Student Loan Regrets

Students, this is your warning: use your student loan money wisely. Statistics show too many students end up using their leftover student loan funds for unnecessary things, ranging from eating out at restaurants to even going on vacations. When you get student loans, especially ones you realize you don’t need, it can be easy to think they’re good for anything. But the long-term effects of doing this are going to be felt for an extremely long time.

It should be noted: there are some things it’s ok to spend your loan payments on besides tuition, especially if you’re going through a financially difficult time. Sometimes rent money isn’t available, and maybe the meal plans are a bit too expensive for you. That’s understandable. Just remember: if you can use other things to pay for your current needs, do so. The long term effects will be far less damaging.

Students often assume that the effects of student loans won’t hit them. Perhaps they believe they’re going into a successful field where they’ll make enough that they won’t have to worry about it. However, according to Accenture, a company that studies college students and their predictions and outcomes after finishing school, 40% of recent college students make less than $25,000 annually. Only 65% are in fields relating to their majors. Even STEM students are often recorded not going into their intended field. These statistics make for a bad time when students are trying to claw their way out of debt.

If you borrowed more than you need, you can return them. Save yourself money in the long term. Obviously, sometimes you need all the loans you can get, but if you’re using them for trivial things like a trip to PINK or at the local GameStop, it’s time to stop. Instead, get a part time job. Working will give you money to spend on the less important things or activities you want. It will also earn you experience you’ll need when you step into the workplace after college.

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Scholarship Stress?

Scholarships can be… stressful. They’re not always clear, and some may feel incredibly repetitive after filling out dozens upon dozens of applications. So what can you do? At the Scholarship Resource Center, we work hard to know and put to use all the tips and tricks you need to earn some extra money for school.

The first step can often be the most intimidating one: finding scholarships. Thankfully, the Scholarship Resource Center has you covered there! We have hundreds of scholarships ready for you to look through in our External Scholarship Database. We also have options where you can sort out scholarships that fit you specifically. Are you majoring in History and have an interest in studying abroad? We have settings to help you find scholarships just for that! Are you Hispanic and a part of the LGBTQ+ community? We have settings available for you too! All scholarships on our database are researched by office staff to ensure they are safe and applicable to UWL students. If you have any questions or concerns about these scholarships, please do not hesitate to drop by, or give us a call.

The next step for scholarships, in particular those that have an essay portion, is to focus on things that set you apart from others. Say you have to write about your future goals; a simple “I don’t know yet” isn’t going to be earning you anything fast. Explore possibilities for your future. Think about where you want to be, the kind of work you enjoy, how college can help you get there. Focus on things that others wouldn’t think of. Scholarships are awarded to those who leave an impression on judges, not to those who do the same thing everyone else does.

A major mistake many scholarship applicants make is focusing on their grades rather than anything else. While grades matter, that’s not all that scholarship judges want to hear about. Don’t be afraid to discuss your experiences in clubs, your passions, or even your culture during your essays. You are far more than just your grade point average!

A factor to keep in mind is how the amount of work required may affect your chances. College students are busy, there’s no doubt about that. Because of that, any scholarships that require more work than the average are easier to obtain than simple 150 words or less essays. You will have less competition for the money you need for school. So, if you have some extra time on your hands, use it wisely!

Scholarships from around your community are some of the best ways to earn what you need. Are you apart of a church, or a member of a community program? Is your parent a member of the local auxiliary, or perhaps the town’s Knights of Columbus? These could all leave you eligible for scholarships through those programs. As they are not national, you have a far greater chance of receiving aid from these types of sources than most others. If you’re not a part of any of these groups, consider joining some and volunteering with them in the next several years. Even if you don’t end up receiving scholarships from them, they’re always handy to have for volunteer experience, and make great additions to your résumé!

Have you ever seen a scholarship that required you to send in money to be eligible? Those scholarships are scams. No legitimate scholarship should ask you for money in order to be eligible. If you have any concerns about whether or not a scholarship is legitimate, do not hesitate to call the Financial Aid Office at 608.785.8604, or stop by our office in 215 Graff Main Hall. We are always willing to help, and if we can save you from being subject to a scam, we will do everything in our power.

Scholarships may be intimidating, but saving you money is worth it! Keep up on them, and don’t let the loss of one scholarship stop you from continuing to apply to many more. And again, if you have any questions or concerned, don’t be afraid to ask our office for help!

-Emily

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Monetarily App-ealing!

Apps have revolutionized our world more than we could have ever imagined. In fact, “There’s an app for that!” has become a common catchphrase for our society. Not surprisingly, money saving and tracking apps have become major attractions for anyone from businessmen to college students. In this article, we’re going to discuss and compare some of the best, and most popular apps that can help you be frugal and informed!

The first app isn’t for your phone, but for your computer! After you install Honey, any time you go shopping online, the widget will open up, showing you dozens of available coupons for you to use for your purchases! I’ve personally used this several times on major retail sites like Target, Macy’s, and even Microsoft! They also have deals where if you buy certain items from stores, you could earn anywhere from 1-100% of your money back. The percentage is always random, never letting you know in advance how much you can save, so don’t count on it to always save you enough if you’re tight on money. Another bonus they offer is price comparison! On sites like Amazon for example, it can be hard to know if you’re getting the best deal. With this tool, if a seller is available that can get you the same product at a reduced price, you will be notified! I’m obligated to mention that you should use this app wisely and only for things you need. Saving money is great, but not if you’re saving on something you never needed in the first place.

Another major app to consider for your financial needs is Mint! Available for both iOS and Andriod phones, this app is considered the best of the best! (One article even referred to it as the “Beyoncé” of personal finance apps.) By tracking all of your bank accounts, including savings, checking, even retirement accounts if you’re ahead of the game, this app creates potential budgets based on spending and income patterns for you to use. Every transaction is recorded and available to see in the app as well, making any potential threats to your accounts obvious before it’s too late.

Another major money saver for those who don’t depend on campus dining halls, Grocery iQ is the perfect app to save while stocking up for food! Available on iOS and Andriod, you can build grocery lists while simultaneously finding the lowest prices on each item based on the stores around you. It also offers barcode scanning so that if you need to find that one very specific brand of salsa that you just love too much, you know exactly what stores are carrying it! They also offer coupons for certain products, making everything just a little more easier on your wallet!

The final app any not-so-money-savvy student should look into is going to be another great one for those who can’t look to the dining plan for their food: Campus Special. Made specifically for college students, this app finds the best restaurant/eatery deals available around you and even allows you to order right from your phone for pick-up and delivery services! If you use the app enough, you earn rewards that you can use at your favorite places! Perhaps you can nab a free two-liter from your local Pizza Hut, or get two orders of Topperstix for the price of one. This will be an app you want to check out.

Saving money doesn’t have to be something you do all on your own. There are multitudes of apps and websites that are set up specifically to help you! If you’re not really interested in these however, you could always stop by It Make$ Cents! The staff members in their office are always willing to help you create budgets, and find great ways to save! Stop by 2103 Centennial Hall if you’re interested in their help.

Emily

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Secondhand Cents-ability!

We all like to save money where we can, and college pressures and costs make saving exponentially more important! Thankfully, in the La Crosse area, businesses know this. All around our town are dozens of second hand stores available for us to shop, no matter what we need! In this article, I’m going to tell you about some of the best options around La Crosse for saving money while still getting exactly what you need. Just a note, all the spots I’m going to be discussing are strictly local. Shopping local rather than chain stores is incredibly beneficial to La Crosse commerce, and helps our city retain its classic charm!

The first notable spot for good deals is a little place called Good Steward Resale Store. If you are living in an apartment for the first time, or just need a few more sweaters to get you through the winter, this place is perfect for you! Located on the corner of Rose Street and West George Street, this shop is well known for its charity work around the community. Aiding homeless and down on their luck citizens, this shop will make you feel good not just about saving money, but about helping others.

The next shop on our list will be perfect for those wanting to touch up their living space. Fine Things is a consignment shop located on the corner of Caledonia Street and Clinton Street, and it’s known for its remarkable prices for any variety of home furnishings.

The Second Showing is just the place you need if you’ve been struggling to find nice women’s clothing at an easy on the wallet price! You’ll find this cute spot on the corner of Tyler Street and South West Avenue, simply bursting with options, and even including dozens of designer pieces for you to look through as well! They are not short on accessories either, sporting everything from elegant purses to lovely scarves and glistening jewelry.

If you’ve been dying to get your hands on a few classics, or even just want to find some light reading to enjoy throughout this next semester, Pearl Street Books is going to be the perfect spot for you! Down near the corner of South 4th Street and Pearl Street, it’s a used book store that offers not only prime selections of writings, but a captivating style of architecture that speaks to the grand era of elegance the building came from. There also happens to be a quaint little coffee shop attached through a side door that is the perfect place to dig into your new literary catch.

The final shop I’m going to be discussing is called Wee Repeat. Found near the intersection of South East Avenue and Market Street, you will find tons of games here for your next get together with friends! You can also find great presents for children of many ages here. Toys as far as the eye can see! So if you have a nephew that has a birthday coming up, or just know someone young at heart who would appreciate a throwback to a simpler time, this is the place you need to go!

Secondhand stores are great options for you and your friends to stock up on things you need to get through the semester without having to pay nearly as much for them! They are also opportunities to help keep La Crosse a city that has a charm you won’t see anywhere else. Support local businesses like these when you can! Keep them around so that future college students can still enjoy their presence long into the future.

Have a great weekend UWL!

Emily

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Holiday Magic! (And Money)

It’s that magical time of year! The holidays are upon us. That means lots of final exams, group projects, and papers, but the release for Winter Break is almost here. But that doesn’t mean the end of worrying for everyone. No matter what you celebrate, chances are you might have a few presents to give out. So what can you do? Today we’re going to look into the ways to save while shopping for loved ones this year.

Everyone knows about Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the chaos that seems to follow in its wake. But do you know about Amazon’s 12 Days of Deals? Hosting a new section of deals each day, Amazon has another nine days left to offer deals in some cases just as good as ones offered on Black Friday! Just be careful where you order from. If you don’t double check, you could have to deal with a late present, making for an awkward time for you and your gift receiver!

Perhaps online shopping isn’t much your style? I get it. Then maybe you should consider a new hobby! From cross-stitching to jewelry making, there are tons of options out there for you to make your own presents for your loved ones! Beginners can often find a variety of crafting options and ideas from the internet, or if that’s not your style, you can stop by one of your local craft stores and see if they’re hosting any events in the next few weeks! Michael’s, for example, is always offering classes on any variety of crafts, and for cheap as well!

For some people crafting is a bit too much, or perhaps they’re concerned about producing a fitting present in time for the Holidays. That’s ok! Consider a simple recipe for your presents! Bake some cookies (after double checking on your loved ones’ allergies, of course) and package them up nice for a perfect gift! You could also take a few old jars you have lying around and make a hot chocolate mix for your friends! You can find a lovely recipe for just that right here. With a simple gift like these, you will no doubt make your loved ones feel warm and fuzzy, if not from your hot chocolate mix, than from your sweetness!

At the end of the day, we’re college students. Our loved ones understand if we can’t get them the newest video game, or a pair of Uggs. So don’t feel too concerned when you’re working on presents for those around you. They’re just happy to share their time and love with you.

-Emily

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The Art of Getting a Job

Obviously, one of the best ways to get some extra money at college is to get a job. Many of us have had part time jobs throughout high school, maybe at our local Culvers, or perhaps as a bagger at a Pick ‘n Save. It was our first real test at understanding how to handle money, in particular money that we earned. Some students may hope to earn a little extra here and there for spending money or even to save up for future college tuition. Perhaps you got a job because you wanted to get a car, perhaps you needed more gas money. But chances are now, unless you lived close to campus before, you’re jobless. Some students may choose to remain jobless throughout college, preferring to focus more on their studies than anything else, however many students opt to try to balance the hustle of college and the bustle of work. But where can you find openings? That’s what I’m here to talk to you about!

 

There’s a lot of options in terms of where you can find a job. Your first option is Student Employment. Student Employment can be either Federal Work-Study or Student Help. Work-Study is based on financial need and would be included in your financial aid award if you are eligible. There are multiple avenues you can take for Student Help, perhaps as a librarian over at Murphy, or maybe as a food server in Whitney. You have the bonus of not having to go very far, as well as the awareness that they will try to work around your schedule based on what you need to do. If you have dependable transportation, you could also find a job off-campus, perhaps at a restaurant in town. However, while you may get more hours than at an on-campus job, you could have to deal with less flexibility in terms of scheduling, making it harder to balance your academics. Many off-campus jobs have late hours which could also affect your ability to get up for those early classes so plan accordingly.

 

As you weigh the options presented, it may help to find out who’s hiring. Lucky for you, on the UWL Financial Aid Office’s website you can find the Job Board, which is a great resource for finding different employers in the area who are hiring. Simply sign up, providing all the information required, and soon you will have access to a multitude of businesses in the area, and their need for workers. Another option is the yearly job fairs at UWL! They usually take place during the first week of the fall semester, and before the beginning of the summer as well! Dress nice, bring a few resumes, and put on your best smile so you can charm your potential bosses!

 

Do you want something with less commitment? That can work! We have an Odd-Job listings page, where you can be contacted for anything from basic yard work to babysitting. Your hours won’t be regular, but maybe that’s just what you need! If you were interested in on-campus work, there’s plenty of information on that as well! On the same Financial Aid Office webpage, we have a brochure that includes links to all the on campus organizations that are often looking for extra workers! There are also emails and phone numbers available for many of them, allowing you to talk to your potential employers about what you can look forward to.

 

Weigh your options carefully! Keep in mind what you can handle, and what you hope to get out of the experience as well! I’m personally very happy with my experiences so far, and I hope that you guys can find a lovely work environment as well!

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On Campus or Off Campus? That is the Question!

Only a month in and students are already facing the question: Where am I going to live next year? For some upperclassmen, the answer may be easy, but underclassman like me can sometimes feel like they’re scrambling to find a good option. So let us delve into the unknown, and sometimes expensive: Student Housing.

After about a month of living in good old Angell, my roommate and I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that while we both considered each other good roomies, we missed having our own personal spaces. So what options did we have? Quite a few it turns out…

Our first option would be to head back into the dorms. We could become RA’s, guiding kids through the year and planning activities. And if we ended up with a roommate due to lack of extra rooms, we would get paid for it! You also get free housing and food, which takes a big load off our funds! All around, it was a great deal to consider. However, RA positions can be very difficult to obtain, especially in your sophomore year. We also wanted to try to stick together, as we had become really good friends over the last month. Eventually, we decided we didn’t want to risk the chance of not getting chosen, and looked to our other options.

Our second option was off campus housing. Considering what we could get out of the deal, it was an exciting idea; our own rooms, perhaps a kitchen, a bathroom with just a few people in comparison to multiple… However, we did have several concerns. First off, we’d heard horror stories about some of the surrounding landlords, which was something we weren’t sure we were prepared to deal with yet. We also had to keep in mind that chances are, the buildings will be significantly farther than our current housing in Angell, and as we hadn’t yet experienced the awful reality of La Crosse winters, we didn’t want to risk it being more than we could handle. Our final concern was cost. My roommate brought up a good point: When paying for our housing on campus, we had more time to come up with the money in comparison to having to pay ASAP with off campus housing. We also would end up paying more. Based on the average costs of electricity, water, heating/AC, and cable, as well as how much rent costs on average in the surrounding apartments and such, it would all come out to about $7,350 a year, not including food. In comparison to our most expensive on campus option, Eagle, that’s almost $900 more every year. After this calculation, we very quickly decided this wasn’t an option for us just yet.

So what else was there? Eagle, considering it was three people to a room, didn’t solve our lack of privacy. Yet it should be noted, Eagle is not a bad option for others to consider when looking at housing for next year! You share a bathroom with only six people, rather than a full wing, you have air conditioning, and since it’s so new, you have a menagerie of updated amenities to use and look forward to. It is the most expensive on campus option though, coming in at $6,450 including the Eagle meal plan. However, many current residents I know argue the difference is worth it.

We were starting to get discouraged, but our RA mentioned an option we hadn’t yet considered; Reuter. It’s an apartment style dorm, with our own bathroom, our own kitchen, our own rooms, and even a dishwasher (that was more exciting than I could ever put into words). Coming in at $6,300 a year, only about $300 more than the average dorm price of $6,000, the price was more than manageable. The close price points were mostly thanks to the significantly cheaper meal plan provided, “The Talon”. Considering all this, Reuter was quickly becoming the best option for us. We both love to cook, so the reduced meal plan was no big concern for us either. After a tour, and finding two more girls who were also interested in joining our required group of four, we knew we were making a good decision.

For your future use, here’s a breakdown of the costs and differences over one year:

Most on-campus dorms- (i.e. Angell, Drake, Hutch, etc.)

Housing: $3,600

Meal Plan: $2,400

Total: $6,000

 

Eagle dorm-

Housing: $4,000

Meal Plan: $2,400

Total: $6,400

 

Reuter-

Housing: $5,500

Meal Plan: $800

Total: $6,300

 

Average Off Campus-

Housing *: $7,350

*Does not include food costs, but includes electricity, water, heat/AC, cable

 

So, to all my fellow underclassmen, consider your housing options for next year carefully. Unfortunately, applications for Reuter are already closed, and many off-campus locations have already arranged their tenants for the next year. However, all other on-campus options don’t open up until spring 2017, so consider the options you have! Talk to friends you may want as future roomies, their preferences, and how they feel about topics that are important to you as someone who will be living with them, i.e. do you keep a clean room, how late do you tend to go to bed, and the like. Do what you have to do in order to ensure you have a fantastic year!

 

-Emily

 

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Affording It All…

As a freshman at UWL, money can become a major stressor. I’d be lying if I said it was the only stressor. With midterms coming up, life can sometimes seem like you’re running constantly just to keep up with it all. But always lingering in the background is the inevitable: tuition payments. Maybe you got lucky and won a few scholarships back in high school, or maybe your parents saved up some, giving you some padding for a few semesters. But chances are, you’re like many of your peers, and have to start looking into some financial planning.

So what can you do to make your financial situation a little more secure? After working at the Financial Aid Office for a bit, I’ve come to the realization that you actually have a lot of options! First off, obviously, you can get a job. This can seem like a lot, as we all know college isn’t exactly the lightest load in the world, but many on campus positions are aware of that. They often work around your schedule, and understand that of course, school should come first. They may not be the most hours, and you might not make much more than minimum wage, but every bit goes a long way.

Another option is (plug incoming) scholarships! There are so many scholarship opportunities out there, and people who can help, if it all seems a bit daunting. Consider stopping by a workshop or two, we have them three times a week after all, or perhaps you could stop in for one of the many presentations we have! However, if you’re feeling more confident, you can always try your luck on your own. You can go through our Scholarship Resource Database here. And remember, you can always look through UWL’s own scholarships, called UWL Foundation Scholarships! You can find that right here!

Have you already made a budget? You should! A budget is a major key in figuring out your financial concerns. It may seem like a daunting task, but you also have people who can help you! Check out It Make$ Cents! in 2103 Centennial Hall. They have resources set up for the average student who wants to get more involved in their financial futures. They’re always hosting fun events, with numerous opportunities to win prizes, maybe even a scholarship or two as well! You can check out their site here, or stop in between 8am-4pm Monday through Friday!

If nothing else, there are options for reducing your tuition payments! If you’re organized, responsible, and love helping your fellow students, you can apply to be an RA next year. In being an RA, you receive free room and board, and even earn extra money if high enrollment requires you to have a roommate for the year. However, these benefits can affect your eligibility for some loans, so be sure to double check with a financial advisor beforehand.

Remember to take as many classes as you can manage each semester. Tuition and fees are the same whether you are taking 12 or 18 credits, or anything in between so you might as well take advantage of those free credits.

More than anything, I think the key to a student’s financial success is moderation in spending. Take advantage of free food opportunities, enjoy a trip to the mall once a month rather than once a week, maybe avoid Amazon altogether unless absolutely necessary. Most of these rules are ones I’ve had to learn the hard way in the past month. (Amazon Prime is a dangerous thing.) But now I have confidence that I can make better overall financial decisions, and I hope you guys will be able to as well.

Have a great weekend UWL!

-Emily

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Saving For a Road Trip

Recently I had my best friend surprise me by telling me that my Christmas present is a road trip which I absolutely love. I talked about going on a road trip all summer but never had the time or the money to actually follow through with any of my plans. Normally I might have been a little hesitant or disappointed that she told me what my Christmas present was so far in advance but I’m actually really happy and a little relieved that she did. When she told me about it, she gave me two choices, we could either go on the road trip before Christmas or sometime after Christmas so I decided it would be best to wait and go after. I like waiting for two reasons: first, because it’ll be warmer and everything will have that certain kind of newness to it that only spring can offer and second, because I can make sure that I have enough money to go on the trip instead of going and being in a constant state of worry about money.

Budgeting for a trip can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be as long as you go about it the right way. So, for those of you out there that are also planning a road trip for some time over the course of the next year, I encourage you to push yourself to accept the same challenge that I’m setting forth for myself. My plan is to set aside somewhere between 20 and 40 dollars each paycheck until it’s time for my trip. Right now it doesn’t seem like that’ll be a lot but I know that if I’m consistent with it, it’ll add up and make for a very nice and relaxing road trip especially when you take into consideration that each month equals 2-3 paychecks. You can choose to set aside the same amount that I am every paycheck or if you can afford to set aside more, then you might decide to push yourself to do just that.

-Lara

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I Suppose Introductions Are In Order…

Hi everyone! My name is Emily, and I’m a freshman here at UW-La Crosse. Today is my first day at the UW-La Crosse Financial Aid Office. Everyone I’ve met here has been incredibly welcoming and lovely to meet! And overall you really get a feel for how dedicated everyone is to helping UWL students. I’m working as both a “blog poster” as well as a social media aficionado for our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Be sure to follow us on there for any tips and information on upcoming events (and of course, to hear more from me!)

A lot of things have surprised me so far in my being here. First off, holy scholarships Batman! The Scholarship Database was one of the first places I checked out upon getting here and there are so many available.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in one of my classes and the Professor asked us to stand up if we weren’t sure how we were going to pay for our tuition this semester. At least half of the class stood up, myself included. And yet when he asked the follow up question of “Have you been looking into any resources to help pay?” most of us were left shaking our heads. The general consensus was, we didn’t know where to start.

Then I walked into my first day at the Financial Aid Office and was met with resources upon resources. All this time I was oblivious to what these people could do for not only myself, but for all my peers too! So now I’m making it my purpose to enlighten other students, and to let them know that they are not alone.

So guys, I’m excited to be working with you this year, and I hope that I can help make your college careers a little easier to get through, at least financially. (But if you want a buddy to eat ice cream with you after a bad day, I guess I can offer those services too…)

Have a fantastic week, Eagles!

-Emily

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