Posts Tagged money

Empty Pockets?

abigail-85The rapper Kanye West once proclaimed that “having money isn’t everything, NOT having it is” and when the prospect of paying for college creeps up, this quote may ring truth for many first-generation college students.

I am forever grateful for programs like Federal Aid, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and of course, CSO, dedicated to helping students finance their education and that have enabled me to attend Dartmouth College. I cannot stress the importance of applying for outside scholarships; there may be some expenses (a laptop, for example) that your scholarship may not cover and it’s better to be prepared for them rather than struggle to make ends meet later.

If, like myself, you attend a school on the other side of the country (or just a state away) from home, you’ll soon realize that you need money for that plane ticket or bus fare to go back home during breaks.  Traveling is not cheap but luckily there are other programs like Federal Work-Study that, if eligible, will help you earn a few extra dollars. Work-Study is customized to fit your schedule and the opportunities can range from cashier to library assistant. You make your own hours; drop hours if you need to study for a test and pick up hours if you need money fast. Also, college campuses are always in need for research assistants and tutors; these jobs are usually well paying and look great on a resume.

Just remember that work should never take priority over your education!

All the best and good luck!

A Dream Does Not Have Price

irvin-85I remember when I first saw the price tag of what used to be the school of my dreams. Beside the name “Duke University”, appeared a five digit number that seemed to whisper “there is no way you can afford this”. With the hope of finding other schools that would not require my parents to sell everything, I scrolled down the list but all I could see was an expensive price tag for every school that I was looking at. Discouraged, I limited my options to more affordable institutions, such as my community college. All of this was before I found out about financial aid and how, with the help of the institutions as well as the government, I would be able to afford going to a school that I had worked hard for.

I can summarize my feelings towards financial aid in a short sentence: probably the best thing that could have happened to my educational career. Thanks to the help of Dartmouth and as well as Federal Aid, I am able to attend this great institution. Do not be discouraged when you see an expensive price tag. Keep in mind that if an institution really wants you in their campus, they will do as much as they can to help you go there. Financial aid is like a secret yelled out loud that very few people are aware of.

Just because you see an expensive price tag does not mean that that is what you are expected to pay to attend that institution. That price tag can be covered in many different ways such as grants, outside scholarships and federal aid. There might be a few loans here and there but, if you use your resources, you can cover those loans with outside scholarships. Apply to as many scholarships as you can. The more scholarships you get, the more you can help your parents and the more money you will be able to have to buy books and hey, even to buy what we teenagers feel is important, such as clothes and all that good stuff. (With moderation of course).

Whenever I am asked how I am able to attend an Ivy League school and how I am able to afford it, I say that the hardest part was actually in getting into the school. Paying for the school was not one of my main concerns. As I have said before, if an institution accepts you, they are willing to help you as much as they can. You just have to let them know about your situation. If you do not speak up, they will not know what your family is going through and thus they will not be able to help you. The money is out there, all you have to do is look for it. Do not let your dreams be shot down by a five digit number, realize that you dreams do not have a price and that no matter how expensive a school is, with enough effort and education, you can afford it. All it takes is awareness of the resources such as scholarship websites, your counselor in high school and even the financial aid office at the college of your dreams!

Getting Money and that College Experience!

jesse-85My sophomore spring is off to a great start! The semester has already picked up and is moving faster and faster every day. I can’t believe that I’ve already been in school for almost a month. If you want to see how the first few weeks went, check out the video below!

One of the first things I did was go see my financial aid officer because you always have to be sure that your finances are in order. You can never be too careful!

One of the most crucial things about preparing for college is making sure you do EVERYTHING you can to try to make sure you can pay for it.

I can think of 3 ways to start:

1. Apply to A TON of SCHOLARSHIPS!!- you can start applying as early as middle school for some. Apply to EVERY SCHOLARSHIP you qualify for! Local and National.

Note: Make sure to check out scholarships that are offered locally because the pool of applicants is smaller which means you will have an even better chance of receiving award.

2. FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is crucial to getting Financial Aid from the schools that you will be applying to. Be sure to fill it out!

3. Talk to your high school counselor! Set up a meeting and talk it out with them, they should be able to help you out with the details of applying for the FAFSA and applying for scholarships.

These are just some first steps, it is up to you to follow through and get that money! You don’t want to miss out on the college experience! Check out the latest VideoBlog to hear about some of the experiences I’m having in college!

I Hate Being Broke

jenny-85You can’t do a lot of things without money. You can’t go out to eat with your friends. You can’t enjoy that green tea latte while relaxing at a local Starbucks. You can’t buy your Chemistry textbooks (They cost A LOT). And you can’t pay for the laundry because each time you use the washer or the dryer it costs you a buck and twenty-five cents (That builds up, you know.)  So what are you going to do? Wear your old clothes and hope they don’t smell?

These are just some of the potential problems of a broke college student. How do I know? I have spent a Saturday night NOT going out because my student card didn’t have enough money for the dryer. I ran back to my room to look for change but didn’t find any. Then I realized that I couldn’t ask my dorm mates for change because they were out partying. So I was just standing in the laundry room, staring stupidly at my pile of wet clothes. Not fun.

Most of us start to feel some freedom once we’re in college. “Yes! Mom and Dad can’t control how I spend my money anymore!” Well, don’t go mad shopping, you’ll regret it very soon. You’re going to be broke and unhappy. There’s going to be too much stuff in your already small dorm room. Besides, come summer to those who are abroad, where are you going to store your stuff when you go home? Storage space isn’t always free…

Hints: When you see piles of coupons in your post office, TAKE THEM! TAKE ALL OF THEM! (No, not really, save some for other people, too.) And do research. Ask your professors before the semester starts about which books to get. See if you can buy them earlier or if there’s a secondhand book store. Amherst College has a student run program called The Option where students sell and buy used books.  Research! Save money! And then treat yourself to some wings occasionally. It’s good to enjoy life, but be responsible.

2011 Financial Forecast: F.A.F.S.A. = Find and Apply Financial Strategies in Advance!

jeremy-85Greetings CSO Nation!

I survived the Blizzard of 2011!  I’m officially a SURVIVOR!  I hope everyone reading this post endured and weathered the storm – no matter what state you’re in.  This too shall pass…

There are great lessons in every storm!

A storm teaches you to prepare in advance. A storm teaches you to come together with those close to you and help each other out through the difficult periods.  A storm teaches you about your inner strength and how much you can bear.  Storms give us an opportunity to reflect and realize that trouble doesn’t last always.

As I read the news reports out of my hometown, Chicago, there were people stranded on the Lake Shore Drive who really thought they were not going to make it.  But they did.  The amazing thing was the kindness of strangers.  People came out of their high rise condos and apartments to bring food and water to those who were stranded on the drive for well over seven hours.  Storms can bring people together.

Many schools were closed for the day and some through the week, but life goes on.  Speaking of life, the money matters, as it relates to college, can be a do or die experience for many and creates a personal kind of storm.  As a storm teaches you to prepare in advance, so does the process of Financial Aid.  It behooves you to prepare in advance.  The FAFSA is the foundation and a mandatory rite of passage for all college students.  After the college application, it is the most critical piece of paper you will ever complete!

When FAFSA says they are accepting applications on the first of January, believe them!  File your application on the first day!  The money goes so fast and as a future college student, you want to be in the early processing batch which is always the first two weeks of January.  Don’t delay.  Seek help from your parents (they have the expertise you need to figure the paperwork out) and work together as a team!  Those are my tips for financial aid as you work towards higher education.  Stick to this strategy each year and you won’t regret it.  Some storms can’t be avoided, but financial storms can be if you file your FAFSA as soon as possible.


jeremy-85Hey CSO Blog Family:

Happy Holidays! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!  I hope this holiday season brought you peace, love and joy. I hope everyone got some amazing Christmas gifts! As a first year college student, this was a wonderful time of reflection for me.  Going home was EVERYTHING during the Thanksgiving break.

I realized how much I had missed my family and being at home.  But then, after a few days, I wanted to get back to my new life on campus.  I needed my independence back in a major way.  So, going home was bittersweet for me and my mom.  We both noticed the growth and the newfound independence.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy.  I know my mom still calls the shots, but I was just a little irritated by having to be accountable again when I had been on my own for the past three months.  I’m just saying.

So, we both had to assess this new ‘me’ and come to terms with the reality of college and its consequences. Sometimes going home again is the hardest thing to do…

As I ended my semester and headed home, again, for the Holiday break, I thought about my message to you guys for the New Year and came up with five things I know I need to do better going forward and I’m hoping you’ll hold ‘me’ to them.  I need your help in 2011 to be the best man I can be and a successful student as well.

Here are the Five Things You Need To Know Right Now about “That Life”!! (Code for: Freshman Survival Tips)

1. Do Not let OTHERS dictate the things YOU do and decisions YOU make in YOUR life.
2. Work on managing your money better and more wisely.
3. Sleep Does Matter! Change and maintain a regular sleep schedule.
4. Schedule your recreational activities around your studies. They are not priority ~ your classes and coursework SUPERSEDE any and all social stuff.
5. Stay focused! Stay focused! Stay focused!

Happy New Year everyone and God bless you in 2011.

Oh great, here we go again (sophomore year)

khadijah-85Ok, so honestly, first year, freshman year, you will probably get your butt kicked. Seriously- different environment, high expectations, you’re on your own- even if you’re a beast academically, you will get your butt kicked. Even if you are a social butterfly, you would have to adjust to peers who seem like they have so much money, they don’t know what to do with it, and be kicked in the butt by your empty, angry wallet, or work hours and hours to afford a burger from the overpriced restaurant down the street (but those burgers are soo GOOD). Class matters at Harvard, (so many of my black peers at Harvard come from private school, high income brackets, or another country) and so does race - “the black experience, the poor black experience”(everyone turns to me- share your wisdom, oh poor black girl). Not obviously, of course, but definitely more than I expected. I was and am sometimes disillusioned, and to top it all off, I had more work than I knew how to deal with. Although I know this is a crazy thought now- I thought I was going to fail out of Harvard, be a disgrace to low-income, homeless and black females everywhere, and I thought I was a failure socially. Shouldn’t I be the social butterfly? It’s only a few papers and exams, why is this so difficult? WHY so much reading? I don’t want to see my report card. No. Intro Economics, I’ll pretend it doesn’t exist.

So, since I’m still posting, you can see that I did make it to sophomore year. And oh my goodness, I finished my first semester of sophomore year! And you know what, it was harder in many ways, but easier in many other ways. First off, those 300+ pages of reading a week, it’s doable, it really is. The papers, I’m figuring out my formula, and I’m using it to try to work on my papers. I’ve had to ask for extensions, but you know what, this time I knew what I needed, I hadn’t a clue before.

Basically, what’s easier about sophomore year is this awareness I now have. I’m aware of my own rhythms- I know never to do heavy reading late at night, and I know I must start a paper on Friday because it’s not getting done during the week. It’s just not. I know that 9 am class, even if I get up at 8 am every day (including weekends) should absolutely be considered cruel and inhumane treatment under the constitution. I’m aware of the importance of time management, looking at the syllabi and talking with professors in September- “So uh, I have 3 papers due within three days, may I turn in my paper in December on a different date?” Yeah, you can do that! (Ask, you never know, professors are pretty nice typically). What makes sophomore year different than freshman year is that you know better who you are, and you know your strengths and weaknesses. You get into a routine, you find your clique of friends, you’re more comfortable turning on and off the social butterfly (or keeping it off indefinitely, if that’s your thing).

So I promise, even when your butt gets kicked freshmen year, and your gpa makes you cry, it will get better. Your feelings of not belonging, of being a failure, the doubt, is all normal, and trust me, it won’t always be like this. Sophomore year, you’ll look back at your freshman self and wonder why, instead of cranking that paper out and getting the crappiest grade, you didn’t simply ask for a day extension. It will get better, because you’ll not only know yourself better, you’ll know how to work with, not against, your natural self. And with knowing yourself better, everything else begins to fall into place.

Truth Be Told: Welcome Week

darius-85Wow, what can I say about going to college in New York? It’s amazing! Such a wonderful experience and I’ve gotten to know some really amazing people!

During welcome week I was bombarded on facebook and around campus about “welcome week parties”! Do not attend. These parties are just a fun way to blow all of your money before classes even begin. I made the mistake of going to four of these parties, and now I’m struggling to eat because I have very little money. Lesson learned.

I had to remind myself that I am here for school, not just to have fun. As a college student, it is crucial that you utilize healthy consumer habits, finding cheap places to grab a bite, see a show, shop and even party. Assign yourself a specific amount of money each week that you are allowed to spend on each. And if you must party, find cheap or free places to go. Of course I should be saying “Don’t party, it’s bad!”…but this is college, it’s going to happen.

I’ve recently learned what it meant to budget your money wisely. I find myself going to restaurants that accept my school meal plan, and shopping at thrift stores (you can find some really amazing stuff there!), and to make the experience more enjoyable, I go with friends. It is of the utmost importance that you build a strong support group or group of friends who you can go to for any and everything. Trust me, college life is so much easier if you’re not alone. This is really helpful for those of you going to school in a state that you’ve never been to and have no familial connections, like me. New York is the greatest, but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it without my college friends!

JULY already???

tereza-85I hope everyone is having an amazing summer so far! Summer has been flying by. I cannot believe that it is already July.

I decided to take a class this summer and it starts on July 13th. I’m taking Statistics because math never has been easy for me. I am hoping that if I take this one class and it is the only thing I am focusing on I will do great.

Other than school starting soon, I have also picked up another job over the summer to try to save up as much money as possible so that I do not have to take out as many loans. Plus the summer class that I am taking is not cheap. I wish I would have started saving more when I was in high school because it definitely would have helped me out now.

To all the high school students reading this I highly recommed saving up at least a little money for college because between tuiton, books, supplies, food and everything else you need, you go through money like crazy!

Also this summer for all the newly graduated students going into your first year of college in the fall, do not wait until the last minute to get all of your things together. Try to buy your things little by little (or even all at once) so that when it is time for you to go off to school you are not rushing around the day before to a million stores trying to find/buy everything that you need. It will make things so much less stressful if you are just already ready when the day comes where you have to leave.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer and have fun getting ready for college. It is one of the best experiences.