Archive for the ‘College Life’ Category

Communication Mistakes You’re Making With Your Professors

Categories: College Life

professor communicationCommunication is one of the keys to success when working with your college professors. Chances are you’ll chat with your professors in person at some point or another, but for general day-to-day questions and follow ups, they often prefer email. Here are a few common communication mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

This is a common mistake, especially from students who are just entering college. Email is part of our daily lives – after all, we send messages to everyone from friends to parents to supervisors. But all emails are the same, right?

Wrong. Emailing your professor is not the same as emailing your classmate or best friend. You need to adopt a more professional tone. Imagine how you would send an email to your boss. You want to make sure you use all the essentials of good email etiquette. Include a salutation that addresses your professor as he or she has indicated he or she wants to be addressed (Dr., Prof., or even his or her name, if your professor requests you use it). When in doubt, go formal until told otherwise.

Frequency of communication
How often are you supposed to communicate with your professors? You’ll want to strike a balance. If you have a question about an assignment or if the material is unclear, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. However, if the question requires a response longer than a brief email, an in-person chat probably works better. Requesting to meet face to face also demonstrates that you can discern between conversations that are well suited for email versus in person. This is a valuable skill for both your academic and professional careers.

On the other hand, you don’t want to be the student who over communicates. Your professor likely receives a lot of email, so you don’t want to clog his or her inbox with low-priority messages. Sending too many updates also makes it hard to determine when you’re actually in need of help, as opposed to just checking in. Use good judgement.

With how quickly friends and family members reply to texts and emails, it’s tempting to expect a quick reply from your professors. But remember that it may take a while to get a response – your professors are busy people! This is when your time management is especially important. If you’re emailing with questions about an assignment hours before it’s due, you can assume you probably won’t hear back before class starts so plan accordingly.

College presents you with many opportunities to practice skills that will be essential in your life after graduation. Learning how to effectively communicate via email is one of them. Remembering a few key communication points will improve the effectiveness of your communication as well as your relationship with your professor.

Brian Kornell is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.

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5 Ways to Manage Your Finances in College

Categories: College Life

Odds are you have your hands full in college with coursework and extracurricular activities. But regardless of how busy you are, it pays to stay on top of your financial situation, even if means just doing the basics. Here are five ways to keep your finances in the best of shape as you make your way through college.

college student money

Make a Budget
Budgets are scary whether you’re in college or you’re married with kids, but don’t sweat it. There’s no need to go overboard thanks to some online tools that make setting a budget relatively painless. An app like Mint tracks all your spending done on credit, debit cards, and you can input cash purchases manually. By doing this, you’ll know exactly where your money is going. There are plenty of other apps and programs out there, if you don’t like this one.

Skip the Meal Plan
There are few things on Earth as convenient as the all-you-can-eat college meal plan. The food might not always be amazing, but it’s one of those things you’ll probably miss in the post-college life. As easy as it may be, however, it’s not always worth the money. Depending on the university and the type of plan, the price per meal comes out to be anywhere from $5 to $9.

That’s not too bad, yet it’s still too much if you have access to a kitchen and even just a hint of cooking skills. Whipping up meals yourself is a great way to save money while eating relatively healthy, and if you’re not sure how, there are plenty of simple recipes online.

Look Into Living Off-Campus
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average dorm room costs $7,000 per year. Unless you’re going to school in an extremely expensive city, you’re probably better off getting an apartment with some friends. Just a warning – the amenities may be a little lackluster, and you’ll have to cook and clean for yourself. However, it’s probably a fair tradeoff. Don’t forget to look for furnished apartments or look into getting free furniture from neighborhood charities or secondhand stores.

Buy Books Online
Purchasing books from your college bookstore will average around $1,200 per year, reports the College Board. It’s a problem that’s getting worse every year.

One way to combat these outrageous costs is to buy used books online. This can sometimes be a little tricky if you need a book urgently, so try e-mailing the professor before the semester starts to see what books are needed. They’re used to such inquiries.

Another way to get around these high costs is to avoid buying the book entirely in some cases. A bold move, for sure, but it’s amazing how often a professor only uses a “required” book once or twice. Check with people who have taken the class before and get their insight.

Stay Ahead of College Debt
There’s no need to totally freak out over college debt while you’re busy in school. However, that doesn’t mean you should go through college blissfully ignorant of the debt you’re saddled with. The Institute for College Access & Success reported a couple years back that the average college debt for the graduating class was $29,400 per student. That’s a number that keeps going up.

So for now, go all out applying for scholarships and ensure you’re receiving financial aid. Work with the school’s financial aid office and scour the web and school catalogs for scholarship opportunities.

If you have the time, consider getting a job. Whether it’s on campus as a resident assistant or off campus in a grocery store, working part time will make a big difference in the long-run.

Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger who shares her insights on money management to college students and fellow 20-somethings. Catch updates on her blog, Current On Currency.

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How to Avoid Freshman Year Roommate Awkwardness

Categories: College Life

The start of college is just a few weeks away. The prospect of cool classes, new friends, and more independence are all exciting, but there’s one thing most incoming freshmen are worried about – their new roommate.

If you’re going to the same school as a friend and chose to live together, great! But most of us end up with someone completely random, and we’ve all heard horror stories about the weird roommate who does rain dances in their underwear, doesn’t believe in showering, or keeps you up all night playing the bongo drums. Luckily, these situations are far from average – in fact, we’d say they’re pretty darn rare.

But chances are you want to get to know the person you’re going to be living with next year before you move in. You have to know what to expect, right? Here’s how to make sure you don’t wander into a sticky situation come move-in day.roommate

Talk on the Phone or in Person When You Can
Texting and social play a huge role in communication, but that doesn’t mean you should stick with them exclusively. Chat on the phone or meet in person if you live fairly close to get a better feel for how outgoing your roommate is, what they find funny, and how they express themselves. Plus, it’ll be a relief to hear a familiar voice once your parents leave and you’re surrounded by unfamiliar people on move-in day!

Use Social to Your Advantage
Admit it – if you haven’t already talked to your new roomie, you’ve at least Facebook stalked them. Checking out someone’s social profiles can tell you a lot – what their hobbies are, what sort of music and movies they like, and what they do with their free time. But at some point it’s time to stop lurking and have a real conversation.

Don’t just rely on Facebook or Instagram, either – start Snapchatting your new roommate and get a feel for their sense of humor before you move in. You may even have some great inside jokes and feel super close by the time it’s time to start school. Plus, getting a feel for someone’s personality makes it easy to…

Find Some Common Ground
Maybe you and your roommate are both really into live music, or maybe you’re a gym nut and they’re trying hard to get in shape. Figure out what your common interests are – if you don’t have any, find something you’ve both always wanted to try and do it together. Bonding over a mutually loved activity or new experiences relieves some of the tension you might feel living with someone new. Plus, you’ll have something to talk about when the conversation hits an awkward pause.

Who’s Bringing What?
Even if you got lucky enough to live in a fabulous dorm, your school probably isn’t providing you with every single thing you’ll need. Want a TV, gaming system, fridge, or microwave? They usually aren’t supplied. Make sure you don’t wind up with two microwaves and no fridge because you failed to figure it out in advance.

Set Expectations
Much as you may want to, you can’t ban your roommate from inviting friends don’t like to your room or making a ton of noise coming in late after a night of partying. But you can set up reasonable expectations in advance. Have a quick chat about lifestyle habits – like how clean you expect it to be, when you’re usually asleep, and how often you need some personal space – and see if your needs match your roommate’s. If they don’t, figure out how you can work around it – maybe you’re a neat freak who’s happy to clean up someone else’s dishes to keep the room tidy, but you realize you’ll need to put on the headphones when listening to music at night so your early-bird roommate can get some sleep. It’s all about compromise!

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