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College Guide to Building and Protecting Credit

March 10th, 2014

With so many things to consider as you make the transition from high school to college, your credit score hardly seems like your most important concern.  The fact is, many college students first come to terms with their own credit status as they look for ways to cover tuition and other expenses associated with post-secondary education. And many are disappointed with what they find in their credit reports.

Young adults are at a disadvantage in the lending industry; primarily because most have not established themselves with long histories of borrowing money and successfully repaying it.  Despite limited exposure, there are ways to move your credit standing in a positive direction - before, during and after college.  The keys to increasing credit worthiness are understanding how financial interactions work and making sure your borrowing relationships always have positive outcomes.

What Matters?

Building a good credit rating doesn’t happen overnight, which is precisely why young people are not in the best position for proving their creditworthiness.  Your credit health is based on a series of evaluations conducted by three primary credit reporting agencies.  By looking at your borrowing and repayment history, credit agencies assign a number to your performance.  The scale tops-out at 850, with scores above 700 representing what would generally be considered “good credit”.

To arrive at the figure, credit evaluation organizations look at the types of borrowing in your past.  The highest scores are assigned to borrowers with long track records of repayment success.  The function of your credit score is to provide assurances to lenders that you are able and willing to pay borrowed money back.  Banks and other lenders want to limit their own risk levels, so they use credit reports to determine whether or not you are a safe prospect.  And it isn’t only the number of credit accounts you’ve successfully managed, but also the types.

Types of Credit

There are essentially two types of credit that show-up on credit histories, influencing how credit scores are assigned.  Revolving credit, on one hand, applies to credit relationships like the ones extended by MasterCard and Visa.  Under the terms of revolving contracts, consumers make purchases and payments on a “revolving” basis, usually tied to calendar months.  Purchases made during this month will typically bill during the following month, influencing the account balance and minimum payment requirements.  Covering the entire cost of a purchase wipes the slate clean, without interest charges being added.  When balances are carried over, however, the issuing creditor adds a few percentage points of interest to the card balance, which borrowers pay above and beyond the cost of items purchased.

Managing revolving credit accounts is a great credit-building opportunity for young people.  Even if you only have one major credit card; making on-time payments and successfully managing revolving balances shows creditors you are responsible enough to meet your financial obligations.

The other class of lending that credit agencies evaluate is called installment credit.  Unlike revolving terms, installment credit involves a single one-time loan, which is set-up for repayment over a designated period of time.  Home mortgages, for example, extend for decades of repayment, requiring borrowers to pay the same amount each month, until the loan balance and interest are fully accounted for.  Because they show long-term credit relationships, installment loans provide important references for creditors, who assign higher credit scores to individuals with proven installment loan repayment successes in their credit histories.

Automobile loans are excellent examples of installment loans undertaken by young people.  While you may not take out a mortgage during college, a successful history paying back your installment car loan is an important credit-building opportunity.  Missing even one payment can have a negative impact on your credit score, so repaying on-time should never be taken lightly.

In addition to credit cards and car loans, utility and phone contracts also furnish ways for college students to build and protect their credit standing.  Staying current on required payments adds fortification to your positive repayment history, furnishing more examples for credit agencies to look at.

Even student loans are part of your credit history, so staying on pace with repayment is another way to shine among creditors.  Never let a student loan default - it has negative impacts on your credit rating.  Instead, use deferments or grace periods to offset payments until you are financial able to cover your commitments.  Working with lenders before you run into problems is a much better strategy than picking up the pieces following student loan default.

While college students don’t always have the lengthy, diverse credit history shared by seasoned borrowers; there are still ways to move credit ratings forward.  Above all else, take care to manage your accounts properly; repaying loans on schedule and keep revolving accounts current.

This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes about free background check for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.

Academic Scholarships For College

January 13th, 2014

While many people think that the left-handed oboe player scholarship is the key to paying for their child’s college education, private scholarships provide a very small percentage of overall college funding.  The majority of financial aid for college actually comes from either the government or the colleges themselves in the form of academic scholarships.  Academic scholarships for college can be difficult to find though, and often require hours of digging through the schools websites.

Our site has a scholarship engine which allows you to search for college-based merit scholarships and have a list of colleges where you are eligible for academic scholarships in minutes.  Simply, go to our scholarship quick search page, enter in your SAT or ACT score, your GPA (out of a 4.0), and up to 5 states where you would like to go to school, and a list of colleges where you are eligible for scholarships will appear.  To create lists of schools, set deadline reminders, search by advanced criteria (such as size of school, majors, level of competition of admission, and the setting), and read articles from our expert staff you will need to purchase an advanced membership for $24.95 a year.

One thing you will notice from looking through the list of colleges where you are eligible for scholarships, is that improving your SAT scores will most likely increase the amount of money that you are eligible for.  You may want to take an SAT Prep Class to improve your scores.  Our parent company, First Choice College Placement, offers small SAT classes in Milford, CT, SAT Classes in Garden City, New York, and an SAT course over the internet.

8 Jobs That Will Put You Through College

February 8th, 2013

Living on your own can be expensive. Include tuition and textbooks in the mix, and without some planning and cash flow you’ll beTeenage Fast Food Worker in the hole fast. As a freshman, here are eight jobs available in nearly every college town for you to consider:

Whistle Blower: Be a Referee

From intramural games and weekend tournaments to elementary-aged soccer, basketball and volleyball clubs, there are plenty of opportunities for college students to make money as a referee. If you have a basic knowledge of a sport, apply for a part-time position as a whistle blower. Games are generally scheduled on school nights and weekends, and you’re body will appreciate the extra exercise. You can search via a browser, “how to be a referee.” By adding the state or region, you will narrow down options.

Tutor Someone

If you excel at English or have mastered math, earn a few bucks each week by tutoring your classmates. If you don’t feel confident enough to offer your tutoring services to other college students, you can still find work as a tutor for younger students. Visit nearby elementary and high schools to offer your services or post fliers.

Remember Retail

Working in retail at a department store doesn’t always mean you’ll be bored manning the cash register. If you are interested in the outdoors, apply for a position at a sport’s store. You’ll be surrounded by sporting goods and know all about the latest camping gear. Plus, as an employee you’ll know about upcoming sales, trends and maybe even have an employee discount. You can apply online at job-applications.com for positions at Lowe’s, Target, Sears, Ross and more.

Help Someone (And Get Free Rent)

If balancing a rigid work schedule, studying and going to class doesn’t seem like fun, consider this. Often young people can get free room and board from an elderly couple in exchange for helping around the house and yard. You might be in charge of mowing the lawn, hauling in the groceries or walking the dog. Other times, the couple/person may need someone to keep an eye on an ailing relative or even prepare meals for the afflicted. Check your local Craigslist.org or college housing board.

There’s Always Fast Food

Don’t eliminate the possibility of working at a fast food joint. You may learn a thing or two while you’re there. No, I don’t mean how to flip a burger. You’ll benefit from exposure to how a business works, gain valuable customer service experience and learn about nutrition (or lack thereof). The regular paychecks won’t hurt, either. Either pickup an application at the location or look at the restaurant’s website for how to apply.

Donating Plasma = Gas Money

Plasma is the liquid part of blood that is made up mainly of water and proteins, and you can donate it for money. Used to help hemophiliacs, burn victims and other ailments, plasma is extracted from your blood in a process that can take up to two hours. Plasma centers pay you for your time and your plasma. Typically you can earn $20-$30 per donation, and can donate once or twice a week, according to The Pacific Northwest Inlander. Go to DonatingPlasma.org to find a donation center near you.

Be a Nanny

While some nanny jobs simply entail a family who wants part-time help, others are much more detailed. When applying through a nanny database, you have the option to choose from temporary or full-time positions, out of state (or out of country) households and other determining factors, such as if you are willing to cook meals or clean up around the house. Nanny jobs often pay well and one summer may earn you enough money to live off for a whole semester. Go to sites like eNannySource.com and Nannies4Hire.com to learn how to be a nanny and apply to be a nanny.

Article by Stephanie Cole.Stephanie is a freelance writer from North Carolina.

Reduce College Debt by Attending Community College

January 22nd, 2013

What many new college students don’t know about debt is that it builds up fast. It may seem like just a loan or two at first but by the end of four years (or more) it really adds up. One great avenue that people forget is the local community colleges. Community colleges often offer the same great basic classes at the same level as four year colleges but for much more affordable prices. Many people can even get full coverage from government grants and get money back from attending community college. Not only that, but classes tend to be smaller and more personal and it is easier to get help those first few critical years.
Beyond just the price, however, community college is also worthwhile because it is much easier to transfer into your school of choice then it is to get in as a freshman. You have already proven that you can handle the workload and keep your grades up, so there is no reason for them not to accept you. In state colleges almost universally accept the classes you take at community colleges, so that is not an issue either.
Community college can also be a money saver because you can live at home with your parents or in affordable housing nearby. Many university towns have high prices because of the exclusive student housing, but community colleges do not have that issue.
There are many reasons to choose to attend a two year community college. You can get an associate’s degree and complete your basics for an affordable price close to home and avoid racking up all that student loan debt. Check out your local community college today!

About the Author:
Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get contact him at kmyers.ceo@gmail.com.

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The Ever-Evolving Digital Classroom

January 15th, 2013

A hundred years ago, classrooms were full of students who held only a slate, a piece of chalk and a couple of books. Now, only a few generations later, classrooms are full of interactive whiteboards, computers, and other technological gadgets. These tech tools are as ubiquitous in the elementary school classroom as they are the college classroom, and they are improving the way students learn and the way teachers can track their progress. This modern classroom transformation is also affec

Tablet PC Computer and book - Digital Library Concept

ting the way bookstores on college campuses are doing business. With the rise of electronic resources and digital downloads, student stores are seeing a change in the way books are being purchased.

Bringing Tech to the Classroom

Classrooms aren’t what they used to be. With computers on desks and digital lessons being taught, everything from elementary classes to college lectures are being designed with technology in mind. Students can setup webcams and chat live with others in the classroom or around the globe. Connecting students digitally to their studies is progressive and more relevant than the old chalkboard and paper books of yesteryear.

Students at the Open High School of Utah are utilizing the digital classroom; the school has traded chalk and blackboard for things like Google Docs and uses open course management systems to foster collaboration and interactive education. The return on investment is a result of effectively implementing technology in education.

The big question posed is how are institutions keeping up with the demand?


The beginning of the digital age in college classrooms has dawned. With the advent of eReaders and tablets, this generation of college stu
The Future of College Textbooks

dents are taking the digital step to required reading and storing their books in handheld devices. 5 percent of required textbooks this fallare digital downloads available to students, compared to 2 percent this past spring semester. This rapid update is taking studying to a whole different level and college bookstores are scrambling to find a way to meet the standards. Student bookstores are now offering eReader-friendly options to textbooks and displaying them next to the required books on the shelves.

The Cost of Going Digital

By next year, 25 percent of all textbooks will be available for download to tablets and eReaders. Students are paying up to $150 for a new textbook and only $84 for an eBook. For college students, saving money on any level is worth the investment of a tablet. However, students haven’t caught on to the digital books trend, with most buying physical textbooks. This will give bookstores time to adjust to inflation of the digital lecture hall.

As more and more advances are made in technology, teachers and students will continue to find ways to utilize technology in their classrooms. Their creative use of technology will improve the way students learn. At the same time, it will also increase their educational opportunities as more students and researchers become able to join classes.

Sara Bird A computer programmer who is working on her PhD in robotics, Sara loves talking about Higgs Boson, reading New Scientist and is getting tired of her thesis but glad that it’s nearly finished.

College debt: Loan consolidation programs for struggling students

December 3rd, 2012

Loan Repayment OptionsAccording to the financial experts, students who took out federal loans because it offered them fixed interest rates and payment deferments are now struggling to repay their loans as per the agreement. Hence, the government has provided few flexible loan consolidation programs so that they do not have to strain their finances any further. Due to these government-backed debt relief programs, students are saved from approaching the private debt consolidators for help.

So, students can go through the remaining article in order to get the basic knowledge of the student debt repayment programs.

Student debt consolidation programs

Following programs have been developed by the government in response to the demand of struggling low wage earning borrowers:

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program – This program has been formed by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Students who are full-time employees of a public sector enterprise and are eligible for the program will have to make 120 monthly loan payments for a period of 10 years. The payment will be made just once every month. Borrowers will have to be associated with a non-profit organization like Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.

People with Federal Direct loans are only considered for this program. Moreover, students who have federal loans from private bank and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) will have to consolidate their loans into Federal Direct loans in order to qualify for the PSLF.

2. Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) programs – This student debt repayment program is much older than the Income-Based Repayment plan. Students with Direct loans are eligible for this program. Before students are approved of the program, ICR conducts a test of the applicants’ financial hardship. The test evaluates the income of the students and their spouse.

Moreover, ICR also examines the size of the borrower’s family and the overall direct loan amount. However, students are exempted to personally prove their financial hardship so as to get their loan applications approved. The loan repayment amount is adjusted annually on the basis of their ongoing financial condition.

3. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) programs – This is the most revered loan consolidation program amongst the struggling borrowers. Here, under this program, students are required to substantiate their financial hardship claim with proper proofs. In this repayment plan, borrowers will be making reduced monthly payments for an extended period of time. The IBR monthly payment amount is derived after taking the optional income of the borrowers in to consideration.

As a result, the payment amount derived is affordable as well as suitable for the borrowers. Students whose total yearly outstanding balance is in excess of 15% of their optional income as per the standard repayment plan can qualify for the IBR.

Moreover, students are approved of the IBR plans after calculating their disposable gross income, the poverty line and their family strength. Hence, students who are not financially well off should contact the Department of Education for help. Moreover, they can consult with the loan servicers and financial aid officers for better advice on a repaying their debt comfortably.

For more information visit this page.

Half a Child Left Behind: SAT Scores Show 55% of HS Graduates are Not Ready for College

December 3rd, 2012

SAT PreparationDespite the seemingly constant emphasis politicians put on education, United States high school students are performing worse than they have in decades. According to the College Board’s latest release of SAT scores, there haven’t been lower average scores since 1972.

The College Board predicts that those with scores under 1500 points will not be sufficiently prepared for college to be able to earn a B- average. The significance of the B- grade is that it predicts whether a student will go on to complete his or her college education and get a diploma. Those with lower grades tend to drop out before completion.

Importance of SAT Scores

The SAT measures readiness in four areas: English, math, reading and science. Twenty-eight percent of students failed to hit any benchmarks, 15 percent only met one and 17 percent met two of the four. Students who passed all four benchmarks have a much higher chance of doing well with higher education.

According to the College Board, the reason for the decline in scores is based on an influx of first generation immigrants as well as an increase in the amount of low-income students. While scores decreased among everyone except Asians, there are some nationalities that are faring worse than others. Seventy-seven percent of Latinos, for example, were found to be unready for college.

How Should Students Prepare?

Thanks to the College Board’s report, it is clear that steps must be taken to improve SAT scores and overall college readiness. One way to do this is to hire an SAT tutor at Study Point or another college preparation service. Tutoring can prepare students for the types of questions asked on the SAT and bring students up to speed in areas where they lack knowledge or skills. Many high schools offer programs or classes devoted to SAT and ACT preparation, so it’s worth checking with your school before looking at other solutions.

Of course, merely cramming for the SAT test isn’t an effective solution to the problems low scores can point out. Instead, students should work with tutors to gain a true understanding of the subject material. Many find that this is much easier when they make use of tutors because a tutor can devote individualized attention to problem areas.

Another benefit of tutors is the possibility of finding someone who can speak the student’s native language if English is not their first. Many times, poor school performance is a result of not being able to understand what a teacher is saying. Bridging this gap through tutelage and extra help with the English language can do wonders to improve scores on standardized tests in the United States. Extra English lessons should be on the agenda of any immigrant who is having trouble understanding the test’s language.

Ensuring Students’ Futures

Doing well on the SAT doesn’t just predict a student’s possibility of success in higher education. Many colleges have minimum score requirements for admission as well. Without good SAT scores, a student may never have a chance to see how he or she would do at a preferred school. For this reason, some may want to use an SAT even if their scores are already above the benchmark. Making those scores even better will open doors at prestigious universities that would otherwise be closed.

Whether students need help just passing the SAT or want to improve an already passing score, individualized tutelage is a great way to attain the goal. Improved understanding of problematic subjects will help with the classes that are to come as well as the SAT itself.

Greg Dunn From New Hampshire, Greg owes his love of language and reading to his mother, a school teacher who taught him how to say curse words in 15 languages.

Associations, Agencies, and Companies that Provide Scholarships and Awards to Allied Health Students

November 14th, 2012

Many allied healthcare career fields have excellent employment prospects, including medical assisting, dental assisting, health information technology, pharmacy technology, radiologic technology, and clinical laboratory technology.

Allied health professionals provide a range of technical, diagnostic, therapeutic, and direct patient care and support services vital to other health professionals and the patients they help. Many of the careers only require a two-year degree or less. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that millions of new healthcare jobs will be added through 2018.

Those interested in allied healthcare jobs can certainly apply for general scholarships, but of course they’ll have to compete with students from every other discipline. However, there are a number of scholarships out there that are designated specifically for healthcare students.

The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions

This organization sponsors a scholarship program for allied health students enrolled in its member schools. It awards $1,000 scholarships to students achieving excellence in their program and showing significant potential to assume leadership roles in the allied health professions.

Tylenol Future Care Scholarship Program

Scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in healthcare degree programs like medicine, pharmacology, nursing, microbiology, laboratory sciences, physiotherapy, healthcare management, and hospital administration.

The makers of Tylenol provide 10 scholarships worth $10,000 each and 30 scholarships worth $5,000 each. An additional 150 scholarships worth $1,000 each are provided to students who participate in community service activities.

Applicants are judged on academic performance and leadership qualities. The scholarships are provided to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in accredited two-year or four-year colleges or universities, graduate schools, or vocational/technical schools.

Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program

These scholarships are provided by the California Health and Welfare Agency - Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development Health Professional Education Foundation.

Applicants must be enrolled in a California community college or university and they must be taking one of these programs:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Medical imaging
  • Respiratory care
  • Physical therapy
  • Pharmacy and diagnostic medical sonography
  • Social work
  • Medical laboratory technologist
  • Pharmacy technician
  • Ultrasound technician
  • Surgical technician

Those in other allied health professions may also apply for scholarships, which are worth up to $4,000.

Student who receive the scholarships are required to complete 100 volunteer hours in a medically under served area in California, or they must complete a one-year service contract.

Maxine Williams Scholarship

The American Association of Medical Assistants Endowment, located in Chicago, Illinois, provides this $1,000 award. Students receiving the award also receive a one-year membership in the American Association of Medical Assistants.

The awards are provided based on academic ability and financial need. Students must see their program directors to apply.

Applicants must be enrolled in and have completed a quarter or a semester at an accredited postsecondary medical assisting program. They are required to have a GPA of at least 3.0.

Health Resources and Services Administration - Bureau of Health Professions Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students

Applicants must be full-time students with a disadvantaged background, demonstrating financial need, and studying a health field. The Health Resources and Services Administration provides funds to accredited U.S. schools teaching health professions.

The National Hispanic Health Foundation - Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship Program

Applicants must be Hispanic students enrolled in postsecondary degree programs, including those in allied health. Scholarships are provided based on academic achievement, leaderships skills, and a commitment to improving healthcare in the Hispanic community. The scholarships are worth $2,000 to $5,000.

American Respiratory Care Foundation

The American Respiratory Care Foundation provides several awards for undergraduate students enrolled in accredited respiratory care education programs.

Most health care associations provide scholarships to aspiring specialists in their fields. There’s a good chance scholarship opportunities are available for your allied health field!

Brian Jenkins writes about a variety of job-related topics, including careers in radiologic technology, for the Riley Guide.

You Got What it Takes to Make It? Top Film Schools for Aspiring Filmmakers

November 13th, 2012

Are you a storyteller with creativity, focus, discipline, patience and motivation? Does seeing a well-made film get yourthrfilmschool blood flowing and heart pumping with eagerness and enthusiasm? Does the thought of meeting directors like Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg make you giddy with merriment? If the answer to these questions is “YES,” you may be ready for film school.

A career in the cinematic arts can give you an exciting future as there are many avenues to travel down, not just directing. It takes a strong person with motivation and discipline to be successful, especially if going to Hollywood or New York City is on your mind. The world of movies is competitive, time-consuming and complex. To be successful at this art form, you must be the creme de la creme, at the top of your game.

With so many great options, which college will get you to Hollywood? There are film schools in cities that range from LA to Beijing to Prague, topping some exclusive lists, like the Hollywood Reporter’s 25 Best Film Schools Rankings. So what are some of the best, and what filmmakers came out of them?

Wesleyan University

The Film Studies program at this Middletown, Connecticut-based university is a film school foundation. The Hollywood Reporter says it accepts 80 film majors and teaches them to write, direct and edit a movie not only digitally, but also by hand. Michael Bay, currently best know for the Transformers movies, “Pearl Harbor,” and “Armageddon,” attended Wesleyan with a double major in English and Film. This college is unique in its opportunities to marry two disciplines, opening the doors for greater thinking. Bay, the action auteur, got his start in television advertisements and music videos before he began rocking Hollywood with his action-adventure flicks.

University of Southern California (USC)

The USC School of Cinematic Arts was the U.S.’s very first school of film established in 1929 and ranks #23 on U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings list. Degrees go as high as a Ph.D. in critical studies. With millions and millions of dollars routinely being donated by alumni (most notably the $175 million Mr. George Lucas has contributed), USC teaches not only filmmaking, but the culture of it. The Hollywood Reporter says USC is ideal for the Hollywood-bound industry type but the indie film lover might consider one of the others. Robert Zemeckis, Ron Howard and Jon Landau are all USC alumni.

New York University (NYU)

The spectrum of study is vast in Cinema Studies at Tisch School of the Arts. One can major in film and television and have the opportunity to take classes in animation, audio, editing, writing, film criticism, production and film history in order to round out their knowledge of the art of filmmaking. There are study abroad options in Prague, Shanghai, Dublin and London, according to thebestcolleges.org. Getting accepted into this elite school is not easy. Classes are as small as twelve and it’s more gritty than its Hollywood cousins. Alums include Scorsese and Oliver Stone.

American Film Institute (AFI)

Alumni include David Lynch (”Twin Peaks,” “Mulholland Drive”) and Darren Aronofsky (”Black Swan”). AFI sits in Los Angeles and the Hollywood Reporter says students have usually already worked in the industry and know the direction in which they are headed. Average age of a student is 27 and the two-year conservatory program offers specialization in directing, producing and writing. With access to SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actors and $13,500 for their thesis film, AFI is a solid choice for a career in any avenue of film study.

Article by: Gina Fernandez. Fresh out of journalism school, Gina is excited to have the opportunity to write about the things she loves: Movies, TV and Michael Bay. Mostly Michael Bay.

How To Simplify Your Financial Life In College

October 10th, 2012

College is a busy time when the focus should be on your education, not on juggling payments and obligations and worrying about where the money will come from. Whether you’re already a college student or will be heading off for campus for the first time this fall, it makes sense to simplify and gain control of your finances now. There’s no time like the present to get a grip on your financial resources. It will be one less thing to worry about when the papers are coming due and there are exams to study for.

Make a budget and stick to it

Start with schooling and living expenses. Get familiar with your school’s website for a list of expenses such as books, tuition, fees, room and board. You can also consult with others, in school or grads, to see if there are any costs you might have overlooked. Once you have a good idea of what the realistic expenses will be, you’ll know how much money you’ll need. Having a budget is only half of the task, though. Make a commitment to be disciplined enough to stick to it.

Protect your identity

You’ll be filling out forms for everything from registering to applying for financial aid to getting a library card. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your identity can’t be stolen just because these are school forms. Identity theft can happen any time you put your personal information in writing. Consider an identity protection program like Lifelock when you’re headed off to college. In the event that your wallet is lost or taken or your identity stolen, Lifelock’s services will assist you with their remediation and recovery services.

Don’t spend needlessly

It might be difficult to get through the lean years of college without cable TV and 2 or 3 lattes a day, but if those costs weren’t factored into your budget, then they aren’t things you can afford to spend on. If you find yourself with some extra cash at the end of the month, treating yourself is acceptable, but split your overages, setting aside half for savings before spending the rest on fun or luxury.

Avoid or eliminate credit card debt

College is notoriously the time when people have a lot of first experiences. One that can either be educational or disastrous is the first encounter with a credit card. The feeling of financial freedom that might come over you initially is just an illusion. That will quickly come to an end once your limit is maxed out and the payments start coming due. If you haven’t racked up a credit card bill, then don’t. If you have already, set aside money in your budget to pay it off ASAP.

Keep in touch with financial aid

Meet with the financial aid department at your school to find out about grants and scholarships that you might be eligible for as well as to collect information on federal loans and other financial aid. Continue to check back periodically as new opportunities are announced all the time. When deciding on what type of assistance to apply for, put in for the grants and scholarships first, as they won’t require repayment. Only apply for loans if other financial aid isn’t available.

Attention to these five areas before they become critical will do a lot to keep your peace of mind during a time when stress can be high. Added financial and identity theft security are prime ways to keep a level head in the college world. With a little planning and some self discipline you’ll be creating lifelong habits that will serve you well in school and long after graduation.

Damon Adkins: Damon is a social media expert and entertainment enthusiast. He studied digital journalism on the West Coast and settled in the bay area with his family.