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Advice From A University of Tennessee Knoxville Graduate on Attending College

April 17, 2019

I have officially completed college. I have gone through four years at a University and taken all the courses needed to graduate. From major courses, general education courses, to classes like a social dance that add a few hours to my schedule. I am now officially a University of Tennessee college grad and ready to embark on the real world…. or am I? As adult life has QUICKLY approached, I find myself wondering where the last four years have gone. Would I have done anything differently? Is there anything I missed? There are a few things I would have liked to tell myself while going through college and here they are:

 

1- Going into college, it’s okay not to know what you are doing. MOST PEOPLE DON’T. Throughout my college career, I have found that most people do not know what they are doing after graduation. When I first came to the University of Tennessee I took a class that was all about finding a major that best suits you. The class had me take a personality test, express my interest, and meet with college advisors in order to find a major that could lead to a career. After this class, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do but I had an idea of what my major could lead to. Finding out what you actually will be doing after receiving your undergraduate degree requires research. You should be doing job research, salary research, gaining some experience, and maybe even attend graduate school. College is a time to find yourself and what you see yourself doing in a career. A clear career path doesn’t always present itself right away.

 

2- Be responsible. Finding yourself does not mean to be irresponsible. Nights with friends are fun and create lasting memories, but take care of yourself. While at the University of Tennessee, there was pressure from people to go out instead of study or to be socializing. To get past my FOMO I reminded myself that I was at school to better myself, no one else. This meant homework came first, scheduling time with friends was necessary, and staying on top of my health was part of my everyday routine. Do your homework, study, eat, clean, exercise, SAVE YOUR MONEY, and always remember why you are ultimately in college. Set goals and prioritize responsibilities so you can stay on task.

 

3 – GAIN EXPERIENCE. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting experience in your field of choice. If you don’t know what you want to do, explore several careers and internships. The University of Tennessee encouraged students to get out of school experience by offering study abroad trips, internship fairs, and volunteer opportunities. While at the University of Tennessee I had three separate internships exploring my career options. Now when applying for jobs I find EVERY job will ask for your work experience. Having an internship, volunteer work, or shadowing under your belt can be a helpful edge. Getting experience is such an important aspect for your future and is something everyone should consider.

 

4 – Get Involved. College is hard and freshman year can be lonely. Start looking at groups and clubs early. Finding a sports club, sorority/fraternity or church group to get involved in will help you to make new friends. The University of Tennessee offers hundreds of clubs and activities to get involved in. While being in school I joined a sorority where I found friends that wanted to get involved in different clubs with me. I joined my major club which helped me meet people who had the same interest as me and was a great networking experience. I also got involved in a religious club at the University of Tennessee which allowed me to share my personal preferences with others. The University of Tennessee offers many sports clubs for anyone that wants to get involved in an athletic team and has groups that participate in volunteer work such as United Way® and Best Buddies®.  Accept that you may be lonely at times without your family always being around. Recognize that you don’t need to be afraid to make new friends and get out of your comfort zone.

 

5 – Prepare for what is waiting for you after graduation, STUDENT LOANS. They may seem far away for now, but soon after graduation loan payments begin. Take into consideration how expensive your loans are. As a college student I never really paid attention to that. Now that I am out of school and saw I was $30,000 in debt, I was shocked. Know how much the interest rates on the loans are. Interest rates can cause you to end up paying an extra 3000+ in just interest on your loans. This is definitely something to consider when going into college and choosing a career path.

 

6 – Stay calm. A four-year university accumulates into A LOT of homework. Before you know you have 5 assignments, 2 papers, and 3 exams in the span of two weeks. This can be overwhelming when looking over your planner. You may find yourself questioning how you’re going to get everything done and when you will get to sleep next. Remember to stay calm. You are capable of getting everything done and most importantly sleeping. Plan ahead and stay on schedule. Throughout my four years, I kept a planner and wrote in every assignment, test, or even an event I had going on each week. This way, I was able to get started on homework early if I needed to and make time for relaxation. Getting homework done a few nights earlier then the due date helps when planning to study for exams. Study for a few hours every night a week prior to the exam, this helps to eliminate stressful cramming.

 

7 – At the end of the day, remember to have fun. This is for most people, a once in a lifetime experience. This will likely be your last time as a student before you join the workforce. Make time for friends, call your parents, and make incentives for yourself. Want to go to the football game this weekend? Finish your homework Thursday and have a fun-filled Saturday with friends. Whether it be hanging out with friends on a hike, going to a movie, or catching up over dinner, make time for you and the people around you.

 

My name is Jordon Brock and I am a SENIOR at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. College has flown by and soon I will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a minor in Business. I started my college career by going through sorority recruitment and while becoming a member of Delta Gamma started off as just a group of girls that I could hang out with in my spare time, it gave me more opportunities than I could ever imagine. Delta Gamma gave me the privilege to be the All Sing Director two years in a row where I got to lead our chapter in choreography and songs from popular musicals as well as allowing me to coach Smokey’s Howl; a cheer competition incorporated into Homecoming at UT. Outside of DG, I had the opportunity to be a marketing intern at three separate companies. My learning experience at UT, leadership roles in Delta Gamma, along with what I have learned in my internships has made me prepared, but more importantly excited for the future. I would like to work on a Public Relations or Marketing team at a company that strives to connect people with brands and organizations. I love communicating with others and hope to build relationships with clients and other organizations in my future career!

 

Check Out These Scholarships to Save Money on Student Loans for College

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Two girls outside looking at a credit score app on their phones.
2019-05-15
How to Build Credit While in College

As a child, it’s not uncommon to think that there are monsters hiding under your bed or maybe in your closet. You never actually think it through as to what really could be hiding but it’s something scary. Trust me, you didn’t want to ever have to come face-to-face with it. Thus, my reasoning for staying in bed every night and never moving. Oh, and of course hiding my arms under the blankets. You know you did it too! Well, at twenty-eight I think I’ve finally met those monsters.  It was my credit! Throughout my life, I was terrified of credit. I, like many others, was taught credit cards lead to lifelong debt and it could ruin my life. Not only that but any minor change like closing a credit card account affected my credit score – SCARY! Credit, like most new things in life can be intimidating or maybe even scary, but we have to start somewhere. What most people, myself included, don’t understand about credit is that it can be a great thing when used responsibly. A good credit score can help with getting a house or buying a car. I now understand that credit is not a scary thing. Credit is only something you need to be responsible with. If you are a college student looking to build credit purchase only things that you can pay for. If you cannot guarantee that you can stay on top of payments, you shouldn’t be making purchases. While in college, if you decide to build credit it can help jump-start your life after college. Filling out applications with your credit score will be easy because you’ve already started building credit.  In college, credit can be built through everyday expenses and can benefit you in the long run. Here are some simple ways of building credit that will not break the bank or “ruin your life,” but help you in the future.

Find a Credit Card

While in college, you may see a credit card offer dropped in your mailbox every week. Actually reading through the information and what the card offers is KEY. Look at interest rates and cash back rewards. Some cards have cash back rewards on points earned by using the card on things such as gas and groceries. By using a credit card for necessities and paying it off, you are earning easy credit while still in college. Some cards offer cash back opportunities on travel. If you’re going away to college, using a credit card could be a great way to earn points for a visit back home or a weekend getaway. Remember, use a credit card on things you will be able to pay back on time. This way you will be building credit while also gaining reward points to redeem on things you want to do. If you’re attending college you may want to check out student credit cards. Student credit cards can be a really great way to start building credit while you are in school. Be warned that you will still need to demonstrate a decent salary to qualify for a student credit card, simply being a student is not enough. Most student credit cards will not charge an annual fee and many offer additional perks.  

Learn How Completing College Early Can Save You Money

 

Secure Credit Cards

If you don’t qualify for a student credit card or any traditional credit card because you don’t have a credit history look into secure credit cards. They work just like other credit cards but require a cash deposit, first. This deposit is usually in the hundreds or low thousands. If you make every payment in full and on time you’ll receive back your down payment. If you do not make payments on time or in full the lender keeps your down payment.

Rent

While being in college you will likely be moving into your FIRST apartment. An apartment can be a great way to start earning credit. Putting the rent in your name and paying it on time can assist in building credit. In order for rent to go towards your credit history, your landlord must be reporting the rent payments to one of the credit agencies. If your landlord isn’t reporting your rental payments it will not help you to build a credit history. In today’s society, it is also pretty uncommon for landlords to report rent payments to a credit agency. If your landlord isn’t reporting your rent payments to a credit agency it can’t hurt to ask if they could start! When sharing an apartment with roommates, it is vital for everyone living there to pay their share of rent on time. Finding roommates that share accountability is important when you are building a good credit score.

Get a Credit Builder Loan

A loan that is in place to IMPROVE CREDIT?! Sign me up! When you have a credit builder loan, you make payments into your savings account. After one year, you will get the amount you paid back and increase your credit score! A credit builder loan does not require good credit to begin, you just have to show proof of income. Start by applying for a credit builder loan, and begin to make payments on time. In order for you to be benefiting from a credit builder loan, you must be paying on time. The pros to a credit builder loan include getting the money you put in and having a better credit score at the end of the year!

Become an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user is a smart and easy way to embark on creating credit while in college. Being an authorized user means that you can use another person’s credit card and your name will be included on the account. The process simply has the account user add your name to the credit card account. As an authorized user, you will not be responsible for paying back debts on the credit card. This responsibility will legally be in the original account holder’s name. The main goal for being an authorized user is to increase your credit score by having an account holder with an outstanding credit history. If you have an account holder who is known for paying their debt on time, this will increase your score, because you’re on the account. Keep in mind that you should ask someone who is trusted and reliable when becoming an authorized user.

Start on Student Loan Payments

As a former college student, I know that going to school full time while working enough to have money to start paying off student loans can seem impossible. Remember, you do not have to pay off large amounts right away. While in college, consider putting money aside to start paying off loans when you can. If you start loan payments early you will start to see positive growth on your credit score. The benefits of having student loans include helping build your credit score. If you decide to start paying off loans while in school, it will be before your loan deadline and will create less to pay off later. Even if you are not able to pay off large sums, these small amounts can make for fewer payments later on and a better credit score when you graduate from college.

Credit Utilization

A top way to build credit is not to utilize all the credit that is available to you. For example, if you have a credit card with a credit limit of $2,500 and the balance is $2,500 that would be 100% credit utilization. Credit utilization is important because it impacts your credit score. The maximum recommended credit utilization is about 30%. Therefore, if your credit card had a maximum limit of $2,500 then 30% of that would be $750. In this example, to avoid negatively impacting your credit score you should not spend over $750 on your credit card. It can be difficult to be disciplined as a college student, but it’s important to remember that this money is not free. It’s also likely that this is probably your first credit card ever! Exciting, but this is a really important rule of thumb! This is a credit that you will eventually need to pay back. In an effort to build credit you want to be sure you’re creating good financial habits for yourself too. Be sure to stay disciplined and not utilize over 30% of your credit card.

BONUS: Credit Reports

While we are on the topic of creating good financial habits, the number one habit you can create is looking at your credit report. If you talk with any financial expert, this will be their number one piece of advice! Yearly, check your credit score and your credit report. Think about it like an annual physical at the doctor, but for your finances. Review your credit report to make sure that there are no errors or fraud to your credit history. If you visit AnnualCreditReport.com you can receive a free credit report from all three major credit agencies in the U.S. and a free credit report can be requested every 12 months. Having paid off debt or using credit in college will prepare you for future payments on cars, houses, and throughout your adult life. Knowing your responsibilities and taking care of payments on time is key to achieving a better credit score by the end of your college career. Consider these options when deciding how to build credit and choose one that will benefit you in the long run.  

Are Student Loans Impacting Your Credit Score?

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Girl looking to complete her FAFSA application before deadline while outside enjoying the sun and ocean.
2019-05-01
Why Completing FAFSA Early Is Critical

The process of completing the FAFSA application might be something you’ve complained about. If you haven’t complained about it yourself, it’s likely you’ve heard others mention as not their favorite thing to do on a Saturday night. Though difficult, it is a crucial step for college attendance each year. Sorry—it’s unavoidable! Doing your FAFSA early can be a huge benefit, it makes it a little easier to get motivated and start the process as soon as you can. Why is it so crucial to complete your FAFSA early each year? Here are the reasons why completing the FAFSA early each year are imperative to your financial future.  

An early application means a better chance at more money.

If you do your FAFSA early, you’ll have a better chance at more federal financial aid or school financial aid. The FAFSA application can be submitted for the next year of college starting October 1. That sounds early, but the sooner you get it in the better your chances for getting financial aid. For example, some colleges award their aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you wait too long, the school’s available financial aid may have been awarded to other students that did the FAFSA sooner. The same applies for federal financial aid. Only so many funds are available, and the institutions can’t wait until the last minute to select who gets awarded the aid. They often dole out aid earlier in the window. Meaning the earlier your application is submitted the better chance you will have at receiving financial aid.  

Get your Student Aid Report faster.

If you file closer to that October 1 deadline, your Student Aid Report will arrive sooner. This gives you a better idea of where you stand for aid awards faster. The faster you have that report, the sooner you can start planning for how you’ll pay for the rest of your upcoming academic year. Having more time to apply for loans or look for other forms of aid will take the weight off of your shoulders!  

Skip the stress of procrastinating.

Get it out of the way! There are so many things that you have to do to prep each semester. From registering for classes to picking up housewares and finding a roommate to getting your parking permit. Preparing for the upcoming academic year can usually mean a long to-do list. Plus, you will be wrapping up the previous semester. Do you really want to be worrying about FAFSA when you’re trying to study for exams? Not a chance! You don’t want to be overwhelmed with the amount of work it takes to complete the FAFSA. Be wise and get it out of the way and clear yourself up for focusing on other tasks.  

These deadlines are real.

There’s not a lot of leniency if you don’t get your FAFSA done in time. Those deadlines are serious, and even being a little late could mean that you’re not eligible at all. Yikes! You don’t want to miss out on aid that could have saved you money on student loans just because you flaked on the application process. Plan ahead and get it done.  

Other FAFSA Tips

  • Even if you don't think you'll qualify for aid, it's still a good idea to complete the application. Some schools have increased their income levels for aid. The application may be required to qualify for other types of scholarships at some colleges.
  • You generally have until the end of June to file, but some states and schools have earlier deadlines. Know what those deadlines are so that you’re not kicking yourself later!
  • Does your school use the CSS Profile? That’s an additional application required by 400 major colleges and it’s just as important as FAFSA. Check with your financial aid office to verify.
  • When FAFSA changed a few years ago from the January 1 start date to October 1, this also changed the tax information you need to submit. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to file because you use the previous tax year’s information. For example, taxes from 2018 won’t be used until October 1, 2019, which will apply to the 2020-2021 school year.
  If you have any questions about FAFSA or any other aspect of financial aid, don’t wait to talk to an advisor or someone in your school’s financial aid office. They specialize in these topics and are there to help make sure you get as much aid as you deserve. All you have to do is listen, be on the ball, and get all of your paperwork in order to make this happen!  

What You Need to Know About Scholarships

Happy woman with hands up standing on cliff over sea and islands at sunset. Vintage mood, concepts of winner, freedom, happiness etc.
2019-04-12
Comparing Salary to the Cost of Living

Recently, CNBC released an article discussing student loan debt in relation to locations throughout the United States. This has many questioning whether they can find a job title in their field where they want to live, that will support their current bills, payments, lifestyle, and student loans. Depending on the location and cost of living, you could be making thousands less in one location when compared to another. To add more insult you could be expected to pay off more than you are capable of based on your location. When searching for a career path, it’s vital to consider where your job title is going to be the most successful and where you can afford your current lifestyle. Here are some important factors to keep in mind when

Location Expenses

Consider the cost of living in a variety of locations.  Everyday costs like food, housing, utilities, and transportation can all vary depending on where you live in the United States. Let’s see how a location can be affected by each of these variables. Generally, big cities are known to be more costly compared to rural areas.  The Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks price levels for food, housing and education in each state and compares them to the national level. This information can be put into a dollar value scale to simplify which states are more expensive to live in than others. For example, the value of a dollar in New York, Hawaii, and California is less than the national average dollar. Meaning your dollar bill is comparable to some cent values in other locations. In states like Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio that are not as urbanized the dollar values higher than the national average dollar. Meaning your dollar goes a little further in these areas.  

Housing Costs

You may be asking, “What makes big cities so pricey?” and there are actually a few different reasons. The main drive for high priced locations is housing. For cities with a high population, there needs to be an abundance of housing. A high population causes overcrowded cities to have a limited amount of space for the number of people wanting to live there.   A high housing demand creates steep prices in the market because everyone is in need of a place to live. If the city life is looking a little out of budget for you, remember living outside the city and commuting is an option, and may be more cost-effective. Aside from the costs of housing, costs like transportation, utilities, and insurance may affect the cost of living.  

Transportation Costs

We all know how expensive a car, gas, and maintenance can be. When commuting to work or even the supermarket, the distance between point A and point B will affect the amount of money you spend. .Whereas, living in the city you may literally be paying for convenience. You may be spending $200 or more a month on a permanent parking spot for your car, in addition to spending money on transportation fees. For example, in New York you could take a bus to the subway station, costing you around $2.50. Then you commute to work on the subway, costing you another $2.75. If you do this twice a day (at least) the commute will cost $10.50. Spending $10.50 five days a week for a month will get you to a grand total of $210.00 not even considering additional outings.  Please note that these prices may not be the same for all locations. For example, the average bus fare in Los Angeles is $1.75, but in Washington DC the bus fare ranges from $2.00-$5.00 depending on the commute.  

Utilities

Utilities will also affect the cost of living, the amount depending on where you live. The cost of utilities can vary based on government regulations. Things like how much water, electricity, and gas, you are consuming can be dependent based on the weather where you are located. If you are living in a location where the winter can get very cold, that could be making a dent in your wallet on utility bills. For example, Alaska, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have an average electric rate of $21.62 per Kwh (kilowatt hour) a month.  In a place where it is always warm like Hawaii, the air conditioning may be used more frequently and the average electric rate would be $32.40 per Kwh a month.   Additional utility costs may include garbage removal and sewage costs. In the United States, the average cost for garbage removal is from $12.00 -$20.00 a household. Sewage rates are usually included in water rates that can be viewed with the electricity bill and can altogether be around $50.00.  In some cases, if you are living in an apartment, utilities like garbage removal and sewage will be included in your rent, or it can be separate on your electricity bill. Talk to your landlord or call housing management to find out what is included.  

Insurance

Besides housing, transportation, and utilities, you will have car insurance, renter’s insurance.  The average rate for car insurance in the United States is $118.63 per month but can vary based on the location you are in. For example, the average cost of auto insurance in North Carolina is $865 each year while the average cost of auto insurance in Oklahoma is $1,542 a year. T Auto insurance pricing can depend on the company you have insurance with, your age, and even your gender!  For example, some companies will have a 1% price difference between genders.   If you choose to live in the city, it’s likely you may find yourself renting. Renter’s insurance is an additional cost you’ll want to consider.  The average, renter’s insurance in the United State is $187 per year. Renter’s insurance can be more expensive in some areas due to population and crime. If you live in a high populated area, insurance could be priced higher because the crime risk is higher.  The insurance company takes greater measures to cover your belongings in high populated areas. Renter’s insurance in Florida has an average rate of $217 per month, while in South Dakota the average rate is $118 a month.   Before completely scaring you back into your parent’s house for life, there are a few resources you can use to find a job and field of your choice, in areas that could be most profitable.  

Job Search Resources

 

SimplyHired

https://www.simplyhired.com/salaries SimplyHired will estimate the salary your specific job will be making in different locations. All you have to do is type in the job title you are looking for, and the city and state, into the search engine. Using this tool you can find out things like a nurse can make $50,000 in Dallas, Texas but, in Indianapolis, Indiana is making closer to $40,000. Although this does not calculate the cost of living, this website pulls up jobs from all over the United States. SimplyHired gives users easy access to salary information when starting to compare careers in different regions.  

Check Out These 3 Steps to Negotiating Salary

 

Expatistan

https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/nashville Cost of living is an important factor when searching for a location that is right for you and your preferred career. Hence why we created this helpful blog! Expatistan has a feature that pulls up a spreadsheet estimating how lifestyle choices may cost in different cities or even countries. For example, when searching in Nashville, Tennessee, Expatistan created a page that included potential prices for food, housing, clothes, transportation, personal care, and entertainment. Expatistan estimated:   Rent 900 Sq Foot Apartment - $1,408/month Lunchtime Meal - $14 Sports Shoes - $98 Shampoo- $6   This website is a great place to find detailed estimates of what you may be spending on everyday items.  A tool like this can be very helpful when trying to manage the salary and lifestyle you are looking for.  

CNN Money

https://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/index.html After finding an estimated salary and cost of living for a specific location, you can compare it to other areas with CNN Money Cost of Living Calculator.  You’ll need to input
  • where you live now
  • where you are considering living
  • give an estimate of how much your salary is now (or what the salary is in the field you are searching for)
Based on the information provided, the calculator will estimate how much you would be making somewhere else. For example, if you live in Atlanta, Georgia right now and are making $50,000 a year, and you would like to move to Bozeman, Montana, the comparable salary is $50,709, which is around the same amount. Now if you moved, from Atlanta with a $50,000 salary to San Francisco, the comparable salary is $97,470. Once again, the cost of living will factor in what you can afford in each region.   Comparing salaries, regions, and the cost of living can help you determine where you’re aspiring jobs can be the most beneficial for your lifestyle. Consider where you will have the most financial wiggle room. Educate yourself on the cost of housing, transportation, utilities, and insurance before jumping into the car moving to a new city. Optimize your options by looking at the cost of convenience versus living outside of a location for less and other opportunities. What city you will feel the most at home in? If you are not satisfied with your options, try a different job title or location, you’re not a tree. Scope out all of your alternatives and find one that betters your lifestyle in the long run.

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  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.   Resources https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/05/10/cost-of-living-value-of-dollar-in-every-state/34567549/ https://ask.metafilter.com/37074/Why-is-it-more-expensive-to-live-in-a-city  https://www.priceoftravel.com/595/public-transportation-prices-in-80-worldwide-cities/ https://www.chooseenergy.com/electricity-rates-by-state/ https://www.thezebra.com/auto-insurance/average-auto-insurance/#state https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-renters-insurance#nogo https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-life-insurance#nogo