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Assess your first month away
Chances are, your first month at college has been full of new experiences. Some of them may have been confusing and challenging, but most of them were probably exciting. And now that you’re more settled, it’s time to evaluate how things have gone and prepare for what’s next. Here are a few questions to ask now that you’ve survived your first month away:
- Do I feel comfortable with my schedule? College life is busy, and keeping up with assignments, social life, and sleep can be a challenge. If you’re having trouble, you may want to revisit your schedule and make sure you’re making the most of your time.
- Which classes are challenging me the most? By now, you should have a sense of what each class will require of you this semester. Make a note of which ones you’ll need to put more energy into, whether that means spending an extra hour studying or joining forces with your classmates to work on a project.
- Am I enjoying the on-campus clubs or groups I’ve joined? You may have discovered your new favorite hobby by signing up for an intramural sports team, auditioning for a play, or volunteering for student council. But if you haven’t joined any, jump in – clubs and groups can help you meet people who are interested in similar things and explore some of your passions.
- Have I met my professors yet? Chatting with your teachers isn’t as easy as it used to be in high school, but most college professors have office hours – and they can be a valuable resource as you start to think about what majors or professions you’d like to pursue.
- Have I explored the surrounding area? Take a hint from upperclassmen about which eateries, concert venues, or other attractions you should check out while you’re in town. Make a list, grab a few friends, and have a fun weekend.
- Do I need help with anything? Moving away from home, jumping into difficult classes and getting used to your new independence can be challenging. Don’t hesitate to find an on-campus counselor, a tutor, or a mentor if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Absolutely need to sleep but absolutely can’t miss a morning (or afternoon) class? All you’ve got to do to amp up your phone’s alarm power is drop it an empty glass. And while you’re at it, set it across the room. No way you’re sleeping through that.
On the other hand, maybe you don’t have enough reason to leave the dorm room. Check out how these five writers got involved on campus.
Student LoanDown readers, I’d like to introduce you to guest blogger, Jason Vasquez. Jason oversees corporate communications and media relations for Wells Fargo’s student and auto lending businesses. He has served on numerous nonprofit advisory boards and committees, and is an avid adventure seeker, having traveled to more than 50 countries and summited peaks around the world.
In his post today, Jason tells us about how Wells Fargo is working with customers to help them understand their credit scores and the effects of their credit history! (—DF)
When I reflect on my teenage years it seems that none of the lessons I learned from team sports or from high school classes prepared me for how I was to recover after accumulating nearly $40K in credit card debt by the time I graduated from college.
As a teen, I made the decision to apply for my first credit card. From a magazine that I received monthly as part of a subscription, I removed the promotional tear-out and filled-in the seemingly basic information being requested; first and last name, address, social security number, and signature. A couple weeks later I received a letter in the mail and immediately knew it was my new credit card ‘cause let’s face it, how many teenagers get mail? Before opening the envelope, I remember experiencing a rush of energy because I was eager to learn how much “free money” I would be allowed to spend. It took a split second to tear that envelop apart and after a dismissive glance at the accompanying letter I was $2K richer!
Over the next couple of years, I purchased clothes, a couple mobile phones, lots of pizza, gas, an awesome sound system for my SUV, new sneakers every few months, a $400 pair of sandals (yep, they exist), and tons of other stuff. In high school I worked part-time at a family-owned electronics store, which allowed me keep up with monthly credit card payments, but essentially I was revolving that $2K in credit card debt – and learned years later that this practice negatively impacts your credit score.
In 1997 I became a freshman at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and because I maxed out that first credit card, I applied for another credit card to buy more merchandise that I really didn’t need. When I came close to reaching the credit limit on that credit card, I applied for another. By my sophomore year, I had seven credit cards and all were maxed out. My reckless pattern of spending habits, coupled with my ignorance about money management, and lack of knowledge about how credit works left me with $40K in credit card debt and zero insight on how I would pay-off this massive amount of debt that had an interest rate of roughly 15 percent.
I share this testimonial because my scenario is not uncommon in the US, but to also serve as a reminder that it’s never too late to get smart about your credit. From Oct. 1 through Nov. 16, 2014 Wells Fargo is promoting “Get Smart About Credit” month starting with a free credit score promotion. This will provide consumer customers the opportunity to receive complimentary, no obligation access to their credit score and credit report. After reviewing this report the customer has the option to meet with a banker for a free financial review. Or they can choose to review their credit score and credit report on their own.
And to help young people get a better handle on understanding credit and how to leverage it effectively, Wells Fargo bankers will volunteer their personal time to teach credit and money management basics in classrooms and community centers through the end of the year.
For 6 years, roughly $600 of every paycheck went to paying down my debt, and frankly I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I didn’t have financial freedom and flexibility.
Whether you’re a student or parent I would encourage you to have more conversations about money, finance, credit, and retirement either together as a family or with a financial planner. It’s as simple as asking, “Mom, what tips do you have to pay down a credit card?” or “Dad, I’m not sure I know why people talk about credit scores all the time. Why is it important?” Practically every financial goal you have in mind, whether it’s buying a home, a new car, paying off student loans, planning your retirement, or saving for that trip around the world, if you plan it right, you should be able to attain it. Coming out of credit card debt wasn’t easy, but over the years I became smarter about my credit and finances. As result of some discipline, in 2012 I was able to purchase a new car, and in 2013 I became a first-time homeowner. And believe me, there was a time when I believed being able to accomplish that was impossible.
Chart your course to college
Whether it’s studying for exams, preparing your college applications, or trying to make the most of your time with friends, senior year of high school can be very busy.
That’s why we’ve come up with year-round calendar reminders, which you can download to your phone or computer to help you stay on top of important deadlines. Get reminders about everything from preparing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to writing your college application essay, to sending last minute paperwork, and more.
Or, you can download individual reminders:
- October – Work on your essay
- November – Research scholarships
- December – Prepare your FAFSA
- January – Make plans for your semester and summer
- February – Consider CLEP exams
- March – Avoid senioritis
- April – Choose a college
- May – Send any last paperwork
- June – Make your summer count
- July – Pack up for college
- August – Ace freshman orientation
1Message and Data Rates May Apply.
Prepping for the SAT and ACT
The SAT and ACT may be intimidating, but having the right tools at your disposal can help you feel prepared for the challenge. Whether you’ve already started studying or have yet to open a book, now’s a great time to check out what resources are available and which ones can help you as you get ready for these important exams. While Wells Fargo does not have any affiliation with the companies listed below, we thought they put together some helpful resources—some of which require payment or registration, but several of which are free for your use:
|Online Courses||In-Person Courses||Study Materials||Practice Tests||Bonus|
|The College Board
|Free access to practice questions and tutorials and a comprehensive study course for purchase.||No||An Official SAT Study Guide with DVD™for purchase.||Free online and print versions of the practice test.||Question of the Day app for daily brainteasers.|
|The Princeton Review
|Buy private tutoring, small group, classroom, or fundamentals courses or download a self-paced study guide.||Enroll in an honors course, a summer immersion program, or the dual mastery program.||SAT or ACT study guides, flash cards, and practice tests for purchase.
|Free access to online SAT and ACT practice tests.
|SAT Vocab Challenge appfor studying on the go.|
|Choose from individual, classroom, or unlimited prep classes. Plus, most of them are available via mobile device.||Find a prep course in a high school near you or be matched with a tutor.
|No||Register to find free SAT or ACT practice tests near you.
|SAT or ACT Cram SessionsTMcan be great refresher courses.|
|Catalyst||No||Study with a private tutor in the comfort of your home.||No||No||Register for SAT or ACT Bootcamp, a weekend workshop.|
The importance of creating routines at college
One of the most exciting parts of starting college is your new independence. Suddenly, your schedule is up to you – and there are so many fun things to discover. However, if you aren’t proactive about creating a routine, you may get overwhelmed with all the responsibilities. Here are some good habits to establish in your first few months at college:
- Schedule study time. A good rule of thumb is that, for every lecture, you should study 1–3 hours, depending on the difficulty of the subject. Schedule some devoted, distraction-free study time whenever you know you’ll be most alert.
- Stay active. Since you’ll be spending most of your time in class and studying, staying physically active is important. Studies have also shown that even light physical activity, like taking a walk, can help stimulate concentration.
- Sleep. All-nighters may be necessary from time to time, but one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mind and body is to sleep. Don’t be afraid to opt out of late-night activities if you start to feel run down or exhausted – you’re working hard, and you deserve rest.
- Stay on top of your finances. Financial independence comes with its own set of challenges. Creating a budget and carefully managing your finances can help give you peace of mind.
- Save time for having fun. With papers due and tests looming, it can be hard to take a night off. But relaxing with your friends, watching a movie, or enjoying the extracurricular activities offered by your college can create some of the most memorable moments from your college experience. Reward yourself for studying hard and have fun.
One thing students take for granted is having someone around to make meals for them. Help them ease into the college life – and into making their own meals – with a Now You’re Cooking Care Package, with helpful ingredients and recipes that can get them cooking. Consider including ingredients like these:
- Cookie dough
- Brownie mix
- Tea or lemonade mix
- Instant noodles
- Mac & cheese
- Granola bars & trail mix
- Fun magnets
- Silverware, napkins, dish towels
- Fun salt & pepper shakers
Does your student need to get their grades cooking too? Show them these five good study habits for college.
Did your college student forget a few crucial things in between all the packing, buying, planning and moving? It happens. Why not put together an “I Forgot” Care Package that covers off on those bare necessities that everyone could use a little more of? You can include items like:
- Pens, pencils and highlighters
- Folders, paper
- Printer ink and paper
- Paper clips, erasers, scissors
- Multi-surface/delicate surface tape
- First aid kit
Everyone forgets things, and everyone needs a little help from time to time. Here are some tips to help your student when their budget is feeling a little tight.