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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.
Student studying under a tree
2019-05-10
What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.  

Federal Scholarships for College

  It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.  

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

  You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.   Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.  

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

  Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:    

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.  

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 - 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college. Available To: Undergraduate Students Qualifications:
  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.
Amount Received Dependent On:
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.
Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need
  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?
   

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office. Available To: Undergraduate Students Qualifications:
  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
   

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation. Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School) Qualifications:
  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.
 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program. Available To Qualifications:
  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.
   

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD. Available To Qualifications:
  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.
 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

  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.  
2019-05-07
What is a Prepayment Penalty? What’s the Catch?

Imagine finally paying off your loan just to find out you owe the lender more money!  All because you’ve paid your debt off early. Instead of your lender rewarding you for paying the loan off earlier than your contract states, they charge you extra. Here’s what that is, how to avoid it, and what you can do.  

What is a prepayment penalty?

  A prepayment penalty is a fee charged to a borrower. If you pay off your loan earlier before the date planned in the contract the lender could charge you a prepayment penalty.   A prepayment penalty is charged once you’ve completed paying your debt, if it was paid it off early, or it could be a fee for overpaying the scheduled amount set per year. A prepayment penalty can be a fixed amount or based on what the remaining balance of your loan was set to be. For example, certain loans may allow you to pay off 20% extra each year before facing a fee.

What are prepayment penalties for?

  When you borrow from an institution, they assume that it will take you a certain amount of time to repay the debt back, with interest. If you pay back your debt sooner, that institution may lose out on the interest that they collect. For this reason, loans like a mortgage might have a prepayment penalty to discourage people from refinancing or selling within the first few years.   You can think of a prepayment penalty as a way for the institution to ensure that it makes an adequate return amount for the credit they lent. Additionally, lenders charge prepayment penalties because if they place the loan in security and sell it, they need verification that the loan will be outstanding for a particular period of time. Having the security outstanding for a period of time will provide the buyer of the security a yield.  

Student Loans

There are so many benefits to paying extra on your student loans each month. One of the main benefits - you’ll pay less interest over the life of the student loan. When it comes to student loans, you may be surprised to find out that there are no prepayment penalties. That’s right no prepayment penalties for both federal and private student loans. According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of August 2008: “It shall be unlawful for any private educational lender to impose a fee or penalty on a borrower for early repayment or prepayment of any private education loan.”   Before you begin making extra payments towards your student loans, you should contact your servicer. Verify that the additional payment is being applied to the principal balance of the loan and not to the interest. If the overpayment is directed to the principal you’ll be able to pay down the debt faster.  

Mortgage Loans

Mortgages don’t always have prepayment penalties, but some do. If there is a prepayment fee on your mortgage you should be able to review the details in the mortgage contract. It’s vital when signing a contract that you pay attention to the fine print. If you don’t understand something or need further clarity, be sure to ask questions.   When dealing with Mortgages, if you chose to refinance your loan there could be a prepayment penalty. Typically if you choose to refinance within the first three or five years of having the loan there may be a prepayment penalty fee that applies.  If you ever have any questions about prepayment fees you should contact your mortgage lender for clarity.  

Auto Loans

When taking out an auto loan there are two types of interest that may be used in your contract, simple interest or pre-computed interest. Simple interest works similarly to a student loan, it is calculated based on the balance of the loan. Therefore, if you have an auto loan with simple interest, the sooner you can pay your loan off, the less interest you’ll pay.   The other type of interest is pre-computed interest. This interest is included in your agreement. It is a fixed amount calculated and added on at the beginning of the contract. Using a pre-computed interest rate is typically when you encounter prepayment penalties. Similar to mortgage loans it isn’t guaranteed that these loans have a prepayment penalty, but if so, it should be in the contract. Be sure to contact your lender or institution that services the loan to find out if there are any prepayment penalties before paying extra towards your debt.  

Personal Loans

Personal loans can be used for a number of different reasons, from medical expenses to travel or even wedding expenses. When it comes to the prepayment penalty for personal loans, most companies will charge a percentage of the remaining balance. Though it’s likely your personal loan won’t have a prepayment penalty, you could still have one. Check with your lending institution or be sure to closely review your contract to see if there are any penalty fees for paying your debt down earlier.    

Soft Penalty vs. Hard Penalty

  You may have heard of two different types of prepayment penalties: soft and hard. A soft prepayment penalty would charge you a fee for refinancing, but not for other situations. A hard prepayment penalty would charge you for refinancing, prepayment, or selling (in the case of a mortgage - selling your house).  

How can prepayment penalties affect you?

  First, assuming you have multiple bills and debts that you pay each month, knowing whether any of them have a prepayment penalty can change how you pay. Imagine you have a student loan and a mortgage loan, you know the student loan doesn’t have any prepayment penalties, but the mortgage loan does. Let’s say that you’ve received some additional income and you want to put it towards one of the loans, but you aren’t sure which one. You’ll want to pay additional money toward the student loan debt because you won’t get penalized for paying it off early. Knowing a loan you’ve applied for has a prepayment penalty might motivate you to find a different borrower and give you the freedom to pay off that debt sooner without a fee.   Does this mean you should never pay off debts early? No way! There are plenty of loans and other types of debts that won’t have a prepayment penalty. The important thing is to know what you’re getting into. Read the fine print and ask questions during the application process. Also, for loans like a mortgage, there is typically a page you sign toward the end of the process that includes disclosures on things like whether there is a prepayment penalty, balloon payment, and so on. Always be aware of those disclosures before you take on new debt.  

What is lifestyle creep? Is it affecting you?

  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

Someone confused and lost in a maze. Like choosing whether to invest or pay down student loan debt.
2019-04-22
Pay Down Student Loan Debt or Invest In a Traditional 401(k)?

Student loan debt in the United States has amounted to $1.5 trillion according to the Federal Reserve. This large student loan debt burden has affected many young people who are looking to start families and create a life for themselves. Despite this tough obstacle, many young people still have excess savings and need to determine what to do with these savings. Should they take their savings and invest in a traditional 401(k) or use that savings to pay down their student loan debt? We’re going to share different situations all spanning 10 years that involve paying down student loan debt and investing in a traditional 401(k) plan.     Let’s say you have a taxable income of $150,000 and file taxes jointly with a spouse. Under the new 2018 tax brackets, your effective federal tax rate is 16.59%.  Let’s also assume you have $70,000 of student loan debt with 10 years left at a 7% interest rate. Your monthly student loan payment would be about $812.76 assuming you’re making the same payment amount every month.  What should you do? Pay down the student loan or invest in a traditional 401(k) account?    

Income: $150,000

Effective Tax Rate: 16.59%

Student Loan Debt: $70,000

Monthly Payment: $812.76

Term: 10 years

Interest Rate: 7%

 

Scenario 1 - Paying Down Debt Student Loans Then Investing

Let’s start off by taking a look at how you can pay this debt down faster. Did you know that if you pay an extra $100 a month in addition to your regular student loan monthly payment, you’ll save $4,464.13 in interest paid? Not only will you save money by paying extra every month, but you’ll cut down the overall repayment period by a year and a half. Yes, you’ll be debt-free a year and a half earlier than you thought!   $812.76 + $100 = $912.76 Monthly Payment   After being debt free sooner than expected, you may decide to start investing in your 401(k). If you put all of the money you were paying from your student loan into your 401(k), you’d contribute $1,094.31 monthly.   You may be wondering how you can contribute more money towards your 401(k) than your student loan payment. The answer lies in taxes.   Student loan payments are made with post-tax income. 401(k) contributions are made with pre-tax income. Since a traditional 401(k) account uses pre-tax income, you are able to contribute more towards your 401(k) than you would have your student loan debt with the same income. Though you don’t pay taxes on 401(k) contributions, ordinary income tax will be applied on 401(k) distributions.   $912.76 / (1-16.59%) = $1.094.31 Monthly Contribution   After a year and half of contributing $1,094.31 per month, compounded monthly, at an assumed 7% rate of return, you would have $20,826.09. The investment amount of $20,826.09 combined with the student loan interest savings of $4,464.13 would give you a total 10-year net value of $25,290.23.  

Scenario 2 - Investing While Paying Down Student Loan Debt

  If you have a higher priority of saving for retirement than paying off your student loan debt, you may want a different option. Let’s see what would happen if you decided to put that extra $100 a month into a tax-deferred 401(k) account. The $100 would be contributed to your 401(k) account instead of your student loan debt balance, but you would continue to make monthly student loan debt payments. Due to the pre-tax nature of a 401(k), your contribution of $100 post-tax would become $119.89 pre-tax.   $100 / (1-16.59%) = $119.89 Monthly Contribution   With an assumed 7% rate of return, compounded monthly, on your 401(k), you will have approximately $20,872.19 in your 401(k) after 10 years.  

Scenario 3 - Employer Contributions 401(k)

  Some employers will match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage of your income. This could be a real game-changer. Turning down your employer’s 401(k) match is like throwing away free money. If you have student loan debt, but your employer offers a match, consider contributing to receive the maximum employer match. If you contribute $119.89 a month with an employer match while making your normal student loan payments, your money can really grow.  If your employer matches the 401(k) contribution dollar for dollar, you will double your investment of $20,872.19 from Scenario 2 to $41,744.37 in your 401(k) account after 10 years.   Contributions to a traditional 401(k) are made prior to your income being taxed. The withdrawals on a traditional 401(k) are taxed. The tax rate that is applied to your withdrawals depends on your tax bracket in retirement.  As the average person’s career develops, they typically continue to increase their salary and move into a higher tax bracket. Upon retirement, they will see a decrease in income and move to a lower tax bracket. This means your 401(k) withdrawals could be taxed in a lower tax bracket if done while in retirement, instead of in your working years. Note that this will only be the case if your retirement income is less than your working income.    

Scenario 1 – Paying Down Then Investing

Scenario 2 – Investing While Paying Down Debt

Scenario 3 – Employer Contribution 401k

  As you can see from the chart above, investing while paying down student loan debt or paying down debt than investing produces almost the same total net value. One debt pays down and investment strategy might perform better than the other depending on the return in the 401(k) account. It’s important to keep in mind that the returns on a 401(k) account are never guaranteed   The real deciding factor on whether to invest or pay down your student loan debt will be if an employer offers a 401(k) match. Matching contributions from your employer will make investing significantly more attractive than paying down debt. If an employer match to your 401(k) is available, it’s wise to take advantage of it.   Your comfort level with your student loan debt can be a large factor in your decision to invest in a traditional 401(k) account or to pay down debt. Knowing whether you are more interested in being debt free or being prepared for retirement can help you make a decision. Let’s look at how student loan refinancing can help you amplify your student loan debt pay down and investment strategy.   In Scenarios 1, 2, and 3, the big question was whether you should use the additional $100 a month to pay down student loan debt or invest in a 401(k). What if you wanted to spend that $100 a month instead? Is it possible to find a way to save on student loan debt while spending that extra $100 a month? You’re in luck! This can be done with student loan refinancing.  

Scenario 4 - Refinancing Student Loan Debt

By refinancing your student loan debt, you should be able to decrease the high-interest rate of your student loan. In addition, you should be able to save money over the life of the loan and in some cases monthly.   The total interest you would have to pay on your student loans of $70,000 at 7% interest over 10 years is $27,531.12. If you qualify to refinance your student loan debt to a 5% interest rate, the total interest you would pay is $19,095.03. This would mean that refinancing your student loans would be saving you $8,436.09 in interest over the life of the loan or $70.30 a month.  When comparing your new 5% interest rate to your previous interest rate of 7%, not only would you be saving over the life of the loan, but reducing your monthly payment!   $8,436.09 / 120 = $70.30 Monthly Interest Savings  

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing

   

Scenario 5 - Refinancing and Paying Down Debt Then Investing

  Now, what happens if you refinance your student loan debt, pay down the debt, and then start investing? Refinancing your student loan debt will cut your interest rate, saving you $70.30 a month, making your monthly student loan payment now $742.46 instead of $812.76 per month. By taking the additional $100 a month and the $70.30 in student loan savings from refinancing and applying them to your monthly student loan payment, you will be debt free two years and three months sooner than expected. Two years and three months are earlier compared to the one and a half years from Scenario 1. Just a reminder, in Scenario 1, there an additional $100 a month put towards your student loan debt. With refinancing and making the same monthly payment as Scenario 1, you will save $13,017.87 in interest over your original loan.   $742.46 + $70.30 + $100 = $912.76 Monthly Payment   Now that you’re debt free, you can use the money that would have been used for your student loan payment to contribute to your 401(k). Since 401(k) contributions are done with pre-tax income, you will be able to contribute a pre-tax amount of $912.76, which is $1094.31.   $912.76 / (1-16.59%) = $1.094.31 Monthly Contribution   After two years and three months of contributing $1,094.31 per month, compounded monthly, at an assumed 7% rate of return, you would have $32,085.89. The investment amount of $32,085.09 combined with the student loan interest savings of $13,017.87 would give you a total 10-year net value of $45,103.76.  

Scenario 6 - Refinancing and Investing While Paying Down Debt

  Now let’s try refinancing while you simultaneously pay down debt and invest. In this scenario, you will cut down the interest rate on your student loan debt from 7% to 5% by refinancing. You’ll be contributing the pre-tax amount of the extra $100 a month and $70.30 a month in interest savings towards your 401(k). You will end up contributing a total of $204.17 a month to your 401(k) account.   ($100 + $70.30) / (1-16.59%) = $204.17 Monthly Contribution   With an assumed 7% rate of return, compounded monthly, you will have approximately $35,544.87 in your 401(k) after 10 years. Combined with the interest savings of $8,436.09, you will have a total net value of $43,980.96.       Scenario 1 – Paying Down Then Investing Scenario 2 – Investing While Paying Down Debt Scenario 4 – Refinancing Student Loan Debt Scenario 5 – Refinancing and Paying Down Debt Then Investing Scenario 6 – Refinancing and Investing While Paying Down Debt   As you can see from the chart above, just from refinancing your student loan debt, you can save money and increase your total net value. If you take it one step further and supplement your debt pay down and investment strategy with student loan refinancing, you would approximately double your total net value! By taking advantage of student loan refinancing, you will be able to supercharge your debt pay down and investment strategy. For those who are just trying to save money on student loans or have more money to invest in their 401(k), student loan refinancing is the way to go.  

Check Out Our Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

  NOTICE: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not authorized to provide tax advice or financial advice. If you need tax advice or financial advice contacts a professional. All statements regarding 401(k) contributions assume that you have a 401(k) plan and that you are able to contribute those amounts without contributing more than the current federal law limits. 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.  
Students going back to school
2019-04-17
Advice From A University of Tennessee Knoxville Graduate on Attending College

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

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.

Top 7 Money Mistakes For Young Professionals

  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
Two young women sitting and waiting to talk with HR about some needs for the company.
2019-04-08
What Employees Want HR To Know

HR often has a tough job, keeping employees happy and working in the best interest of the company all while complying with legal requirements and internal policies. It’s a hard line to walk! But when it comes to making your company attractive to potential employees and keeping your all-star staff, communication is key! And there are a few things people want HR to know but often don’t know how to voice.  

Fire the jerks.

An article in Inc. magazine® made waves a few years ago by urging managers to “fire the jerks.” Some managers defended their less popular employees by saying that it would make sense at times to keep an unpleasant staff member because of their high performance or other redeeming qualities. Very few people want to work with a jerk, and they might be leaving your company because of this. If HR doesn’t have a pulse on employee relations, the bad behavior might be flying below the radar and causing attrition of excellent employees. Having a discipline policy in place and caring about the wellbeing of the workforce over the livelihood of one jerk will help promote a respectable workplace culture that people don’t fantasize about leaving just to avoid one bully.  

We know our worth.

People have lots of tools to find salaries comparable to their own. A quick internet search brings up resources like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com where people can see what others are making in their field, in their city, and even self-reported salaries of other people at their same company. Plus, many employees see the value in having open discussions with each other about pay to make sure that they’re making a fair amount for their hard work. With these things in mind, HR needs to know people want an open and honest conversation about compensation. Initial negotiations, promotions, and reviews need to be transparent, and HR should be prepared to see some resources printed from employees at these meetings.  

Somethings are more important than pay.

You can’t just throw money at problems. There might be alternatives that cost the company less but give people more incentive to work hard and be engaged. Check out some of the suggestions below, including student loan assistance, flexible schedules, telecommuting, wellness benefits, and time off.

Student loan debt assistance and resources are valuable to us.

Student loan debt and personal finance matters can be a big stressor for all types of employees. Whether it’s catching up on retirement funds, paying off student loans, or general help with things like budgeting, saving, and investing, we want trustworthy financial wellness resources. No benefits program is going to fit everyone, but surveying employees or offering different ways to take advantage of these kinds of benefits can mean a big boost for interest in the company and retention of valued employees.  

Learn More About ELFI for Business

 

We care more about balance and family/personal time than older generations.

Employees today don’t value the kind of work habits that create workaholics. Instead of burning the candle at both ends, people are taking advantage of paid time off and set working hours so that they’re not constantly on the clock. Unlike employees of former eras who found self-sacrifice to be something that gave them purpose, HR needs to know that breaks from work and finding balance is a key requirement for an energetic and productive workforce. Far from having a poor work ethic, the focus on mental health is important. A healthy balance between work and personal life can really motivate people to focus and be efficient while working. People today take caretaker roles for aging parents, realize the importance of spending time with children, and even prioritize caring for pets. HR needs to be aware of how policies can help attract, retain, and promote excellence among employees.  

The ability to work remotely matters.

Not every employee can do their job remotely, but in the digital era, an increasing number of employees can work from almost anywhere. Bad traffic, long commutes, and flexible schedules to accommodate everyday adulting, working remote can ease stress and yield great results. Plus, the jury is no longer out on how well this works. According to Inc.®, employees who had the ability to telecommute took shorter breaks, used fewer sick days, and took less time off. A good telecommuting policy could benefit the workforce and improve business outcomes.  

Mental health is important to us.

No career is worth sacrificing mental health and wellness. People who find themselves working for a company that negatively affects their mental health report they feel worse than someone who has no job at all. There are many negative effects of a job that could damage our physical health and increased instances of mental illness. Many millennial parents tired themselves out in jobs that brought them little fulfillment. Therefore the millennial generation highly values mental wellness at work and at home. We crave fulfillment and balance that is created by a human-centered workplace. Mental health should be something our employers care about and support with good workplace policies and resources covered in our benefits program.   Every company is different, but people are people no matter where you go. They want to be empowered to do their job well. They also want opportunities to learn new things and still have a personal life. If you’re feeling the disconnect at your workplace, open those lines of communication. You’ll see a difference in how people work and how they feel about the organization.  

 How Can You Prevent Employee Turnover

  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.
Friends on a mountain talking and enjoying the view while discussing attending college and find the right fit.
2019-04-04
How To Find The Best College For You

Picking the right college for you is quite a task. There are so many to choose from! Plus, with the birth of digital experiences, vlogs, and just plain slick marketing materials, it can be a challenge to determine what matters when making such a big decision. It’s important throughout the college search process to remember the main goal which is getting an education. It can be easy to become distracted by the brand new apartments on campus and the conveniences that the college offers. Yes, it’s important to be comfortable while attending school, but it’s not worth losing out on education. How do you find the right college for you? Here are some things that you should take into consideration. Not every aspect will matter to you, but it’s nice to think about big-picture options.  

Major Malfunctions

The major that you’re interested in studying and how the college meets the major’s needs could be a huge deciding factor. For example, does the college have a good reputation, appropriate resources, and a notable department? Really take into consideration what the school’s reputation for the program.  Is your major available and are there classes that will challenge and engage you? Is the reputation of the college’s program going to further your career upon graduating?   Most people know their preferred major or industry before starting, but it’s common for college students to change majors. Does the school have a few appealing options for you? Get in touch with an advisor or the head of the department of your choice and see how you can find out more. You are attending college to further your education and get a career, so if that program isn’t available that could be deal-breaker.  

Location, Location, Location

Have you always wanted to live on the east coast, dreaming of the mountains, or would you prefer to stay closer to home? Being close by to your family and paying lower in-state tuition could be great options for you. A school in the city could be a better option since you’ll have the ability to take in everything that urban life has to offer. From expansive green grounds to bustling urban towers, there are so many different types of locations you could pick. Don’t rule anything out too soon. You might be surprised how friendly a university in the city can be, or how lively you’ll find a more rural campus.     When selecting a school it’s important that you consider the distance from your home. Many people often times will want to be available to go home on some weekends or for big events. What the cost is to go home? Can you take public transportation, can you have a car on campus your first year, can a friend or parent pick you up, if needed? A primary consideration for location is the cost. In-state-schools provide a much lower cost to attend than an out-of-state school. If you know you’ll need to borrow student loans for college it may be best to stay with an in-state-school. Paying to attend an out-of-state school will mean more money you’ll have to borrow and eventually pay back. Your decision on school location should be influenced by your comfortability level with being away from home and the cost associated with the location.  

Tally Total Cost

Cost is a huge factor in selecting a college.  Fees aren’t only limited to tuition but can be dependent on the school. One school may have lower tuition, but fees like room and board, off-campus housing, meal plans, or transportation. We touched on this previously but, if you opt for a school that’s farther from home, how much will you spend coming home to visit? If you really want to go far away from home you may need to factor in the cost of airfare to visit home. Plus, look into fees like a parking permit and departmental fees. It’s worth doing a little math to see what the total cost is before you get your heart set on one or another.  

Finding Financial Aid

If you can qualify for financial aid and are being provided with financial aid from a college that should heavily impact your decision. Can you get more aid at one school vs. another? Are there more scholarship options available through one college over another? Does staying in-state offer enough benefits that you don’t want to leave? There’s nothing wrong with picking a school because it will offer you the most aid. Aid is especially important if you are borrowing money to attend college. Even if the school doesn’t check all of your other boxes for wants, the cost savings could help make it a front-runner. Make sure you check into scholarships and applications for aid before you make your decision.  

What You Need to Know About Scholarships for College

 

Culture Shock

Schools usually have a discernible culture that students or faculty can feel and describe. For instance, a school with a robust exchange student program might be more inclusive and have a culture that appreciates diverse perspectives. Another school might be steeped in tradition and fit better for someone with traditional values. Schools with bigger arts programs or specialties in STEM could have a culture all their own. You really can’t get a good depiction of the culture from marketing materials. Understanding a school’s culture is the kind of thing you can ask while visiting or inquire about online in places like forums or Reddit.  

Sweet Student Life

You will be spending a lot of time on campus. Even if you are non-traditional or live off campus. You should take advantage of entertainment, attending special activities, and participating in one or more organizations. Maybe you want a certain Greek life experience—check into it! Ask around and see what the reputation of campus life is like. Look at upcoming events and see what types of organizations you can join. It can be difficult the first year to make friends and get connected into a social group. Well-supported campus life can make this big task a breeze and set you up for some awesome lifelong friendships and memorable experiences.  

All About Amenities

Relatively little things can make a big difference—especially if you’re between a few schools or have close contenders. Think about recreation and facilities on campus, what their sports, athletics programs or teams are like. Does the school have a special connection to a family member or your culture? Small things like cafes that better serve your dietary needs or campus dining options that stand above the rest can weigh into your decision. Your decision should not be based solely on these relatively small things, but if you’re on the fence of two universities it could be what gives you the push needed.   It’s important to understand how you’ll be financing college before you start looking at the school. If you plan on financing college by taking out student loans, they can impact your future. Once you understand your finances, you’ll be able to prioritize what is most important to you and start there. Remember too that schools usually have lots of opportunities for you to visit and learn more. There are entire departments of people whose job it is to acquaint you with the campus and community. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Go in person and get a feel for the school if you can. Don’t forget to connect with potential faculty for your preferred major. You’ll probably learn a lot about what life would be like as a student, which will help make your decision much easier.   Happy school hunting!

Lower College Costs with These Jobs