Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Source: getrichslowly.org

6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs

Check out this list of ways to save money on college costs. This is a great list!

Check out this list of ways to save money on college costs. This is a great list!How much does college cost? This is a question many wonder. There’s rarely a week that goes by where I don’t receive an email from a student or parents of a student who are looking for ways to cut college costs. That’s why today I want to talk about college costs and how you can create a college budget that works so that you can save money in college.

College is very expensive – there is no doubt about that.

However, I want you to know that it IS possible to get a valuable college degree on a budget!

The average public university is over $20,000 per year and the average private university totals over $45,000 once you account for tuition, room and board, fees, textbooks, living expenses and more.

Even with how expensive college can possibly be, there are many ways to cut college expenses and create a college budget so that you can control rising college costs.

Continue reading below to read about the many different ways I cut college costs. While I was not perfect and still racked up student loan debt, I did earn three college degrees on a reasonable budget.

Related articles:

1. Take classes at a community college to cut college costs.

Whether you are in college already or you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.

Earning credits at a community college usually costs just a small fraction of what it would cost at a 4-year college, so you may find yourself being able to save thousands of dollars each semester.

There is a myth out there that your degree is worth less if you go to a community college. That is NOT TRUE at all. When you finally earn your 4-year degree, your degree will only say where you graduated from and it won’t even mention the community college credits at all. So this myth makes no sense because your degree looks the exact same as everyone else’s’ who you went to college with. You might as well save money because it won’t make much of a difference.

I only took classes at a community college during one summer semester where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved around $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.

Also, you are most likely just taking general credits at the community college, so it’s not like you would be missing much by taking classes there instead of a college that has a better reputation for the major you are seeking.

If you do decide to go to a community college, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will transfer all of the credits. It’s an easy step to take so do not forget! You should do this before you sign up and pay for any classes as well as to make sure that ALL of the classes will transfer succesfully.

2. Take advantage of high school classes to lower your college budget.

Many high schools allow you to take college classes to earn both college and high school credits at the same time.

This is something I highly recommend you look into if you are still in high school, as it saves time and is one of the best ways to save money on college costs.

When I was in my senior year in high school, nearly all of my classes were dual enrollment courses where I was earning college and high school credit at the same time. I took AP classes and classes that earned me direct college credit from nearby private universities. I left high school with around 14-18 credit hours (I can’t remember the exact amount). This way I knocked out a whole semester of college. I could’ve taken more, but I decided to take early release from high school and worked 30-40 hours a week as well.

3. Take all the credits you can to stay within your college budget.

At many universities, you pay a flat fee. So whether you take 12 credit hours or 18 credit hours, you are paying nearly the exact same price.

For this reason, I always recommend that a student take as many classes as they can if they are going to a college that charges a flat fee tuition.

If you think you can still earn good grades and do whatever else you do on the side, definitely get full use of the college tuition you are paying for!

4. Apply for scholarships to lower your college costs.

Before you start your semester, you should always look into scholarships, grants, FAFSA, and more. You usually have to turn in any paperwork around spring time for the following semester, so I highly recommend doing this right now if you are going to college in the fall.

Another myth will be busted right now. Many believe that all scholarships are impossible to have or it means you have to win a contest. That is just a myth.

I received around $16,000 a year in scholarships to the private university I attended. That helped pay for a majority of my college tuition. The scholarships were easy for me to get as they were all just because I earned good grades in high school and scored well on tests. I received scholarships to all of the other colleges I applied for as well just for good grades, so I know they can be found as long as you do well in high school!

There are other ways to find scholarships as well. You can receive scholarships from private organizations, companies in your town, and more. Do a simple Google search and I am sure you will find many free websites that list out possible scholarships for you to apply to.

Tip: Many forget that you usually have to turn in a separate financial aid form directly to your college. Don’t forget to do this by the deadline each year!

5. Search for cheaper textbooks to lower your college budget.

Students usually spend anywhere from around $300 to $1,000 on textbooks each semester, depending on the amount of classes they are taking and their major.

For me, many of my classes required more than one book and each book was usually around $200 brand new. This means if I were to buy all of my college textbooks brand new, I probably would have had to spend over $1,000 each semester.

I saved a decent amount of money on college textbooks by renting them and finding them used. Renting them was nice because I just had to pay one fee and didn’t ever have to worry about what to do with the textbook after the class was done, as I only had to return them. There was no worrying about the book being worthless if a new edition came out, which was nice! Buying books used was nice occasionally as well just because sometimes I could make my money back.

I recommend Campus Book Rentals if you are looking for textbook rentals. Their rentals are affordable and they make getting the textbooks you need easy.

Read: How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review

6. Skip the high price of living on campus to cut your college budget.

To save more money, I decided to live on my own. I didn’t have the option of living at home after high school and living on campus would have cost me a ton of money.

Instead, I found a very cheap rental house (the house was VERY small and probably could have been considered a tiny home) and was able to somewhat easily commute to work and college from it. I probably saved around $500 a month by living on my own instead of on campus, and I learned a lot by living on my own at a young age as well.

If you can live at home though and want to save money, I highly recommend it if it’s an option for you. You can save thousands of dollars a semester by doing this!

I understand that some are against this because it may impact your “college experience,” but I think most people would be fine not living on campus, especially if it’s not in the budget. You could probably save around $40,000 over the years on your degree by living at home.

How did you cut college costs and control your college budget? How much student loan debt did you have when you graduated?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017 – SmartAsset

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Not all students can cover the cost of their college education with the grants or scholarships in their financial aid packages. Some begin their college careers by taking out student loans, while others look for part-time jobs and work-study positions. Students who are trying to avoid taking on too much debt may wonder what their job prospects look like outside of their college campuses. To help them out, we ranked the best cities in the country for working students.

This is the second annual study of the best cities for working students. Read the 2016 study here.

Study Specifics

For the second year, SmartAsset took a look at the best cities for working students. Our analysis focuses on the employment opportunities for college students attending the top-ranking four-year university in 232 different cities.

To complete our study, we created two different scores: a college value score (based on findings from our study of the best value colleges in America) and a jobs score (based on three factors, including the local minimum wage, the median rent and the unemployment rate for adults with some college education). It is important to note that we changed our methodology slightly this year, so this year’s study is not directly comparable to last year’s. For a full explanation of how we conducted our analysis, read the methodology and data sections below.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your student loans.

Key Findings

  • Minimum wages are rising. Nineteen states and dozens of cities saw their minimum wages increase at the start of 2017. Any boost in pay is sure to benefit working students and other low-wage workers around the country.
  • Check out the Midwest. Four of the best cities for working students are located in this region, thanks in part to their low unemployment rates. In places like Lincoln, Nebraska and Fargo, North Dakota, the unemployment rate among adults with some college education is below 2%.
  • New England ranks well. Four other cities in the top 10 are part of this region, where minimum wages are relatively high. In Portland, Maine and New Britain, Connecticut, for example, the minimum wage is above $10.

1. Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield is about 91 miles from Boston by car. One reason why it’s on our list of the best cities for working college students is its high minimum wage. On Jan. 1, Massachusetts’ minimum wage rose from $10 to $11. Massachusetts, Washington state and Washington, D.C. currently have the highest minimum wages in the nation. That’ll change eventually since cities and states like California are planning for their minimum wages to hit $15.

2. Lincoln, Nebraska

Thanks to its strong job market conditions, Lincoln ranks as the second-best city for working students in 2017. The unemployment rate for workers with either an associate’s degree or some college education is just 1.5%, according to one-year estimates from the 2015 American Community Survey. Among all workers ages 16 and over, the city’s unemployment rate is about 3.1%

In addition to having access to a lot of job opportunities, students who attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can get plenty of bang for their buck. Our analysis of the best value colleges found that UNL was the top-ranking university in the Cornhusker State in 2015 and 2016.

3. New Britain, Connecticut

New Britain has a few different colleges. Central Connecticut State University is the oldest public university in the state of Connecticut. Finding a job in New Britain shouldn’t be too difficult for students trying to pay their way through school. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education is just 3%.

4. Omaha, Nebraska

This is the second time that Omaha has appeared on our list of the best cities for working students. Last year, the “Gateway to the West” took the 10th spot on our list. Since we published the 2016 edition of our study, the city’s unemployment rate for workers with some college education has fallen to 2.7%.

Working students in Omaha face a diverse economy. Key industries include health services, education, transportation and utilities, meaning that there are a variety of options for students looking for part-time gigs and internships.

5. Portland, Maine

Finding part-time work may not be difficult for students in Portland, Maine. In this city, the unemployment rate among adults with an associate’s degree or some college education is just 3%.

Students who live off campus may have to pay a pretty penny for rent. The median rent in Portland is $923. Fortunately, the city’s minimum wage is relatively high at $10.68.

Related Article: The Best College Towns to Live In – 2016 Edition

6. Tempe, Arizona

Arizona is another state that saw its minimum wage increase on New Year’s Day. In fact, it went up by almost $2. Thanks to the approval of Proposition 206, part-time and full-time workers will now earn $10 per hour. By 2020, the minimum wage will be $12. That’s good news for working students attending one of the many colleges and universities in Tempe, such as Arizona State University.

7. Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma is a mid-sized city in southwest Washington. The unemployment rate for workers in the city with some college education is 5.6%. According to the Census Bureau, that’s lower than the unemployment rate among all adults in Tacoma ages 16 and over (6.5%).

The state of Washington has one of the highest minimum wages in the country and Tacoma’s minimum wage is a bit higher. In 2017, working students in Tacoma will get paid $11.15 per hour.

8. Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo has the lowest unemployment rate in our study among workers with some college education: 0.6%. And thanks to the state’s low income tax rates, working students don’t have to worry about taxes taking a big bite out of their paychecks. Best of all, many students attending colleges in Fargo have access to a quality, yet affordable education. For the 2016-2017 school year, base tuition at the North Dakota State University – the top-ranking college in the state according to our best value colleges list – will be less than $7,000.

9. Lowell, Massachusetts

Since we released the 2016 edition of our analysis, the median rent in Lowell has increased by about 9%. But the state’s minimum wage has risen as well. College students who need to find part-time jobs can expect to be paid at least $11 per hour in 2017.

10. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota and has a population of roughly 171,530. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education is only 2.4%. So students have a good chance of finding a job, particularly if they’re looking for positions in one of the city’s top industries, such as the banking, food processing or bio-medical fields.

Methodology

To find the best cities for working students in 2017, SmartAsset found the unemployment rate (for workers with some college education or an associate’s degree) and the median rent for 232 U.S. cities with at least one four-year college or university. We also pulled the minimum wage for each of these places.

We took each of our three factors (the median rent, unemployment rate and the local minimum wage) and found the number of standard deviations each city rated above or below the mean. Then we totaled those values and created a single job score reflecting the strength of the job markets in all 232 major cities.

We also developed a score using the index from our study of the U.S. colleges offering the best bang for your buck (based on several factors including average starting salaries and the cost of college tuition). Whenever we had a city with multiple schools on our list of best value colleges, we looked at data for the local top-ranking school (based on our analysis).

Finally, we combined our job score with our college value score, giving the job score triple weight and the college value score full weight. We created our ranking by assigning each city a score between 0 and 100. The highest-ranking city for working students received a 100 while the lowest-ranking city for working students received a 0.

Note that in the 2016 edition of our analysis, we created our ranking by averaging our two scores. This year, we changed our methodology slightly to give more weight to our job-related factors.

Data Sources

Rent and unemployment data are based on one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. Minimum wage data is based on the appropriate city, state or federal minimum wage.

In some states, the minimum wage for large companies is higher. In these instances, we used the state’s lowest minimum wage (i.e. the minimum wage for small businesses). In states with a different minimum wage for small business employees with benefits, we used the minimum wage for employees without benefits. In the states with a minimum wage that’s below the federal threshold, we used the federal minimum wage.

The data analysis for this study was completed by Nick Wallace.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/oneinchpunch

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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