How to Actually Fundraise in College

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You’re hopefully back in the swing of classes, although summer vacation could not come soon enough. But it’s far from time to check out. If you’re intent on building your resume, you’re working hard at your classes as well as some extracurricular activities. But one of the hardest parts of staying active in clubs and groups throughout college is the constant pressure to fundraise.

College students aren’t exactly known for their expendable income, since paying for school itself is often a struggle. So you and your group members might not have enough to donate yourselves. Instead, you’ll have to get other people to part with their money, so you can keep playing lacrosse, raising awareness about local policy, educating disadvantaged kids, or whatever else you think will help you later on. Question is, how can you best fundraise in a college town?

Know Your Target

Ask yourself: who is most likely to support your cause?

Students might have little cash to spare, but they also probably have more school spirit than anyone else nearby. If you want to target students, you’ll have to give them some sort of tangible return for their support. Some kids might be willing to part with a couple extra bucks for nothing but a fuzzy feeling, but most college kids will respond best to food. Popcorn, pizza, or anything that you can make it bulk cheap is a good way to go here.

However, if you’re looking to solicit community involvement as well, then you might need to up the stakes. Adults in the community might feel a certain sense of pride about the school, but they’re less impressed by dollar pizza slices than your average sophomore. Consider their political leanings; if you’ve got a lot of concerned environmentalists in your town, try a green fundraiser. If there is a strong arts presence, consider classing up your fundraising.

Quantity or Quality?

When considering your fundraising scheme, consider if you’re aiming for quantity or quality. Are you trying to get a lot of little donations or several larger ones? The latter will require more effort on your part, but the payout for your organization could be great.

Here are a few “quantity” based ideas:

  • Have a bake sale. Consider some easy recipes like pancakes, cookies, or hot cocoa!
  • Create a GoFundMe account. This is a great way to get people from even outside your community to donate, like faraway relatives, but don’t rely too heavily on this one option.
  • Ask your school if you can sell concessions at upcoming games.

And a few “quality” ideas as well:

  • Ask a local business for support. Even if you can’t secure a one-time donation, you might be able to convince them to donate a percentage of their sales as long as it’s a worthy cause. Lots of business do just that to help fundraise for pets, world hunger, and literacy programs. Your club can do that too!
  • Hold a dance! Social events are always appreciated on campuses. You can go for casual or formal, but college kids rarely get the chance to dress up, so you might have an easier time with formal.
  • Offer your services to the community. As a group, all go rake someone’s leaves, mow their lawns, fix their plumbing, whatever it may be. With so many of you, the job can get done in a few hours max.

These ideas will vary depending on your fundraising goals and how many people you have involved, but they’re a good place to start.

Consider Teaming Up

On college campuses, there are a lot of involved young people. Many are trying to make a significant change in their community, and there is no reason you both can’t help each other out.

If you’re part of a gender-divided sports team, consider asking the other side if they want to team up. If you’re an environmental group, there’s probably another one on campus that could use some money as well. Greek houses are always trying to fundraise, so make sure to pick their brains! They’ve got to be experts by now. Sometimes, two minds are better than one.

Of course, the returns on this strategy diminish the bigger the other group is. If they help out a lot, the other group might want more of the money than you’re prepared to give up. But you shouldn’t dismiss this option right away; give it some serious thought.

Fundraising is always a surprise, especially in a place as unpredictable as a college campus. You never know who is going to feel school-spirited or giving that day. The best you can do is approach this problem as a unit and commit to putting your all in it. Because if you’re not going to fight for your club, who is?

How to Begin the Job Hunt if You Are Graduating

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Students throwing caps in the air at graduation

With only one semester left, college seniors, it’s time to start thinking of the big question, “What comes next?” For the majority of us graduating, that means starting our first real job hunt. Whether you’re a total newbie with no experience or you’re looking to transition to a six-figure career, here’s what you need to do when you’re searching for the perfect post-graduation position.

Consult Your Career Services Office

Most colleges have some career services offerings out there, and you may be surprised at what they can offer you! To start with, they can help you narrow down your job search and find the niche you’re made to be in. Then, they can help tailor your applications so that you stand out. And when you’re given a position, they’ll be there to do mock practices or offer feedback. And, believe it or not, a great career office will even help you negotiate your first salary!

a monthly planner

Set Up a Calendar

Another fun fact about the career services office is that they often hold events just for upperclassman on the job hunt. It may span from low-key, one-on-one meetings with hiring managers to large-scale job fairs that attract hundreds of businesses. If your college doesn’t offer these, check your community or look at professional trade organizations for similar events.

Update and Edit Your Materials

Your resume is the most important weapon in your job application arsenal. It should be continuously updated and crafted to meet your industry’s standards. You’ll also want to do make sure your reference list is current and that everyone you may use is aware your name is going out there. Finally, practice writing out a cover letter that is both interesting and easy to tailor to the job you’re applying for. When you’re done with the first draft, edit and edit again until it’s perfect.

a professional business card

Stock Up on Thank You Notes and Business Cards

It’s the little things that matter when you are putting yourself out there. While email thank you notes are sufficient, you may also want to bring out an old-school technique of a handwritten card sent to your interviewer. Business cards have the same effect, especially if you’ve got them ready to go at a networking event. The bonus is that both thank you and business cards are cheap, easy to make, and always handy — even after you’ve landed your big break.

Tailor Your Interview Suit

The perfect look is essential. That means everything you wear to your interview needs to be made for you. This is the one area where we don’t recommend skimping on price. Grab the best looking suit in neutral colors and have it professionally tailored so that it fits your body like it was made for you. Add shined shoes, toned down makeup, and thoughtful accessories, and you’ve got a complete look that’s ready to wow your interviewers.

Your final semester is an important one. It’s time to reflect and to look ahead. When you’re ready to rock your job search, getting your affairs in order is a must. From creating an eye-catching resume to settling on your professional look, you can get ahead by starting now.

Black Friday Deals for Students to Look Out For

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Shopping mall during a busy hour

Fall break is here, and we are thrilled for some rest, relaxation, turkey time, and shopping! Black Friday isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we’re personally stoked for scoring some major deals. With the holidays on our mind and a budget to keep, we’ve got our eye on eight specific items that are must-buys when you’re in college. Here’s our shopping list to help you get started.

  1. Blankets and Bedding

Snuggly and warm go on massive discounts come Black Friday sales. Score new fluffy pillows for under $10. Maximize your warmth with heated throws for pennies on what you’d normally spend. Freshen up your dorm look with inexpensive quilts and flannel sheets sets. When it’s on sale, you can give your room a makeover.

     2. Summer Clothing

It may not be advertised, but Black Friday is almost always the time when stores push all their unpurchased summer clothes to super clearance. Score on basics like t-shirts and tanks. Find a cute dress or two to add to your wardrobe. And don’t forget about replacing your shower flip flops!

Apple and Mac products on desk

     3. Laptops and Tablets

Here’s a pro tip: this is pretty much the only time you’ll get discounted Mac and Apple products, tech fans, but it won’t be much. Instead, consider standing in line for a very inexpensive, yet durable Chromebook or tablet as a stand-in. It’s perfect for college student needs, and you can often grab one for under $200!

     4. Entertainment Tech

When we think of Black Friday, we think of TVs. But a new flat screen isn’t the only thing we’re picking up this year. Headphones, especially big brand names, are always price cut. And don’t forget speakers, game consoles, and Blu Ray players.

     5. Fitness Gear and Clothes

Ahead of New Year’s resolutions, stores start to push activity and fitness items out the door come Thanksgiving. Popular items include activity watches, workout armbands for your phones, hand weights, yoga mats, and running shoes. At least you’ll work off your turkey calories.

     6. Movies and Games

We sometimes find Black Friday to be a crapshoot when it comes to smaller entertainment items, but not this year! So many stores are putting out deep discounts on movies and video games that we actually want to own. There’s even talk of Cyber Monday deals with downloadable movies from sites like Amazon!

French press and coffee mug

     7. Kitchen Appliances and Utensils

This is the time to replace your mom’s old coffee maker or that rice cooker that’s on its last limbs. With appliances going for as little as $10, you can buy a lower brand model and then replace each Black Friday for the same price or less as an expensive version.

     8. Jewelry and Accessories

Besides cheesy gold and silver mom-type jewelry, accessories don’t get enough hype this shopping season. But if you know where to look, you can find statement pieces that are totally your style. A great trick is to go to a clothing store you love and browse their selection. More than likely, they’ll put a sale ticket on small items like jewelry and you know the style will be close to what is already in your closet.

There you have it – our list of the top deals you should start scouting out for Black Friday! Let us know where you find the best deals and who you were able to cross off of your holiday shopping list!

Campus Style on a College Budget

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High-end fashion shopping spree

Staying up on fashion trends is one of our top hobbies. But paying for clothes off the runway, at boutiques, or through our favorite designers has us entirely at a loss. How can you be as fabulous as can be when you can’t afford to wear what’s in? We break down 10 ways we’re keeping our style within your budget — spending little (sometimes not even a penny) on the latest trends.

  1. Throw a Closet Party

We grow out of our clothes faster than we like to think. That’s why throwing a closet party with your most fashionable (and closest-in-size) friends is a fast way to find new clothing staples. The rules are simple: bring clothes to exchange and only take the number you brought yourself. Whatever is left over can be donated to a local charity.

     2. Rent Directly

There are a ton of businesses who make bank allowing you to rent high-end designer pieces. The prices can range from $20 to $100, but you’ll get a thousand-dollar (or more) look without anyone knowing it isn’t yours. For those very special occasions, this is one of our go-to options.

hangers found in closets or thrift stores

     3. Go Thrifting

Thrift stores are everywhere — and with good reason. Many of them specialize in designer pieces, specific sizes, and high-quality goods at unbeatable prices. Make an afternoon out of it, and visit a couple to score some great deals! Find one that fits your style, and most importantly your budget.

     4. Re-sell and Profit

Did you know you can sell your old clothes and then use the profits to buy new pieces? Sites like eBay and Polyvore are crazy-addictive, and they make a great side hustle for frugal college fashionistas with a good eye for what’s on trend.

     5. Borrow from a Fashionable Friend

Find your new BFF: Best Fashionable Friend. Your wardrobe will love the updating, even if temporarily, and you can bond over pieces you see in magazines or on your favorite celebrities. It’s a win-win!

clothes organized in a dresser drawer

    6. Build a Capsule with What You Have

Minimalists will tell you that capsule wardrobes are a must. Build a wardrobe with staple pieces that are simple and high quality. Once you check off the pieces you need, then you can use Pinterest and minimalist sites to make hundreds of outfit possibilities!

     7. Check Resale Groups

Facebook and Craigslist are awesome places to find a deal on new clothing. Just be safe about what you buy. Always use cash. Pick up in a public spot, even bring a friend. And do your research on if the piece is real or fake before you purchase.

     8. Become a Clothing Couponer

While extreme couponing for clothes isn’t as easy as it is for groceries, you can get good discounts on clothing when you know where to look. Ebates, for one, gives you cash back for online purchases. Loyalty programs can alert you to exclusive discounts. And don’t forget your college ID! Stores like J. Crew offer a percentage off when you show it at the checkout.

     9. Hit Up Salvation Army and Goodwill

The time it takes to double check for stains and tears is worth it when you can find pieces like gently worn Lululemon for 75 percent off or Kate Spade dress for under $20! Go on discount tag days for even bigger savings.

    10. Make Your Own

Who says you must wear only designers? Recreate your favorite looks by following patterns and buying a used sewing machine. A class, experienced friend, or YouTube tutorial can show you the basics. In no time, you’ll be designing your own wardrobe!

While in college, staying on top of the latest fashion trends is one of the most important things. Spending within your budget can pose some unique challenges. Let this list serve as a starting point for more creative ways to look fashionable and save money!

Setting a Budget for the Remainder of Your College Career

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counting quarters when budgeting

Welcome to adulting! It seems fun at first, but it’s also pretty risky. There’s a lot that can go wrong — especially with your money while you’re in college. The best way to protect yourself from debt or pesky fees is to set up a budget.

Here’s how you can make the best one possible in just a few easy steps:

  1. Gather Your Supplies

Before you get started, you’ll need your paperwork. Get a hold of a copy of every bill you pay regularly. Some frequent ones include your car insurance, phone, credit card, medical bills, debt to your parents, gym membership, Netflix subscription, etc. If you live in an apartment, bills would include your rent and utilities.

2. Categorize Everything

Then, if you use a debit or credit card, look at your complete spending statements from last month. Write it all down or print it out so you can categorize it. Our most common categories include Housing, Phone/Cable/Internet, Transportation, Food, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Insurance, Debt. Giving, and Savings.

Take those receipts or statements from your bank and start to give everything you spent a category. Eating out goes in Entertainment. The shoes you bought is classified as Lifestyle. Your credit card bill is in Debts. Do this until you’ve got a full picture of every dollar you’ve spent over the last month.

making a budget spreadsheet

3. Look at Your Income

Next, look at your paychecks, as well as any extra regular money you make from side jobs like babysitting or allowances from your parents. This is defined as income. If it’s not steady (say you work hourly or get tips), round down an average to be safe.

Compare your income and your total spend from last month. Does it cover your bills? If yes, then you’re doing great and proceed to step five. If not, move on to step four.

4. Get a Reality Check

Overspending in college is a huge issue and we rarely fail to see it until it’s too late and we’re short on cash. Now that you know you’re in the red, you need to act. Go back to those categories and see what you can cut. You can probably do without daily coffee or another new outfit in your closet every single month.

For example, if you’re consistently short $100, take $10 off of each category or cut out your shopping habit altogether. Can’t cut anything? Time to make more money with a side job or extra hours!

5. Give Yourself an Allowance

One great way to keep yourself within your budget is to ditch the cards and go cash only. I know — crazy! But it works, especially for overspenders! Having cash will make you think twice about those splurge night outs. And it will help you visualize your money. Use envelopes, clips, or even dividers in your wallet for your categories.

If you’re not comfortable carrying large amounts of cash, you can set up checking bank accounts or a reloadable Visa gift card for your big spend items (like eating out or shopping).

Start saving, even if it is just a piggybank!

6. Be Wise With the Extra

Now is the time to pay down your student loans. If you pay while you’re in college, even a small amount monthly, you’ll save HUGE on the amount owed when you graduate. No student loans? Get investing! Open a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA and save for retirement. Or open a traditional savings account and save for that future expense like a new car or your study abroad. When you know how to budget, you can afford to treat yourself.

Taking the initiative to establish a budget while still in college is one of the most important money-conscious actions that you can take. If you can abide by a stricter budget while in college, it will be a breeze post-graduation. Not only will you feel like a million bucks by having your finances under control, you will be well on your way to saving that million!

Managing Finances in College (Plus, Win $1000!)

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Money. There’s a good chance that, if you’re in college, you don’t have much of it, and you probably don’t have much experience managing what you do have. Whatever your financial situation, college is the perfect time to learn the basics of budgeting, saving, and investing for your future. Here are some steps you absolutely must take to manage your finances. Read on, and learn how you could win $1,000 through OCM’s Room Goals contest!

 

Keep School Costs Down

Did you know that the average student graduates with over $37,000 worth of student loan debt? That’s a year’s worth of salary for entry-level workers. Incredibly, it can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to pay it all back — especially if you’ve got high interest rates.

Though your debt could end up being much less — or much more — there’s one step you should consider taking now: Pay something towards your loans every month! It could be a few bucks a month or a couple hundred when you get it.

Though it may seem like a waste of money to start paying before you actually receive your first bill, it’s actually a very smart idea. By starting your payback now, you can significantly lessen what you owe by paying down the principal before it starts accruing interest. A payment of just $5 per month can mean way more now than it will once you start getting regular bills.

 

Apply for Scholarships

Believe it or not, scholarships aren’t just for incoming freshmen. In fact, far from being the time to coast, now is when you should be ramping up your scholarship search! Apply everywhere and anywhere. Look in your community’s newspaper, on bulletin boards on campus, and on scholarship search sites. Plan on applying to at least ten scholarships a week, if not more.

 

The trick is to apply for scholarships that may be overlooked — ones that are $250-1500 range. While that may not seem like a lot when you have an insane tuition bill, several $1,000 scholarships can add up quickly!

One scholarship you simply can’t forget to apply for is OCM’s Room Goals scholarship. All you need to do to apply is submit a photo of your awesome dorm room and some info to be considered. It’s that easy — no tedious essay necessary!

 

Learn to Budget

Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard or complex. With little bills and income, we promise you that budgeting in college will only take about an hour each month to do. All you’ll need are your pay stubs, your monthly bills (like car insurance and phone), and a calculator.

First, write down how much you typically make in a given month. If you don’t have a regular income, or if you get tips that can vary from day to day, take an average or your best guess. Then, write out and total up your bills due. Next to each bill, write a due date, and then put that due date in your calendar so you don’t forget. Now, subtract your bills from your income and that is what is leftover for things like groceries, eating out, school supplies, and fun. Make categories that reflect your life and money goals and give each dime a place to go.

 

Open the Right Financial Accounts

You should have two bank accounts: checking and savings. These should be at banks that are close to campus and have online access. You should also have a debit card for at least your checking account.

If possible, set up your bills to auto-draft the amount from your checking account to your savings account each month. There are also apps like Qapital and Digit that will do it for you if you have a tough time pulling the trigger. Learning to save money while you’re in college will help you build a foundational good money habit.

 

Understand Financial Basics

Before pulling the trigger on anything financial, it’s a good idea to make sure you fully understand the terminology, methods, and costs. Grab a book from the library, take a financial literacy class, or read some blogs by other millennial money experts. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll be managing your finances.

 

4 Ways To Go From Dorm Drab to Fab (Plus, Win $1000!)

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We love watching home remodeling and decorating shows, and we’re big on pinning stylish spaces on our Pinterest feed. But even with all the inspiration and know-how, we still need some help making our plain dorm room go from drab to fab.

Transforming your room can be one of the coolest parts of living in the dorm. But did you know that by being yourself and expressing your own, unique style, you could win a $1000 college scholarship? Pick up some decorating tips, then head to the end of this article to see how you could win big with OCM’s Room Goals contest!

 

Find a Fun Rug

While you may think it’s the bedding that draws everyone into a small space like a dorm room, it’s really the floor! But dorm rooms are notorious for dated linoleum or scratched up tiles. Say no more to cold feet and hideous floors by finding a stylish and practical rug.

ocm-dorm-room-rug

Because they are larger in size, they can really help tie in a look or theme. Like the vintage look? Go with a patterned, light colored rug. Need an explosion of color? Go bold with blue, purple, red, and black. Whatever your look, a rug is the perfect highlighting piece for your dorm room.

 

Incorporate Wall Art

Years of wear and tear can make a dorm room feel run down. And who wants to be reminded by old holes in the wall or tape marks that you’re not the first to live there? No way! Instead, make your room completely yours with wall art that is expressive.

One of the best ways to make wall art stand out is to mix up sizes and styles. Add a large, inspirational message canvas with smaller framed pictures of your friends at the beach. Hang your favorite movie poster with string lights. You can even make wall art functional by adding shelving underneath or using framed mirrors.

 

Add a Wall Tapestry

Tapestries are coming back big-time this year thanks to the boho look. Hippy styles are totally on trend, which means you’ll want to look out for mandalas and tie-dye in a mix of earthy and vibrant colors.

ocm-dorm-wall-tapestry

Placement matters when it comes to tapestries. Our favorite location is across from windows where it will get natural light or serving as a makeshift headboard for the top of your bed. This will draw the eye to your personal space.

 

Experiment with Removable Wall Paper

Shhh… don’t tell anyone else, but the best, easiest, and cheapest way to completely make over your room is by using removable wall paper. It doesn’t take much time or effort, but by using wall paper on a focal wall (the largest blank space available), you can take a blank canvas and reimagine it completely.

Don’t be afraid to go big with your wallpaper. And play around with color or printed texture matched with your bedding. The best part is that if you don’t like it, it isn’t permanent. When you want a change or the semester ends, you simply remove it and start over again!

 

 

Don’t stop with just these four tips! Go for your own look and share it with OCM. One stylish dorm room will win its owner a $1,000 tuition credit and a ton of bragging rights. Want to learn how you can enter? Check out the Room Goals contest to see how you can enter your made-over dorm room here.

How to Have a Productive and Fun Summer

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It’s finally summer. And since you know that you only have so many summer vacations left, you’re prioritizing relaxing and reconnecting with friends and family! It’s time to fit in everything that you couldn’t during the school year when you were too busy to even sleep. Now, everything is a little slower paced.

Except, soon enough it’ll be August, and none of your goals will be accomplished. This isn’t to say that you don’t have anything to fill your time now. You probably have a summer job or internship and are visiting old friends. But that doesn’t mean you have no chance of achieving some long-procrastinated goals. The truth is that you can have both, with some careful planning. Summer is the perfect time to have your cake and eat it too. You can read those books you were supposed to in high school (and now realize weren’t just a waste of time), travel somewhere new (so you’ll have something interesting to say to your new roommate), or lose that freshman fifteen (or sophomore 20, we don’t judge).

Write Down Your Goals!

It might seem useless, but writing down your goals makes it more likely that you will achieve them. Writing them down not only shows more commitment than simply envisioning it, but it also ensures that your goals will be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). While it’s easy to think things like, “I should read more this summer,” or “I should work out more during the summer, since I don’t have to get up early,” it’s a lot harder to come up with actionable goals. When you’re writing goals down, you’re forced to confront the fact that your goals aren’t very SMART. Instead, you’re more likely to write down something like, “I will read three novels this summer” or “I will work out five days a week for an hour.”

Perhaps most importantly, this will let you know see whether or not you’re overburdening yourself. If you have a goal list 10 pages long for the summer, this might not be a summer vacation, and that’s a priority too!

Plan Trips Ahead of Time

You’ve only got a couple more weeks until the end of summer, but you’re scheduled to work some extra shifts. That’s okay you’ll make some moolah right before the start of the semester — no problem, right? Until your friends call you about an impromptu camping trip, and you’re stuck between scrambling to get your shifts covered or missing out on one last hoorah with your friends.

It’s a crappy situation and one that too many ill-prepared college kids find themselves in. It’s even worse if you’re only in town for the summer because then the pressure is really on to both make money and spend as much time with friends as possible. It’s much easier if you plan out your trips in advance. Obviously, this can’t be a reality in all circumstances, but you should do with as many summer trips as possible.

Also, planning ahead for trips will let you account for your goals! Everyone accounts for work schedule changes, but keep in mind whatever schedule you have built around your goals as well. Of course, it’s not impossible to stay fit while traveling, and learning a language while traveling can be ideal! However, there might be some goals that you have that are more difficult to do, like making money to pay for tuition. Plans you have for those sort of goals might need to be accelerated when you consider travel plans.

Pad Your Resume

If you don’t have a job or internship, there are other valuable ways to gain experience. You can volunteer for various organizations, write for online magazines, or do online classes. The experience you’re looking for will depend on your niche, but this summer doesn’t have to be completely useless. You can use it to get ahead.

With this step in particular, though, make sure that this is an experience you will enjoy. Summer should be at least somewhat relaxing, and no one wants to start fall semester already burnt out. It’s important to pad your resume with experience, but it’s also important to take a moment to enjoy yourself.

Summer shouldn’t be a productivity wasteland, but deciding how productive you want to be is up to you. Some people see this as a great time to get ahead. Others just need to take a month and reset. However, don’t fall into the trap of getting absolutely nothing done. It can be easy to fall into the habit of doing nothing, but accomplishments and experiences will make your summer, not Netflix binging. Focus on the end goals, and you’ll have your best summer yet.

Where Should You Live Next Year?

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Are you already counting down the days until the end of the semester? Probably. While Spring Break might have given you a brief reprieve, now you don’t have anything to look forward to until summer. But with all that scurrying to finish your Spring Break homework, it’s also time to consider another issue: where are you going to live next year?

You might think you have plenty of time to figure that out, but college towns have a unique renting situation. Since they are often empty for those summer months, students usually attempt to line up their living situation well in advance, and you should follow suit. This allows you to avoid stressing during the summer, as well as attempting to find a place to live when you can’t physically view the property yourself.

 

You’ve probably already got an idea of where you want to live next year, but here’s a checklist to see where you best fit:

What’s Your Budget?

College is already expensive enough. The exact numbers will vary depending on your university and the town, the reality is that tuition is only going to go up. When factoring the cost of other expenses, you’ve got to learn how to be thrifty.  Where you decide to live has the most impact on your overall budget.

Don’t just compare the price of your dorm versus rent. Living on-campus typically requires or comes with a meal plan and your utilities are included in that price. When you’re living off-campus, that’s not the case. Make sure that you read the fine print on any legal document, as there may be hidden fees.  It’s usually less expensive to live on campus, barring a couple of exceptions. The more roommates you can recruit, the lower your overall cost will be. If you can get your monthly groceries to add up to less than a meal plan, there’s another money-saving opportunity. Save coupons, stock up at your parents’ house, and keep an eye out for events on campus!  Lots of events feature free food or other amenities that you can take advantage of.

Location, Location, Location

Do you like to sleep in to the last possible moment, then dash to class five minutes before it starts? Or do you want to be equal distance from both work and class? Or do you not mind the extra morning walk? These are the sort of questions that you need to ask yourself and consider how important location is in relation to cost.  While it might feel like you live at the library at times, no one on campus has that central of a location.  Besides work, you might frequent a gym, a park, or a restaurant, and you should those into consideration as well.  While it’s probably good for your studies to be close to campus, you need to remember to have fun too.  Being close to somewhere you can relax and pursue other interests besides school is important as well.

It’s crucial at this stage to consider your mode of transportation. If you have a car, then a “reasonable distance” is different than if you’re only relying on your own two feet to get you around. Additionally, check to see if your college town is bike-friendly. If so, you can get around farther for cheaper, and this will open up your range of options.

Socialization

Alright, this is where some real lines get drawn. How much are you willing (or need) to socialize with people? Maybe you’ve lived a year in the dorms and couldn’t stand living in close quarters with another person. Maybe you’ve realized that not everybody can handle living with their best friend. Some people are just more introverted and need more alone time. Others just need a quiet environment to focus on their studies, and since you will likely be doing most of your homework at home… Well, it might not be the best idea to live next to a frat house if that’s the case.

On the other hand, if you’ve committed to living with roommates, then you’ll also have to take into account their personal preferences. If they have a car but you don’t, for example, you can see where your priorities might differ. Make sure to have a discussion with them well before you sign any leases or agree to anything binding, and try to make a compromise that’s fair for all parties involved. Understand that living together is a difficult situation, no matter which way you cut it, so if you want too different things, then it’s probably a better idea to find another roommate.

Alternative Options

Don’t limit yourself to only the traditional apartment as your only off-campus option. Look into mobile homes or RVs- while this might sound crazy, plenty of cities have college-based RV parks. This allows students to leave cheaply and have an asset to sell after college if need be. It’s definitely a smaller space than an apartment, but maybe not by that much once you factor in that you’d be splitting that space with roommates.

On the other hand, this requires more up-front funds, whereas with an apartment you usually pay a portion of the rent monthly. While you will eventually see a return on that money, it’ll be a long time before you can reap the benefits. If you don’t have that type of cash on hand to start with, that can make an RV-sized investment impossible. Obviously, this is can be a big investment for a college student, so make sure that you’re prepared.  This isn’t the type of commitment to take on lightly, just like college itself.

Some people even get their room for free! You could try to find a family nearby to nanny for, or figure out another way to leverage your time and skill for a reduced rent. In Portland, Maine, a nursing home doubles as a free college dorm. Be on the lookout for opportunities like this (like continuing to live with Mom and Dad)!  However, none of these options offer the traditional college experience.  If that is important to you, this might not be the best way to go.

It can be so easy to get tunnel vision and only focus on the end of this semester, what with end-of-the-year events, summer plans, and, oh yeah, finals. However, it’s important to plan ahead for next semester, even though it seems forever away. Take a moment and access where you fall in these four categories, so you can be sure that you’re making the right call. You’ll be happy you took the extra time to think this out, trust me.  [Read more…]

Smart Black Friday Buys for College Students

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black friday college buysWe’re all about Black Friday! The tradition of getting up at the crack of dawn to go shopping is tailor-made for us, especially if it means saving a TON of money on college essentials. If you’re shopping on what is arguably the best deal day of the year, here’s a list of smart Black Friday buys for college students.

1.    Headphones

We’re all about Beats, but we’d take any on-ear, Bluetooth headphone in a chrome or vintage color (such as rose gold or wood look). If Beats aren’t in your budget, even with Black Friday deals, try Skullcandy or JayBird.

 
2.    New Dorm Bedding

With winter semester looming, we’re going to need some bedding that can withstand drafty dorm rooms. Load us up with cute quilts, fleece throws, or flannel sheets. Darker colors work for the winter look, but white is extra comfy for a hotel feel.

 
3.    Slippers and PJs

We’ve been walking around our dorm community in our high school pajamas this whole semester. While we love comfy, we’re getting embarrassed by the holes in our slippers. Fleece, please. It’s extra soft and warm.

4.    Upgraded Storage Solutions

After the holidays, we’re coming home back to campus with loads of new gifts, but nowhere to put them. We’d love if you snagged us some storage cubes, tubs, or under-the-bed systems. Desk and closet organizers also go a long way.

 
5.    Upscale Pillows and Mattress Toppers

Sleeping on uncomfortable dorm mattresses has taken a toll on us. A feather-down or hypoallergenic pillows for our neck and ultra-luxurious mattress toppers to make our sleep more pleasant.

 
6.    Chromebook or Tablet

We’re loving how affordable it is to use computers today. We can make a tablet like an iPad to take notes, write papers, or collaborate with our classmates. But if we need a new computer and cash is limited, Chromebooks are equally powerful and totally college-friendly for a fraction of the cost of a MacBook.

7.    Winter Clothing and Gear

Believe it or not, but we spend a ton of time outdoors walking to and from class, to the cafeteria, or even to the gym. That means we need winter and weather-proof gear that can withstand snow and below zero temperatures. Load up on parkas, boots, and gloves!

8.    Smartwatches

We love wearable technology, especially if it helps us be more productive. Apple watches are all the rage for those with iPhones, but we also love Fitbit HR2’s that track our steps and send us text messages while we work out.

9.    Essential Appliances

We would love to wake up to the smell of coffee in the morning. A single-cup coffee maker or an electric pot would keep us from having to spend a small fortune at Starbucks this morning. Rice cookers and blenders can also help us stay healthy and keep our eating at home in our dorms.

10.  Holiday Décor

We want to get into the holiday spirit as well! A small Christmas tree with a few ornaments would make us feel warm and bright, and we could use some dangling lights and tinsel to up our décor style.