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Student Loan Consolidation 101

What does it mean to consolidate your student loans? Here’s a quick primer on this important financial aid topic.

student loansCollege students often take out more than one student loan to pay for college. This can result in multiple monthly payments and an awful lot of paperwork. To simplify the process, and to save money, students often choose to consolidate their student loans, which means they combine all of their loans and make one (usually lower) monthly payment on all of them. Often, loan consolidation allows students to pay the loans off over a longer period of time, which results in a lower monthly payment.

How do you go about consolidating your student loans? You work with a bank. For information about this process, visit the Federal Direct Consolidation Loans Information Center at the U.S. Department of Education website. Compared to many other kinds of loans, loan consolidation is actually fairly simple. In fact, there’s not even a credit check when you consolidate government loans.

Students can consolidate both U.S. government student loans and private student loans. However, most lends recommend that public and private loans should not be consolidated together.

Is a loan consolidation right for you? Talk to your lender. In most cases, consolidation makes sense, but there are a few situations in which this might not be the best idea. If you have a Perkins loan, for example, you will lose the benefits that come along with this loan if you consolidate.

In addition, if you do consolidate, try to avoid the temptation of getting a lengthy loan payment plan that takes many years to pay off. The low monthly payment may be very tempting– and depending on your financial situation, this may be a life saver. However, keep in mind that the longer you take to pay off a loan of any kind, the more you will pay in interest. If you can handle the higher monthly payments, do so, and pay off the loan as soon as possible.




Wordless Wednesday: Juggling Family and School

working mom

Do Online Colleges make it easier?




Smoking Bans in College Dorms?

Should smoking be banned in college dorms? This may be the case soon in the state of New York, where state lawmakers have sent to the governor a bill that would ban smoking in the dormitories for all schools in the state, including private schools.no smoking sign

So what do you think? Is this a good idea that promotes and safety for all students, or is this an invasion of the students’ privacy?

On the one hand, smoking is unquestionably a health hazard for both smokers and those who inhale second hand smoke. Dorms are usually pretty small and enclosed, so that makes the issue of second hand smoking worse. Even if some rooms on a floor are designated for students who smoke, and others are not, second hand smoke can still spread pretty easily. In addition, because dorms are so enclosed, fire hazards need to be taken very seriously. Most dorms ban candles and similar items because fires can spread so quickly in a dorm. A lit cigarette is risky in the same way that a candle is.

On the other hand, students are adults, and a dorm is their residence. We don’t forbid adults from smoking in their own homes. Sure, it would be better for everyone if they did not smoke, but because cigarettes are a legal substance, the government would be overstepping its authority by forbidding consumption of this product in people’s homes. Why is the dorm issue different—especially if the school takes measures such as smoke-free hallways?

An interesting issue. Leave your comments!




How to Ask For an Extension on Your Paper

Uh-oh—there’s a 15 page paper due next week, and you haven’t even started it. And you have another paper due right around the same, and a test, and a job, and a life, and… oh my goodness, what are you going to do? Should you ask your professor for an extension?

Realistically, the answer to this question is usually NO, unless you have a really good reason. Professors don’t want to hear that you have papers due in other classes (unless one of them is a thesis or something really huge). They’ll tell you that you should have budgeted your time better, and ask why you came to her for an extension as opposed to the professor in the class with the other paper?

This may sound mean, but professors are busy people who don’t have time to read papers that are coming in at any given time. And learning how to meet deadlines really is crucially important. You’ll be doomed in the workforce if you don’t learn this skill now. So yes, it’s tough love.

So if you have to ask for a deadline, you’ve got a difficult task. Here are some tips that might make this task easier.

  1. Ask ahead of time. If you come to your teacher a month before your assignment is due and ask for an extension because you know you’re going to be overwhelmed, this conveys professionalism and maturity. Your professor just might budge.
  2. Let your professor know early on about possible conflicts. If there’s a reason you’re going to have trouble meeting deadlines–like childcare issues, or a learning disability, or an illness– let the professor know at the beginning of the semester. Again, this conveys professionalism.
  3. Be a good student. Student A is a slacker who comes about once every two weeks, text messages during class, never participates, and got a D on the midterm. Student B is the opposite. So which student do you think is more likely to get an extension?

  4. Ask nicely. This may sound obvious, but as a former professor, trust me–this is a lesson many students do need to learn! And you are not entitled to an extension–no matter how much you are paying for college.
  5. No crying. Or whining. Or sob stories, unless you have a really big problem.



Wordless Wednesday: College

College Life




10 Ways to Reduce Student Loan Debt

Thanks to the rising cost of college, students are leaving college with overwhelming student loan debts. Can this be avoided? It’s pretty difficult to avoid student loans entirely, but with careful planning, there are both small and large steps you can take to reduce the amount of money you have to borrow. To reduce the frightening amount of money you’ll be paying off every month after you graduate, here are some tips.

  1. Graduate on time.
  2. Earn enough credits before college starts (through AP exams, community college classes, and so forth) to reduce your time in school. Or earn extra credits over the summer to reduce your total number of semesters.
  3. Go to community college for a year or two, and then transfer.
  4. Consider commuting from home (although, as this article in The Houston Chronicle points out, commuting is not as cheap of an option as it used to be because of the cost of gas.)
  5. Be realistic in where you choose to go to school. Ask yourself if that hefty price tag is really worth years of loans–or if a cheaper school can’t give you most of what you need.
  6. Invest a significant amount of time into finding scholarships.
  7. Buy used whenever possible–clothing, books, electronics, things for your dorm or apartment, and so forth. Used is good for the environment and good for your financial situation.
  8. Try to make do without a car–or to use the car you own as little as possible.
  9. Avoid eating out, and learn to cook.
  10. Avoid excessive spending on alcohol– unless you really think partying three times a week is worth thousands of dollars worth of student loan interest.




Alumni and Legacy Scholarships

Have you ever considered attending the same school that your parents or grandparents attended? Here’s an incentive to do so that you may not know about: legacy scholarships.

Legacy scholarships—which are sometimes known as alumni scholarships—are awarded by a college or a university to students whose parents and grandparents attended at one time. Sometimes, these awards are also given to students with other relatives who attended the school as well, such as a sibling or aunt or uncle. Often, students are only are eligible for alumni or legacy scholarships if the relative is an active member of the alumni association.

These are competitive scholarships that students must apply for (i.e., you don’t automatically get them simply because your parent attended this school). These scholarships can range from small awards of a few hundred dollars—in which case, they’re probably less competitive and are awarded to many students—to significant awards that are awarded to only one or a few students.

People sometimes associate the term “legacy scholarship” with elite institutions like Ivy League schools. While these schools do award legacy scholarships, less prestigious schools do as well. In fact, most colleges and universities offer scholarships of this kind. As an example, see the alumni scholarship program at Bemidji State University in Minnesota (a lovely campus, if not the most famous one). As is typical of an alumni scholarship, this is a competitive scholarship only available to students with family members at this institution.

Because alumni scholarships are so common, it’s worth your time to investigate what kinds of scholarships of this kind are available to students at the schools attended by your parents and grandparents (and perhaps other family members as well). Obviously, this shouldn’t be your only criteria in choosing a school—but it’s information that you’ll want to consider.




Flooding at the University of Iowa

Most summer school students have the same kinds of concerns, like doing well in your time-intensive classes, or trying to balance classes and jobs while still enjoying the great weather. But if you’re a student at the University of Iowa this summer, your life is a whole lot more complicated. Like much of the state of Iowa, the University has suffered severe flooding, and the town and the campus has been dealing with sandbagging, evacuations, and severe flood damage. Read about what’s going on in this Iowa City Press Citizen article:

Thanks to YouTube, students and others on campus have been sharing images of what’s going on. Here ares some images of the flooding on campus.

Here’s another video that shows volunteers preparing for the flooding:

My heart goes out to everyone at the University of Iowa. I visited Iowa City a few years back, and was surprised at how beautiful, cosmopolitan, and funky the campus was–right in the middle of Iowa. I can only imagine how expensive it will be to repair this mess, and how life on campus will be affected.




Five Reasons to Attend Community College Before Transferring to a Four-Year School

Community college isn’t the right choice for everyone. However, there are some outstanding benefits of starting out your education at a junior college before transferring to a four-year college.

  1. The cost. This is one of the main reasons why students start out at community colleges- and it’s a good reason, especially in an era of skyrocketing education costs and out-of-control student loan debts. Community colleges allow students to complete the first two years of their education at a highly reduced cost before transferring to a four year school. Once they graduate from the four-year school, these student have the exact same degree as all the other students–but for much less money. Community college is kind of like a higher education coupon.
  2. The class sizes. You can take intro to American history at a major university with 400 other students. Or you could take the exact same class at a community college with 25 students. You’ll get to know the teacher and the students, and have class discussions as opposed to straight lecture.
  3. Good teachers. Yes, there are bad teachers at community college, and good ones at four year schools. But community college teachers are there almost exclusively to teach, whereas professors at four year colleges and universities have a multiplicity of roles that often includes a heavy research load. And community college jobs are actually quite competitive—sometimes more so than at four year schools—so teachers have to be good or they’ll be replaced.
  4. A second chance at a good four-year college. Didn’t do so well in high school? Get some solid grades in your community colleges classes, and you’ll get a second chance to prove yourself. That D you earned in high school chemistry won’t matter much (or at all) after two years of community college with a 3.75.
  5. An easier transition. A four year college can be intimidating—whether you’re a high school senior who isn’t quite ready to leave home, or a returning student who hasn’t been in school for two decades. In community college, you’ll be surrounded by others in similar situations, and by teachers who understand that this is where their students are at.



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