An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

The College Bucket List Top 10

Posted by on Dec 8, 2011 in Featured, Getting Started | 6 comments

college bucket list

What are the 10 quintessential things every college student should experience?

What makes a college experience more than just a series of grades and a piece of paper?

What are you most looking forward to during your college years, or what do you wish you could go back and do that you never got to?

This will all be answered here today, as Money for College Project is proud to present:

The College Bucket List Top 10

 

No. 1 – Take a Cross Country Road Trip

Nothing screams the freedom of college more than a cross country road trip with close friends. This can be done during spring break, over the summer, or even on a long weekend. More points are obviously due if you can pull this off spontaneously. No planning, no destination, just get in the car and drive. Oh, and don’t forget to bring the TP.

No. 2 – Study Abroad

One of the joys of being in college is the opportunity to travel with no strings attached. Most likely the closest relationship you are leaving behind would be a girlfriend/boyfriend. No spouse, no kids, no job, no major responsibilities. At what other point in your future life will you be able to transplant yourself into a foreign country for a few months? I submit…most likely never! So take advantage of a study abroad program while you can. This can also greatly impact your ability to get a job and give you a worldview that looks beyond the coasts of your home country.

No. 3 – Join an Intramural Team

The vast majority of college students do not have college athletic scholarships. This does not mean however, that you lose your athletic ability. In fact, many top tier high school athletes simply decide not to pursue college athletics and focus on their academics. Smart move. Intramural sports gives you an outlet for your athletic prowess without the pressure and time commitment of practice, coaches, and a grueling game schedule. Intramurals are also excellent times to spend with close friends, and create some great memories for the years to come. Many colleges have everything from flag football, soccer, basketball, hockey (field or ice), and ultimate frisbee.

No. 4 – Earn a B, or even a C

So this might sound like strange advice. After all, you go to college to get the best grades you can, and to be successful right? I agree, but I also strongly believe there are more important things in your college life than grades. If we were all good college students with a 4.0 GPA, the world would be a sad place. A college degree is as much about the experience, and learning to become an adult as it is about earning your degree. If you have the option of studying a few more hours for an exam to make an A, or volunteering to help build the Habitat for Humanity House your college sponsors every year, I would pick the Habitat house ever year. When you look back, the experiences you have in college will be what stick with you the most.

With that said, you need to shoot to keep a B average. Some employers still look at those things, and virtually every Grad School sets a 3.0 GPA as it’s minimum entrance requirements.

No. 5 – Go Fanatical for a Sports Game

Even if sports are not really your thing, being a fanatical fan at your college’s biggest sporting event can be all kinds of fun. You could paint up for your home football game against the in-state rivals, you could camp out all night to get tickets to the conference championship basketball game, you could bring a megaphone to the big soccer game, you and all of your friends could make signs for the women’s volleyball team at their big game, or you could even work your way into the President’s box at a home football game. I highly recommend anything short of streaking…..definitely not recommended.

No. 6 – Cultivate a Caffeine Addiction

This can be incredibly useful while highly enjoyable. Late nights in the library can be dreary and dull but with a fresh dose of caffeine in your system your night can be instantly turned into a frenzied race to the finish. Caffeine will always be the one friend you can count on when you need it the most, especially for those 8am exams which leads us to…

No. 7 – Pull an All Nighter

This may be the standard by which all other college activities are measured. You are assured of at least one all night study session with a 8am exam the next morning. As referenced above, your only true friend may be caffeine, but with your newly cultivated caffeine addiction you should have no problem keeping your spirits up and your focus where it needs to be. Ace the exam, then enjoy the sweet crash of sleep for the rest of the day.

No. 8 – Start a Business with College Friends

Does The Social Network mean anything to anybody? You may never have another opportunity in your life where so many intelligent people are all gathered in one central location. Colleges are a cornucopia of brilliant ideas and young minds with the energy to bring these ideas to life. Starting a business with your college friends can be the most rewarding decision of your life. Even if your business does not take off and earn you millions, you still will have begun down the path of entrepreneurship, which hopefully will stay with you for the rest of your life.

No. 9 – Join a Protest, Rally, or Demonstration

Not everyone is political, and not all rallies are for a fanatical cause. College is a time to figure out what you believe, and learn how to make a difference. A protest, rally, demonstration or march is a great way to link yourself to a good cause and make a difference. Who knows, it might even lead to a new career prospect!

No. 10 – Graduate

I know, this might seem dumb, but the best goal you can set for yourself in college is to graduate. Your college experience might be amazing, but you really limit your options without your diploma. There certainly are exceptions who have done alright without a degree (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg) but they are just that, exceptions. Your college legacy will be firmly sealed in the alumni status as you walk across the stage and receive your diploma.

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Can You Invest Student Loans? Follow Up

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in Featured, Student Loans | 12 comments

invest student loan refund

Back on September 12th, I posted an article titled Can You Invest Student Loan Refunds?. This has become one of my most popular articles, and I wanted to write a follow-up post to give another perspective that arose out of your comments.

I did my best to make a convincing argument against taking your student loans and investing them. I still believe that this is simply a moral barrier that should not be crossed, but it is also a Federal law.

The main question that was raised in the comments, and which is quite valid, is how will the government ever track these student loan refunds if they are invested?

Government Black Hole?

Moral high ground aside, I think it is very interesting to see exactly how someone can take the student loan refund that they receive and invest it for a profit (or a potential loss). The fact that this is possible brings to light a large need in our government for more student loan oversight and tighter restrictions on who, and how much, students can borrow. If it were publicized that investing student loans is a great way to make money (which ok, I am doing here on this blog, but please forgive that for a moment) then I could forsee this practice becoming much more common.

Many commenters asked the question in the original article of how the government enforces their rule that student loan refund can only be used for “educational expenses”. From all of my work in higher education, the only answer I could come up with is that unfortunately, they do not. I see their reasoning behind this. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to track the refunds of millions of student loans across the country? You would need to hire hundreds of auditors to work full-time on enforcing this rule.

So as it stands, the government really does not have an adequate way of enforcing their rule that you cannot invest student loan refunds.

The Gray Area…

As with many federal regulations, there is a large gray area that is left open to interpretation. If you receive a student loan refund, and you want to do something proactive with that money, what are your options?

Strictly investing that money in the stock market is out. That would mean that you are using the funds to directly incur a profit (or a loss). What about investing the student loan refunds in a Roth IRA? This is still based on the whims of the stock market, but arguably more safe

What about stuffing your student loan refund into a high yield savings account? You are incurring no risk, and it is also gaining a small amount of income as time passes.

I would say that this decision is left up to you.

There are positives and negatives to every financial decision that you make regarding your student loan refunds. If you invest in a ROTH IRA, then you have to pay a penalty if you withdraw the funds to pay off your student loan before you reach retirement age.

If you invest your loan refund in the stock market, then you run the risk of losing all of that money, and having no funds to repay your student loan.

Parking your student loan refund in a high yield savings account seems like a very safe option, but the yield is so small these days, is it really worth it?

All questions that you will need to think through.

I know there are some strong arguments on both sides of this topic, and I know you all would love to share them. So please let me have it in the comments.

Would you invest your student loan refund? How would you do it?

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How to Make Your Own Dream Job

Posted by on Oct 27, 2011 in Featured, Getting Started | 2 comments

dream job

 

I’ve been a believer for a long time that a “dream job” really does not exist.

Dream jobs don’t exist, because we cannot clearly define them. Many people will tell you to imagine a job that you could get up every morning and be excited about. Well, I could be excited about taking my kids to school in the morning, but that would not suffice as a “dream job”.

Many others will say to find a job that allows you to earn a lot of money with little to no work. While that sounds more like a fantasy than a dream, the concept has flaws. A high salary should be the result of hard work, in my opinion. I’ve heard of too many people getting duped by get rich quick schemes to accept that there are jobs out there who will pay you millions for little to no work.

So where does that leave us?

We want to find our dream jobs but we don’t know where to start.

First: Clearly define your Dream Job

I’ve spent the past few days walking around the city of Chicago and I’ll have to admit that I am a people watcher. I enjoy a good park bench, and watching the people stroll by.

What I have noticed here in Chicago is that nobody is happy. My hotel is in the South Loop, in the financial district, and I’ve been rubbing shoulders with people working for E-Trade Financial, Chase Bank, Bank of America, the Fifth Third Bank, and about a dozen others.

I imagine that the majority of these folks have high salaries, but they appear to be miserable.

I actually got into a conversation in my hotel lobby with a bank executive here on business. He was lamenting the fact that he travels the country inspecting the operations of the other banks in his network. He said he typically works 70 – 90 hour weeks, and is away from his family 5 -6 days a week. He does it to support his kids private school education and their lavish vacations.

I asked him if he had ever considered doing anything else, and he said simply that “I can’t”.

For many people, a dream job equals freedom above all else.

Freedom to do work you are truly passionate about.

Freedom to set your own schedule.

Freedom to be your own time keeper and determine how much or how little you will work.

Freedom to make your own decisions.

Second: Find others who are already doing your Dream Job

More than likely, the dream job you have imagined is not unique. There will be other people who have already paved the way, and are doing the job of your dreams (even though it might not be their dream job!).

These folks can be invaluable resources to help you evaluate whether or not your Dream Job is truly what you thought it would be. Just like a college internship, this interaction with someone already employed in your Dream job, will give you an inside perspective into the reality of the job.

Often times, dreams don’t become reality.

I dreamed of being a lawyer, until I took my first law class.

I dreamed of being a veterinarian until I learned that they had to castrate dogs.

I dreamed of being an archaeologist until I realized they traveled for 10 months out of the year.

Talking and interacting with people who are already doing the job you dream of is one of the best ways of evaluating that career. The more personal the connection, the better the feedback.

Finally: Create your own Dream Job, if it does not already exist!

I have a good friend who is passionate about missions and volunteering in third world countries. He just recently got married, and is trying to figure out how he can turn this passion into his dream job. He had considered signing on full-time as a volunteer with the Peace Corps, or with a missions agency, but he did not like the multi-year time commitment.

He also wants to be able to travel to more than one country over the next few years with his new wife.

His solution? He established himself as a trip guide. He now leads the teams of people who go into third world countries and complete their missions or volunteer work.

He quickly realized that the job he dreamed of did not exist, so he created it.

This is the best solution for most people. Often our dream jobs are not a cookie cutter type position.

Most dream jobs are not recruited for at career fairs and you won’t find them listed on Monster.com.

As with most of the good things in life, if you want it you have to work hard to get it. Your dream job won’t likely appear out of thin appear and offer itself to you.

You need to clearly define what your dream job is, then make actionable steps to make it happen!

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