Category Archives: Getting Started

What is a FICO Score and How Will the New FICO Score Affect You?

FICO score

For most of us, debt is a fact of life. It’s not hard to understand why – post-secondary education expenses have ballooned over the past 40 years. Back in 1980, tuition, fees, and accommodation cost about $9,400 (in 2020 dollars). Today, that figure is nearly two-and-a-half times higher, sitting just below $24,000.

Meanwhile, wages haven’t budged much over time. In 1980, the federal minimum wage sat at $3.10 – or $9.70 in 2020 dollars. Today, Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country at $13.50. Meanwhile, states like Idaho still allow employers to pay as little as $7.25 an hour. That’s right – some of us make $2/hour less than our parents did 40 years ago.

Suffice to say, many of us borrow tons of cash to pay for post-secondary schooling. According to CNBC, more than two-thirds of 2018 graduates needed loans to pay for their degrees. This isn’t just some rite of passage – it’s something that could seriously impact your creditworthiness down the road.

Recently, banks have been tightening lending standards in response to the COVID crisis. This development has negatively impacted FICO scores. Because of this, many institutions are leaving behind many would-be borrowers.

However, FICO has recently announced a new credit assessment tool – the Resilience Index. What will it mean for college students and graduates? We’ll explore this issue in-depth in today’s post.

What Is A FICO Score?

FICO scores are statistics used by lenders to assess the legitimacy of a borrower. “FICO” is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation, a data analytics firm based in San Jose, California. They debuted the FICO score in 1989; shortly after that, it became the gold standard for determining creditworthiness.

The Fair Issac Corporation determines your FICO score by assessing five indicators of credit risk. These are as follows: The length of one’s credit history, credit utilization, the number of accounts held, recently opened accounts, and payment history.

After assessing your finances against these factors, FICO then assigns you a score. It runs, oddly enough, from 300 to 850. FICO and most lenders consider anything below 580 to be poor. On the other hand, anything above 800 is deemed exceptional.

Few borrowers have a FICO score that is truly bad or exceptional. Most lenders deem a FICO score between 670 to 739 to be a “good” score. However, FICO occasionally changes the weighting of their variables. As such, even borrowers that maintain consistent credit characteristics can have their FICO scores change significantly.

The FICO Resilience Index is one change that could have a significant impact on scores. We’ll break down what it means later. But before we do, let’s address a common question: Can a bad FICO score really impact your life negatively? To be frank, yes.

How Can Your FICO Score Impact Your Finances?

Lenders aren’t the only entities that check credit scores. From phone companies to your landlord, scores of firms do. In other words, if your FICO score tanks, your life can quickly become a living hell.

Let’s start with your bills. If your credit score is low (but not terrible), it can affect the interest rates you pay. Those with scores that slip below 670 may notice a rise in the rate on their credit cards. Need to go back to school for a graduate degree? If you have a “fair” credit score, interest on private student loans can get as high as 14.5%. In both cases, double-digit interest rates can result in monthly payments hundreds of dollars higher than those with good credit.

Are you trying to land that first significant role? Playing fast and loose with your credit can make it tough to get a well-paying, prestigious job.  According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 47% of employers admitted to running credit checks on potential hires. Many fear those with bad credit will “help themselves” to company funds or sell trade secrets.

Worst of all, a bad credit score can make it tough to keep a roof over your head. Increasingly, landlords require credit checks from applicants. If you don’t meet a lender’s minimum FICO score, the application process usually ends there. Often, this situation forces those with lousy credit to seek out a roommate. Sometimes, these living arrangements work out. Much of the time, though, they can prevent you from living your best life.

When It Comes To FICO Scores, Every Decision Matters

Often, measures taken against those with bad credit make sense. Businesses don’t want to lose money. Companies don’t want to hire dishonest employees. And landlords want dependable tenants.

There’s just one problem – as a young person, making even one mistake can screw everything up. As someone fresh out of school, you already have one strike against you. If you have a credit card, you’ve probably haven’t had one for long.

You also lack employment experience. It can be hard to find work, and when you do, you may not make all that much. If you miss one credit card, car, or student loan payment, it can have a disproportionate impact on your FICO score.

As such, we implore you – take this topic seriously. Yes, it’s okay to make spontaneous plans and enjoy your youth – but only if you’re able to pay your bills first. If your finances are drum-tight, focus on increasing your earning power/cutting expenses first. Then, save up a “fun fund” that can pay for spur-of-the-moment adventures.

This way, you can make the most of your twenties without compromising more expensive goals (e.g., homeownership) later on in life.

The FICO Resilience Index: Good Or Bad For College Students?

As if worrying about your FICO score wasn’t bad enough, a new metric has arrived on the scene. Recently, outlets like CNBC have reported on the latest tweak FICO has made to its credit reporting. In June, the agency announced the introduction of the FICO Resilience Index. In brief, this scale assesses the resiliency of borrowers to economic shocks.

Unlike past updates, the FICO Resilience Index isn’t a reconfiguration of how it determines FICO scores. Rather, it is a standalone measure that assigns borrowers a score from 1 to 99. The lower your score, the more resilient you are to recessions, sudden job loss, etc. The higher your score, the greater the likelihood you’ll miss payments, or default on loans when things sour.

Unlike traditional FICO scores, which punish the young more harshly for making mistakes, the Resilience Index could be a godsend. That one missed payment three years ago won’t dog you as much anymore. If you’ve managed to stock up an abundant emergency fund and paid down your debts, the Resilience Index would judge you more fairly.

At a time where uncertainty has never been higher, we feel the Resilience Index is a better judge of creditworthiness. In the past, a strong cash position didn’t factor in the computation of your FICO score. Now, this vital stat could help you get better interest rates, find work, and improve your living situation.

The Better Your FICO Number, The Better Off You’ll Be

We’re happy to see the implementation of the Resilience Index. Thanks to this measure, those who have a mostly trouble-free credit record will pay lower interest rates and face less discrimination. However, it’s still important to practice financial prudence, especially in these times.

By spending less than you take in, you’ll avoid overdraft fees and missed bill payments. As a result, your score will climb higher as months and years go by. Interest rates will fall, you’ll find it easier to rent desirable apartments, and you’ll get better job offers.

By focusing on things within your control, you can shape your financial future. Choose wisely.          

How To Create Your Own Online Tutorial Channel For Private Lessons

Create Your Own Online Tutorial Channel

If you’re an expert in a field or have a passion for a certain skill or craft, then sharing this with the world can be extremely rewarding. You may find yourself with a following quicker than you expect, and hearing back the positive comments of their success in your teaching can be inspiring. Not to mention, this is a project used by many college students to help fund themselves — many top Youtubers earn more than top athletes.

Step 1 – Topic choice

Ideally, you will either have a really strong passion for something or just be exceptionally good at communicating and breaking down a topic (or even better… have both). This could be in Calculus, crochet, carpentry, watch making, Python programming, and so on. A camera (or screen recorder) and a decent mic are all you need. If you’re serious about making the channel, then invest in a decent mic (avoid anything under $50) and learn some basic audio editing — this is extremely important for user experience.

Step 2 – Youtube channel > Personal website

First and foremost, you will need a Youtube channel. You may want a website of your own too, like the incredible Justin Guitar tutorial entity, but even with his set of courses and tutorials, its foundation is on Youtube. It’s easy to embed Youtube videos on your own channel for a start, and still reap those monetary rewards. Creating a Youtube channel takes all of 5 minutes, just make sure to have a Google account.

Step 3 – Content

Whatever topic you opt for, stick with it. It will be counterproductive to cover two types of tutorials for the same channel (i.e. gardening and investing). If you have two topics, create two different channels. It’s advised to put all your energy into one for the first few months though, to prevent spreading yourself too thin. That way your second channel can avoid the mistakes you made in the first one.

When creating content, have a strategy in mind. Plan out your first 10 to 20 tutorials to prevent them from being random. It’s not a prerequisite, but it’s preferable to publish them in some sort of order. This is so there’s a logical “in the next video”, so viewers stay on your channel. This will quickly turn into a course. 

If you have some separate content you haven’t published, you can create bonus content. This could be accessed only by patreons or perhaps collated into a paid course on your website. By this point, you will already have an audience, so it’s only natural to monetize away from Youtube as well as on-site.

Step 4… Profit?

In order to reap any monetary rewards, you will need to be in this for the long haul. Before you can even get accepted for monetization on Youtube, you will need 1,000 subscribers. In order to get this, one incredible video will not do it. You will need regular, useful content. If users find your video useful for solving their problem, they will likely click on your channel for related videos. Because of this, do not hold back content. If it’s ready to publish, put it out there ASAP.

For a side project, you may only want a couple of hundred bucks from this. This is entirely achievable with even only a few thousand subscribers. Why? Because subscriber count isn’t everything. It’s great to have but viral videos tend to be seen by more non-subscribers than subscribers. Just make sure you understand basic SEO and how the Youtube algorithm works.

The most basic form of monetization is ads on Youtube videos. These don’t produce a ton, because many people have adblocker these days. A way around this is to include promotions in the videos themselves (i.e. the intro). If you’re doing English lessons, for example, you could have affiliate links in the bio and in the video to an English learning app, where you get a cut of every person that uses it to pay for the app.

If you want to avoid being viewed as spammy or perhaps you feel the channel needs to keep a high standard of impartiality for whatever reason, you could simply ask for patreon donations. Remember, 20% of your following could account for 80% of your profit — so don’t just chase the view counts, keep your cult following happy.

Example Youtube tutorial channels to learn from

  • Justin Guitar — Justin Guitar, of course, makes guitar tutorials. He put out a high volume of Youtube tutorials before making a website which helped structure these into courses. He now has an IOS and Android app, which was probably not as much effort as it sounds, seeing as all the content was already made on Youtube.

— 903K subscribers, outputs ~20 videos per year for 11 years

  • Corey Shafer — Having started 5 years ago, Corey made Python tutorials. Many old ones are low view counts, but because of his incredibly concise explanations and structured tutorials, he pretty much created the best A to Z Python course for beginners that you can find.

— 482K subscribers, started 5 years ago, posts irregularly (~35 times per year)

  • Khan Academy — Quite possibly the king of Youtube education. Khan academy seems to have tutorials for almost anything your high school or college would throw at you. Maths, economics, sciences. Khan created an empire, organizations (for free courses), apps… anything you can think of.

5.53m subscribers, started 13 years ago with a high output, with incredible visual learn methods

  • King’s Fine Woodworking — if you’re not an academic genius or coding wizard, it doesn’t matter. This channel represents that functional skills, such as building things with wood, can make for a great tutorial channel. Plus, they can be completely independent videos, not a sequential course. This can make it more fun

— 196k subscribers, started only 3 years ago, 1 to 2 videos per month

  • ATHLEAN-X — Here is a great example of how image, branding, confidence, and being good at what you do can lead to. ATHLEAN-X is prolific in posting and is estimated to earn $5,000 per day from ads alone.

— 9.66m subscribers, posts a couple times per week for the last 10 years (lower frequency in older videos).

The Best Online Platforms to Raise Money for Your Project or Idea

Best Online Platforms to Raise Money

Crowdfunding can be a great way to raise finances for a young company. By taking little from the many, crowdfunding’s popularity comes from the additional benefits it provides, not just the funding itself.

Firstly, is profoundly more efficient than traditional financing. You get full autonomy and the freedom to put your message across in the exact way you want it to. The platform (and picking the right one is important!) will serve as a place in which you can build social traction and generate more substance and proof – proof in the form of social backing. People want to jump on board of what’s going to be popular – and what better way to show its gaining popularity.

On top of this, you’re not claiming that it’s the finished product. With more isolated funding paths, you’re alone in your design. Crowdfunding, however, can give more opportunity for feedback, perhaps in the form of sending backers some prototypes. The loyalty of early advocates can be rather profound and can stick with you for the long-term.

How do you prepare for the fundraising?

Seeing as this is just as much a marketing opportunity as it is a funding one, you want to ensure you succeed at both.

Research, research, and more research

At the stage of preparing for a crowdfund, your product and idea research should already be finished. This is your opportunity to fully understand the scale and benefits of crowdfunding, along with strategies and what makes a successful campaign.

Picking the correct platform

Choosing the right platform is crucial. There are many factors to consider here, not just the benefits and disadvantages of each but which ones perform best in certain niches and which ones are focused on certain industries. 

Target audience

Understanding the wants and needs of the target audience is important. You’re going to not only figure out exactly the target audience (you should already know this) but perform comprehensive research on understanding them.

Goal setting

Make sure you don’t aimless begin a campaign without having SMART goals in mind. This means the amount you want raised, timelines, quantity of backers and so on.

Prepare the content

Ahead of launch, you want to prepare all of the marketing content so it’s ready to go. This includes planning what tools you’re going to use (perhaps a promotional video over a presentation?) and then get to work. it may also be a good idea to outsource the parts that could be better done by a specialist, as this can really enhance the effectiveness of the crowdfunding campaign. This of course isn’t a necessity if you’re at college and on a budget, as this may be your chance to show and prove your own creativity.

Communicate effectively

Not only should you communicate in a personal way (a good strategy to enhance relationships and feelings towards your idea or product) but also keep the communication on-going. This means being transparent and letting them know all the details. Hiding any information will likely soon be discovered and the word will spread. Honesty is key to gaining sustained social traction. This also means taking feedback on board and recognizing it.

Top 5 crowdfunding sites to help you fund your college project

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is by far the largest crowdfunding site. Its size means that there is instant credibility there to some degree, as well as it having a huge potential traffic and audience reach. The downside to using Kickstarter however is that the money is not kept if the goal isn’t reached – so it’s kind of an all-or-nothing scenario. Kickstarter takes 5% of the total funds raised in fees, as well as payment processing fees.

Patreon

Patreon is another huge platform, but it operates very differently to Kickstarter. The key difference is that it’s a subscription-based model, meaning you’re drip-fed funding each month. No one will take the money away from you if a goal isn’t reached, and monthly funding is great for cash flow. This has less viral opportunity, and instead is more of a network of charitable on-going support (there are opportunities to give Patreon supporters exclusive goods, services and content though). Patreon take 5%–12% of processed payments. This is the preferred method by the Youtube creators.

GoFundMe

GoFundMe is another big hitter which is great for quick funding. GoFundMe crowdfunds tend to be more focused on short-term projects. There is a very standard 2.9% processing fee as well as $0.30c for every donation. This is cheaper than Kickstarter’s 5% processing fee. GoFundMe has seen many successful campaigns that have ran into the millions. However, 0% of funding fees is charged on personal campaigns, unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

CircleUp

CircleUp is perhaps your best choice if you’re a startup trying to establish a brand. It offers equity capital and credit financing, so this is more professional-centric as opposed to individualized. This is a great choice to scale up, but you have to hit at least $1 million in revenue to list on their site, though this may not be as far away as you think for your project if other crowdfunding campaigns are successful beforehand.

Causes

If your project is a non-profit, then Causes may be your best option. With a focus on social and cultural issues, Causes provides a platform for those who want to make a difference. With almost 200 million users, its global reach is massive and could really help pick up your non-profit and create a movement.

How To Save Up For Retirement Without Breaking Your Head

Save Up For Retirement

The best time to start saving for retirement is now. However old you are, waiting is unnecessary. Even if you’re in-between jobs, putting a few dollars aside keeps the habit going and all adds to that 8th wonder of the world: compounding interest

However, getting started is difficult. Talk of allowances, annuities, inflation, maxing out 401Ks and diversifying your portfolio is a certified way of putting you off even beginning. The issue is that whilst these are things you want to become familiar with in order to prevent mistakes and optimize your retirement plan, they are not prerequisites to starting. That is the misconception, that only the sort of people that already know this stuff are those who can invest from a young age.

The jargon is certainly a barrier, but it can be overcome. Here are some of the most basic concepts you should know and some ways to invest as, say, a broke student. 

Easy, functional options for retirement saving

Automation is key

First thing’s first, pensions are at the core of retirement savings. Pensions offer the ability to have annual income until death, no matter how long you live, once you reach the agreed age of retirement. They can also be great ways to pay less tax and can be taken out early in a lump sum.

So, paying into a retirement plan is a clear necessity. If you’re employed, you can pay into a 401k (a pension pot, essentially) directly out of your pay. This means there’s no chance of spending the money first. Automated retirement contributions such as this are at the core of lazy retirement planning – nothing can go wrong and you can forget all about it. It removes the temptation – the choice – to spend it elsewhere.

Being self-employed or a non-working student makes this a little more difficult. However, you can still set up direct debits/standing orders into a 401k yourself and let money drip out of your account each month.

Another great tool is Robo-advisors. These are essentially companies (websites) that let you contribute monthly (or just a one-off) and they invest for you. They claim to be AI investors with an intelligent bespoke algorithm. They’re not. They’re nothing special. They invest in a mixture of bonds and index trackers that follow a few markets and they take around 0.5% as a cut. 

But reading up about Vanguard, making an account and doing the same with a few others doesn’t sound appealing. Robo-advisors are actually a great resource to get you started. You can let them take out fixed, monthly contributions from your account and you may end up getting a 6% return if the western economy does reasonably well that year. 

Annual returns can vary widely, from potentially losing money to getting over 10%, but considering they’re longer-term than one-year investments, they’re a safe bet with decent returns. Very few can beat the market, let alone when getting started so investing in the market itself (or a tracker that mirrors the market) is a great place to start.

Emergency fund

No matter how keen you are to start saving for retirement, you must keep some of your assets liquid. This means not tying up your savings in bonds that you can’t sell quickly, or savings accounts that you can’t access for 5 years.

Yes, these usually offer better returns. But always keep a month or two worth of expenses as either cash or easily accessed deposits. This is vital to giving you a safety net throughout your journey to retirement.

Learn frugality

The importance of whether your investments return 4% per year or 6% per year pales in comparison to being able to save more. Learning how to save on a small scale in everyday situations is what will lead to long-term results. For example, cycling to college instead of driving, learning to cook, not buying coffee at lunchtime.

Increasing your savings rate (% you save in relation to income) from 5% to 25% isn’t all that hard, but it could be the difference between saving $100 per month and $500. That’s around $100k more in savings over 20 years – but it would be more than that of course because you will have gained more from compounding interest too!

Frugality can become a subconscious mindset that will prepare you for retirement, where you won’t have enough money to be splashing out on eating out every day and such (compared to your working pre-children life).

Understanding tax relief

The government understands the necessity of having money at an old age, and how difficult this is when you cannot work. However, they also understand how expensive paying pensions are. To promote our efforts and focus on private pensions, there are tax advantages to saving for many of them.

The specific reliefs will depend on which country you’re in, but generally, there is tax relief on private pensions and many ISA savings accounts. This means you can reduce your taxable earnings in the now, by saving for the future.

When the future comes around and you want to receive your pension, there will likely be tax relief wherever you are. In the UK, 25% of your pension will be tax-free. It doesn’t matter whether you take it out in a lump sum or as annuity payments, the first 25% will be tax-free. Of course, if you’re properly retired and have not just taken your pension early, it’s unlikely that you will be earning enough to pay tax anyway, as there is a personal allowance of £12,500 (in the UK). This means you may end up never paying a penny tax on your pension. Compare this to the tax you would have paid if you didn’t save it throughout your life – you will have likely saved tens of thousands in tax. Saving for retirement is a marathon and reducing tax is just as important as making more returns on investments.

When Should College Students Start Looking for Their “Adult” Job?

Adult job

It’s something that every college student starts to stress out about during their educational career – when do you start to look for your first “adult” job? The job search can be incredibly time consuming and overwhelming. Many students might feel discouraged by their prospects, or maybe they’re expecting a job to fall into their lap just because they’re on their way to earning their degree. However, especially in today’s world where it’s not always what you know but who you know, job searches are much more about networking and pursuing opportunities with people you know or could potentially be introduced to. So, knowing that your job hunt might take a little longer, do you start to look for an “adult” job while you’re still in college? Or do you wait until you’ve graduated and have your degree in hand?

The Difficulties of Job Hunting

We live in a very connected world. Even if you’re able to find a job posting on a website or in the paper, it’s likely that the poster already knows several people or can be introduced to several people who are the ideal applicants. However, don’t allow yourself to be consumed by the doom and gloom rumors that all college graduates struggle to find a job. In fact, only 2.5% of college graduates are unemployed as of a January 2017 survey. That doesn’t mean the job search is easy or that there are jobs out there that are a perfect fit for everybody, but there are ways to deal with the difficulties of the job hunt.

It may be tempting to put off your job search until after you graduate. Logically, this might appear to make sense. Ideally, if you focus your time while in college on your studies, your grades will be better. Better grades mean a higher GPA, and that should mean a higher likelihood of finding an amazing job after you graduate. This logic is faulty. While GPA is a factor, most places of employment aren’t going to be scrutinizing your college transcript. Just seeing that you earned a degree is usually enough to qualify you for employment (unless, of course, you’re going into a very high tech or niche-specific field).

If we look at how job hunting works these days (78% of college graduates say that networking played the largest factor in finding a job after college), we know one thing for sure: it’s time consuming. So, the right way to go about your job search is to start as early as possible while you’re still in college. This will ultimately save you money in the long run because before any student loans or hefty post-college living expenses kick in, you’ll already be squared away with a salary-earning job. If you wait to start job searching until after college, it’s likely you’ll take a bit of time to do so. During this time, you won’t be earning money, you could potentially be going into debt to pay for your lifestyle, and you won’t be putting any money towards student debt, savings, or retirement funds.

Timing & Experience

Timing is, in this case, the most important factor in finding a job. You never know who you’ll meet at a career fair, at a panel interview, or during a networking event, and you can’t really orchestrate the meeting with your ideal employer. These chance meetings aren’t premeditated. This is the reason you should start hunting for your job early on, to increase your likelihood of being in the right place at the right time. Of course, timing these meetings or being able to bump into someone who wants to hire you in the right place at the right time isn’t easy – if only because it’s mostly outside your realm of control. Regardless of how difficult this seems, keep pressing on. Continue to apply, send emails of inquiry, and attend networking events to maximize the time you’re spending on your job hunt.

Experience is also a critical factor in your job hunt. It can be frustrating for college students when it seems like all entry-level jobs have a high experience requirement. One way to circumvent this is by attending events within the industry you’re interested in.

Get involved early – a year or more before your expected graduation date with volunteer work, internships, networking events, and more. Although you’re a full-time student, this involvement will show very clearly that you have experience in the industry, know about the employers you’re speaking with, and you’re ready to jump into the workforce after you graduate. The job search is a stressful time, but it’s also an exciting time! Take advantage of events in your area to put yourself in front of the people you want to work for and eventually you will be working for them after you graduate!

Book Review: Share or Die – Voices of the Get Lost Generation

I was recently given a copy of the anthology – Share or Die – Voice of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis. The book is a collection of stories, mostly written by young adults, about what it is like to grow up in Generation Y (Born after 1985) and try to find employment post-graduation.

I don’t normally review books here at Money for College Project, but this book is an exceptionally interesting read. Many of our readers are in Generation Y, or are just outside of it and can find very relevant lessons in this book. If you are interested, you can pick up up here: Share or Die: Voice of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis

Never a Better Time to Become and Entrepreneur

I have said this many times before: During college, or the period right after graduation, is the best time to start a business. Your expenses and responsibilities are as low as they will likely ever ben in your life, and a business started in your early twenties can set the tone for the rest of your life/career.

Gen Y is graduating into a very unique economic climate. The world is trying to upright itself after a global economic recession and traditional jobs markets are still faltering. The barriers of entry to starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur are lower than they have ever been.

The Internet has brought the world together, and therefore you are able to connect with like minded people from around the world to share ideas, brainstorm, and plan. You can reach targeted customers quickly and efficiently through online advertising and social media. You can sell digital products online or become an affiliate for someone else’s products. Start-up companies are even partnering with large corporations to head their research and development wings. Did you catch that? Large corporations are outsourcing the future of their business to the sharp minds of Gen Y!

It is our time!

Pack Up and Travel the World

Another main point in many of the stories shared in this book is the call to to pack-up your things and travel while you can. There is a lot than can be learned from travel, and from personal experience, I can attest that many important life lessons and perspectives can be gained by getting outside of your comfort zone. In particular, I learned a great deal about how the U.S. is viewed in other parts of the world.

I think it is very important to understand that there is value, beauty, and power in the world outside the shores of the U.S. It is very easy to get an superior imperialist attitude living here, and this perspective will aid you in your career moving forward. it may also open up opportunities to connect with new and exciting people and places. It might even turn into a job if you meet the right people along the way!

The Bottom Line

graduating from college and striking out on your own in 2013 is not easy, but there is hope. In fact, the future is brighter than it has been for some time and now is as good a time as any to start your future.

Start a business, travel the world, pursue your goals, just please….don’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself.

Get up and make it happen!

Lifestyle Inflation and Greedy College Students are Driving College Tuition Higher

lifestyle inflation

The news is filled with stories and data of rising tuition on college campuses. I have written about this very fact a number of times here on the blog. The talking heads on every major news channel mention it at least once per day and each person you listen to may spout out a number of various reasons why college tuition is continually on the rise.

“Experts” are so divided on this issue because there is not a clear cut answer. There literally could be a million internal factors that influence the cost of a colleges’ tuition, as well as the external factors of our national and global economy.

In researching this phenomena  and from working on a college campus, I have a hypothesis of why college tuition has risen so dramatically in the past decade: Lifestyle Inflation and Greedy College Students!

Lifestyle Inflation

I believe that “lifestyle inflation” or the 21st century version of “keeping up with the Joneses” is to blame for driving college tuition prices to unprecedented heights. College students are simply no longer satisfied with musty dorm rooms, and uncomfortable classroom chairs. College students expect to have multiple Starbucks locations on their campus. They want manicured grass and climate controlled buildings. They want spotless restrooms, and state of the art laboratory facilities.

Today’s college students expect to have sports stadiums which rival (or far surpass) professional teams. They want to have a gym facility with an indoor climbing wall, olympic size swimming pool, Zumba classes, and enough ellipticals to entertain an entire sorority.

College students also expect to have a car on campus, they expect to have access to social activities at every hour of the day, they expect their professors to bend over backwards to accomodate them within their office hours, and they expect to have private showers.

None of these conveniences and amenities are cheap.

To attract new students, colleges are forced to cater to these demands. The sad thing is that you will likely never get a student to admit that they crave the above luxuries. Even though they may not voice this opinion, their voice is heard loud and clear through their actions. They choose to go to colleges and universities which offer these amenities. The better the amenities, the higher the enrollment.

A Vicious Cycle

Many colleges are driven by their enrollment. Their budget is directly determined by the number of students they admit each year, and they do not receive funding from the state or other external entities. Colleges who live and die by the number paying students they have on campus each semester must do whatever is takes to attract their quota of students. Attracting new students means building bigger and nicer facilities, and providng all of the amenities mentioned above.

When college students (and parents!) walk onto campus for their college tour, they expect to find these things. Unfortunately, many students base their college decision on the level of the amenities offered by the college and not on their academic prowess.

Here is the vicious cycle: Colleges must provide these high priced amenities to attract new students, these amenities and facilities cost a great deal of money, thus driving up tuition costs, parents and students complain about high tuition costs and demand that colleges find ways to lower their costs.

The standard of living on a college campus has expanded to a level that colleges simply cannot keep pace with. Their attempts to keep pace have resulted in the skyrocketing of tuition rates.

As college tuition prices are driven higher by the insatiable desire of students for high priced amenities, student loan debt also continues to skyrocket. This is the predicament that we find ourselves in today.

Let’s take a step towards halting the rise of both college tuition and student loan debt, by eating more ramien noodles and accepting a moldy dorm room as your right of passage!

 

Bubba’s Hover Craft with Oakley for Golf Courses – April Fools Prank?

So this post is just for fun.

But for those of you who have not yet seen the video of pro golfer Bubba Watson driving his Oakley hover craft around a golf course, you need to see it!

bubba hover

If this is real, sign me up!

I don’t even play golf, but this would make me pay money to go to a golf course.

Being a designated driver has never been more fun!

If this is an April Fool’s prank; hat’s off to Bubba and Oakley. This is one of the more elaborate pranks I have see in awhile.

But also, kudos to them for thinking of an incredible ingenious idea that may actually work. If this is a prank  I can guarantee that someone will run away with it, and make it into a profitable business idea. Not a bad way to profit off of an April Fool’s prank (although, here is to hoping we will see it out on the back 9 next time we play!)

Florida Gulf Coast’s Server Crashed — Lesson in Website Traffic

florida gulf coast university

Admit it. You had never heard of Florida Gulf Coast University prior to their stunning upset victory in the first round of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

It’s ok. You were not alone. Nobody else in the world knew who they were either, which is why the servers which ran the Florida Gulf Coast Athletic Department website crashed multiple times on Sunday evening, after FGCU won it’s second game in the tournament to secure their spot in a Sweet 16 game.

The massive surge of traffic resulting from people trying to figure out who Florida Gulf Coast was, literally knocked their site offline.

Technical difficulties aside, that is incredible!

For a blogger, website mechanic, or anyone else trying to boost their traffic numbers, there are important lessons to be learned here.

From Obscurity to Priminence

Some times all it takes is one powerful event to get your name on the map. As a blogger, this might be one link from an uber popular and highly trafficked website. This might be a product endorsement from a major news outlet. This might be bad press that suddenly draws you into the spotlight. Whatever the event, be it good or bad, there are ways to harness this surge of traffic to your advantage.

Always be Prepared

You should prepare your blog or website like you are expecting a tidal wave of traffic at any minute, even if you have no idea it is coming. How can you do this?

  • Make sure your subscription and newsletter sign-up options are highly visible
  • Make sure you always have fresh content on your landing page
  • Make a landing page!
  • Keep your social media outlets up to date
  • Don’t put a “Welcome visitors from X” message on your site (It’s just tacky)

Have a Web Host With Excellent Customer Service

When your servers crash from a wave of unexpected traffic, your web host will become your best friend. The customer service number you may have never used will suddenly be on speed dial.

You also do not want to wait until your servers crash to determine whether your web host’s customer service department is up to snuff. I don’t suggest orchestrating a crash on your own site, but you should at least contact their customer service department with a routine service question to experience their response time and ease of use.

This way, when it hits the fan you will know you have an ally in your corner.

If you don’t already have a web provider, or you want one with documented excellent customer service, I highly recommend BlueHost.

Signup for BlueHost! (Affiliate Link)

I have used BlueHost for a number of years on this blog, as well as all of the other websites that I run and they have never let me down. In fact, they were able to restore one of my websites after I made a bonehead change and erased my entire site!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that we may never know when we can expect a massive surge of traffic. We can however, prepare to make the most of it if and when it does happen!

 

The Importance of Being Concise – Or A Writing Lesson from The Hobbit

By now you have all heard of the Apple Fanboys. If not, just Google it. Pretty funny…

Well, I don’t consider myself an Apple Fanboy, but I am most certainly a Tolkien Fanboy. Yes, I just made that up, and yes feel free to associate yourself with it if applicable…

Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Tolkiens other works have been some of my favorites since I was a kid. I loved the adventure, the characters, the relentless triumph of good over evil, and the full immersion into the fantastical world of Middle Earth.

As you can imagine, I was more than excited when Peter Jackson announced that he was working on developing The Hobbit into a movie. With the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was inevitable that The Hobbit would also eventually grace the silver screen.

Then I heard that Jackson had made the decision to split the book into two movies. I was a little taken aback, but I let it slide because of Jackson’s success with Lord of the Rings. But I was still skeptical, after all this is one single kid’s book right?

Then soon after that announcement, I was shocked to hear that The Hobbit would actually be broken into a trilogy. The Hobbit would now have the same amount of screen time as the 1000+ pages of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I heard dollar signs screaming in my ears. Can you say “money grabbing Hollywood bandwagon”? Then I went on to read that there are new characters, new plots, sub-plots not in the book, and WAY more details about the world of Middle Earth that are not in the original texts.

I could only shake my head in stunned silence.

I tell that story, just to say that there comes a point where it is critical to your success to be concise. Granted, The Hobbit has already pulled in $1 Billion, and I will pay go to see the next two movies in the theaters  but the fact remains that the essence of the story was gutted, because Peter Jackson did not know how to be concise.

Don’t Say 5 Words When 2 Will Do

When I first began writing one of the most difficult things for me to do was be concise. I still struggle with it. Every English teacher I ever had scolded me for being too wordy.

When I was working on my Master’s degree, my program adhered to the APA style which emphasized brevity, and being concise. I dearly earned my stripes trying to perfect APA.

Through my struggles to be concise, I constantly had to remind myself that my words could be powerful, but they were not as awesome as I thought they were. I did not need to write needless phrases just to hear myself talk.

Why do you think Twitter is so popular? Because people can express themselves in 140 characters or less.

Twitter = Forced brevity

Being wordy, adding fluff, and rambling are the death blows to quality writing.

Just remember that people want you to get to the point as quickly as possible. Don’t ramble, don’t add extra words into sentence to make them appear cool, and don’t add fluff content to boost your word count.

Practice being concise and your readers will thank you.

553 words later, I am done…..