. I’m sure I have plenty of weaknesses, but none of them pertain to this position. I think I would be a total rock star at every thing thrown my way. And if I don’t think I could step up to the plate and hit a home run, I’d find somebody else that could pinch hit and help our team win the game. That answer totally sounds B.S., but it’s true. I’m not afraid of asking for help. With that said, I’d be damn sure I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. I’d learn everything I could and become a better team player.

Study Abroad, Sushi Bar







Keepin’ it real, while keepin’ it safe.



I’m reading The Art of Public Speaking