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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Scholarship Insights During My Last Year In College

Going into my last year of college, I hadn’t thought I’d be eligible for any scholarships. This is because I didn’t think scholarships were offered to students who didn’t have at least a year of schooling left. Occasionally I’ll still find myself in disbelief when I run across a scholarship that simply offers money to those that are currently in college without any set expectations for how long the applicant should remain in school after they receive the award (if they receive it).

You see, up until earlier this year, I thought that time to apply for scholarships had run out for me. I had only ever heard about scholarships during my last couple years in high school and my first couple years in college so I thought that was the only range that scholarships were meant for unless you were also a college athlete. Boy was I wrong! I don’t know if any of you have experienced this but if you have, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes I find that I get myself stuck in this mindset of not being able to ask for help or that there just isn’t any help out there because, even though I could definitely use the help to pay for school, I’m trying to be a strong, independent college student and that means that I try to do everything on my own until I realize that sometimes that’s not possible.

Working 2 part-time jobs and going to school full-time doesn’t really leave a lot of time for me to go out and join a sport or a club or even volunteer on a regular basis like I did back in high school. I know that there are a lot of scholarships out there that consider extracurricular activities to be a key factor when it comes to deciding if a particular candidate is the best fit for a scholarship or not. But that’s not the only thing that they take into consideration. I know this information, yet it’s something that was difficult for me to remember or believe until this year. If I’d realized that there’s a good chunk of scholarships that are only interested in who their candidates are and the unique experiences they’ve had or the challenges they’ve had to face and overcome then I would have made scholarships a top priority instead of just another piece of information that I keep filed away in the back of my mind.

Thankfully, I still have time to do something about that. My goal for the upcoming months is to take the advice that I’ve been giving you guys since about March. I plan on creating a list of scholarships that I qualify for (to varying degrees), prioritizing those scholarships, keeping deadlines in mind and applying at least a week or two before they’re due (I’m still working on getting better about procrastinating), and ask for help when I need it. I’d also like to encourage any other seniors (especially those that might not have realized they could still apply for scholarships) to make these their goals too!

-Lara

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What I Wish I Knew About Scholarships When I First Started College

I’ll admit that when I first started college I thought that scholarships were something that you only applied for when you were in high school despite my mom’s many emails about scholarships and numerous encouragements to see if there were any out there that I might be able to qualify for or apply for. Looking back, I wish I’d actually set aside time and put forth the effort to apply for scholarships throughout my entire academic career instead of just my senior year in high school. Unfortunately I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even realize how many scholarships there were out there looking for candidates just like me until earlier this year when I started working for the Scholarship Resource Center.

However, I’ve never really been the greatest at time management so I doubt knowing about all these scholarships would have helped me that much. I wish that I hadn’t waited as long as I did to get better at not being as big of a procrastinator as I have been. Although, there is always the possibility that if I had known about them then it somehow would have prompted me to force myself to get better about these things. But we have yet to develop the technology that would allow me to go back in time and find out if this theory, when put to practice, could be proven to work.

I wish I had known that you don’t have to have a perfect 4.0 GPA to qualify for most scholarships or that there are a lot of scholarships that don’t consider a person’s GPA or financial need as much as they will the quality of the candidate and their accomplishments. Grades have always been a bit of a sore point for me. Now, this is not to say that I’m the worst student out there but I’m certainly not the best either. Like many people, I fall somewhere in the middle which always worried me when I’d apply for scholarships because I knew I’d be competing with people that most likely had far better GPAs than I did and that made me think I didn’t even stand a chance at getting some of the scholarships that I could have if I’d only applied for them.

I wish I’d thought the extracurricular activities that I’d participated in were enough…but I didn’t. Instead, I was afraid that the ones I had participated in would somehow make it seem like I hadn’t been as involved as I should have been because I’d never participated in sports or been a part of student government or student council. For whatever reason, I’d never really thought of volunteering at my church or as an assistant summer school teacher as actual volunteering until I had a few people inform me that it was and I’d been mistaken in thinking otherwise.

Lastly, I wish I’d realized that qualifying for financial aid didn’t mean that I still shouldn’t apply for scholarships. If I’d realized this at the beginning then I highly doubt that I’d owe nearly as much as I do in student loans. The first couple years that I was in college I ended up taking out as many loans as I possibly could because I couldn’t afford to pay the cost of out of state tuition that I needed to pay and the scholarships that I received barely even made a dent in that amount. If there had been a Scholarship Resource Center at my old college then I’d like to think that I would have gone in, gotten the help and encouragement I needed to apply, and won more in scholarships instead of going further and further into debt.

I hope this will help to serve at least some of you with the motivation you need to continue (or start) on your scholarship journey and not give up on trying to apply just because you aren’t a perfect fit for some of the scholarships you’ve looked at or because you’re no longer a senior in high school. Use my regrets as a lesson so that you can reach your full scholarship potential instead of looking back on the years you wasted not applying and wishing you’d done things differently.

-Lara

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Welcome Incoming Students!

I want to extend a warm welcome to all of our incoming students and encourage all of you to make sure that you continue to apply for scholarships throughout your academic career. If you’re on our blog then I would hope that means that you know about our Scholarship Resource Center (or SRC) but if not, let me take this time to tell you a little bit about it.

The SRC was created to help students just like you to save time finding the scholarships that are the best fit for you! We’ve done this by creating our External Scholarship Database. If you haven’t done so already, then I would definitely encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day to either browse through the categories that we list on our main External Scholarship Database page, take our Get Scholarcific! survey or do both.

When it comes to scholarships, it’s never a bad thing to explore your options so that you can find the ones that are the best fit for you! Let’s face it, no one wants to find out that they wasted a bunch of time applying for a scholarship that they don’t even qualify for or just barely qualify for. Trust me when I say that there are plenty of scholarships out there for you to apply for and we are just as dedicated to helping you as you are to finding them! By cutting out some of this leg-work for you, we hope that you’ll be able to spend more time polishing your applications and scholarship essays.

You can also check out the list of employers that offer scholarship opportunities or tuition reimbursement opportunities to their employees or the dependents of their employees. If you’ve started doubting your chances of receiving any of the scholarships you’re applying for, check out some of the hurdles that your peers have had to overcome and the advice they’ve shared about overcoming those hurdles. You can also check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for additional advice, challenges, and scholarship opportunities! Lastly, if you ever need someone to look over a scholarship application or essay, feel free to stop by our office (which is conveniently located in the Financial Aid Office, 215 Graff Main Hall) or make an appointment with one of our team members. We never get tired of helping students apply for scholarships!

-Lara

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Prioritizing Scholarships

When applying for scholarships, you’ll want to avoid the “all-or-nothing”, “as many as you can”, and “rapid-fire” approaches. What I mean by this is, don’t try to fill out as many scholarships as you possibly can each month without giving much consideration to the scholarships that you’re applying for or spend more time focusing on scholarships that you might not necessarily qualify for just because that application is longer than the one that is more specific to your degree path or goals. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, scholarship committees like it when you take your time with scholarship essays. It helps them to know that you actually reviewed the guidelines, are a good fit for the scholarship they’re offering and (most importantly) that you actually care about the scholarship you’re applying for.

With that being said, you’ll want to focus your time and energy on applying for the scholarships that are the most specific to you, your goals, and your degree. By doing this, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance to receive those scholarships. Plus, imagine how much time you’d be saving yourself to do other things, like going to the beach, reading a book, going on an adventure/road trip or even playing Pokemon Go, just by prioritizing the scholarships you apply for. For each scholarship that you consider applying for, you’ll want to keep these 3 things in mind: the purpose, the mindset of the judges, and how realistic the scholarship is for you.

When I say the purpose I mean why a particular scholarship was established in the first place. What motivated the founder(s) to want to give money to students (possibly just like you) in the first place? Luckily for you, there are a lot of scholarships out there that talk about their purpose or motivation for establishing a scholarship before they even go into the requirements and expectations of the scholarship. However, you will also encounter some that require you to do a bit of digging to discover this. You can do this by carefully looking over both the requirements they have and the essay questions they ask. If you still can’t find the purpose after that, try looking into the person, group, foundation or corporation that is offering the scholarship to discover the things that they stand for or value the most.

Make sure you don’t overestimate or underestimate how well you qualify for a scholarship. The best way to do this would be to try looking at both the scholarship and your accomplishments/abilities from a third party perspective. Things like character, motivation, and personality are hard to measure which means that most scholarship committees won’t be looking for a perfect fit. Make the awards that match you the best the top ones on your list and the ones where you are a weak match for the scholarship the bottom ones on your list. Always make sure that you apply for the scholarships that you’re the strongest fit for first!

You should always keep deadlines for scholarships that you’re considering applying for in mind! Some scholarships will have multiple deadlines throughout the year, some will have a fixed deadline that stays the same each year, and others will be annual with a different deadline each round. There might be deadlines that you end up missing simply because you didn’t find out about the scholarship soon enough to create a good or even decent application. If you ever encounter this particular dilemma, just remember that you can always try applying for that scholarship the next year. Just make sure that you’re checking on when it opens back up and closes again.

Try to apply for as many of the scholarships at the top of this new list as you can. If it makes life easier, then you can even create another list that goes by priority and deadline. It’s never a bad thing to be extra organized when it comes to scholarships! Lastly, I want to caution you against scholarship scams. If you ever encounter a scholarship that seems too good to be true or leaves you with a funny feeling then it’s best to skip over that one and move on to the next one. Trust me, there are more than enough of them out there!

-Lara

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