• The truth about federal student loans

    by Vivianna Loza

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    Everyone always says that the last option you should take when paying for school is getting a loan. Of course, this discourse is only strengthened by the horror stories of people paying their loans off for years due to interest, and of families having to pay off their loved one’s debt after they die. However, while it is something to consider seriously – as it is a long-term legal commitment – taking on a student loan doesn’t have to be scary. Educating yourself on the differences, expectations, and protections for different types of loans will help you make smart decisions.

    Private Loans vs. Federal Loans

    Before you get a student loan, it’s important to learn the difference between federal and private loans. A federal loan is a loan offered by the government while a private loan is offered by private organizations – usually banks, credit unions, and state organizations. Federal loans offer benefits such as multiple types of repayment plans and fixed interest rates for undergraduate students and graduate students. Private loans do not always offer fixed interest and are often more expensive.

    Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized

    I was terrified when I realized that I was going to have to get a loan to pay to attend graduate school. I was lucky enough to have a full scholarship for my undergraduate degree and received enough grants to cover my other expenses. So, when I received an offer for an unsubsidized federal student loan through my school, I was apprehensive but happy. Then I started doing research.

    I was shocked to find out that only undergraduate students are offered subsidized federal loans, loans that don’t accrue interest while the student is in school. With an unsubsidized federal loan, the interest accrues even while students are in school. But I discovered that the interest rate for this loan was low and that I could pay off that monthly interest while enrolled. That way it does not get added to the original amount loaned out.

    Understand All Options and Expectations

    Before accepting your first federal student loan, everyone must complete entrance loan counseling to help you understand exactly what the loan entails, the type of payment plans offered, and much more. It was relief to learn that I would get loan counseling.  This really set my mind at ease and made me feel secure when accepting the loan.

    Everyone’s experience when contemplating getting a loan is different. Some people are lucky enough to have sufficient resources to afford school without a loan, while for others it is their only option. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it is a tool to help you on your journey. Do your research beforehand and remember to always consider a federal loan before a private loan. You can learn more from the Federal Student Aid website.

     

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  • Life in college as a DACA beneficiary

    by Vivianna Loza

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    College can be a tough experience for first generation students and even harder for those that don’t have the safety of citizenship. As of 2019, there are more than 825,000 DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, in the United States. 

    DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy that allows Dreamers  – young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children – to apply for 2-year renewable protection from deportation to a country where they did not grow up and many do not remember. 

    I recently interviewed a DACA beneficiary – who will remain anonymous for her own privacy – on her college experience. She was brought to this country at the age of three and has called it home since. She has limited memory of her time in Mexico and identifies herself as an American. She received a Bachelor of Social Work in December 2019 from the University of North Texas (UNT) and is currently studying to take her state social worker licensing exam.

    What was college life like as a DACA beneficiary?

    “I had just started college when the Trump administration tried to get rid of DACA in 2017. We were all in a panic when that happened. The rest of college was spent concerned about what I was going to do if it was gone indefinitely. My mom rushed to call the organization that helped us apply to see if anything could get done, and we renewed it ahead of time while multiple courts sued to bring it back. I spent a lot of time rushing to graduate, going to UNT and NCTC – a local community college – so that I could graduate early while also being involved in various organizations. From the moment I got a job in 2017 (I couldn’t work sooner without a work permit), I didn’t stop going to school full-time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. Even now, I fear what may happen next.”

    What were some challenges that you faced?

    “There’s always that constant paranoia of ‘how am I going to get treated if this or that classmate finds out? What am I going to do if I have to drop out and can’t work at my job anymore? How am I going to pay for school supplies, parking, and my DACA application?’ Sometimes I had to miss my classes when required DACA appointments, like getting fingerprinted, fell on days I had class. I couldn’t just reschedule because then what if it took too long and my DACA expires and I can’t renew on time for my job?” 

    “DACA takes a mental toll on a lot of people. We can’t just do whatever we want. I’m essentially eight and a half years away from losing everything I worked hard for. There’s nothing set in place for those that age out.”

    How was college different for you than for citizens?

    “Like all DACA students, I don’t qualify for any federal financial aid, so I mostly pay out of pocket, rely on college scholarships, or any state grants. UNT does their best to make sure DACA students don’t feel alone. The school sends out emails talking about the legal counseling services they have available and information about guest speaker events concerning DACA and immigration. They’ve always kept us updated on any resources we may need.”

    What would you like others to know about DACA?

    “DACA isn’t free. You have to pay to apply for the program and pass a background check. To qualify you had to have been here before 2007, be under 30 years old, and it must be renewed every two years. DACA is just a way for us to be able to go to college and have a job. We pay our taxes, for the application, and our driver licenses every two years. It’s not cheap. Most of us came into this country with a legal visa. Many people have been waiting decades for their citizenship. Us Dreamers just want to be given the same opportunity to show we’re not criminals. We work hard for everything we have.”

    DACA is a reform that benefits thousands of people living within the U.S. as it helps them feel safe in their own homes. It can also be beneficial for the country as a whole. For more information on DACA, please check the links below.  

    US Citizen and Immigration Services DACA information

    DACA Litigation Timeline – National Immigration Law Center

    Dream Act of 2017 Bill Summary

     

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  • Beyond graduation: Head straight to graduate school or wait?

    by Vivianna Loza

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    Recent college graduates in some majors may be questioning when to begin working toward a graduate degree or if they should be getting one at all. Like many other things, this is a topic with varying opinions. I’ll be talking about what options look best for certain people and why I am going straight into a master’s program. 

    Jumping Right In

    Many students make the decision to enroll in graduate school straight after completing their undergraduate degree. Here are three reasons why this could be a good idea (1). First, perhaps you’re younger and have more energy to put into your education. Second, it could help you define your goals if you are still unsure of them. And third, you can study with people closer to your age. Another reason for starting a graduate program sooner rather than later is that you’re already in “school mode,” so the transition will be much easier (2). Also, you know where you stand in your life right after graduation. If you take a two year or longer break, who knows where you will be? Finally, it’ll put off the stress of having to start paying back those pesky loans and then going to get more. 

    Waiting to Pursue

    Other students decide to wait a few years to start a graduate program, and there are just as many advantages as going straight in. This could be beneficial for you for many reasons, including if you want to change career paths. It could also be good because you’ll know for sure what you want, have more work experience – which some programs ask for – and possibly be able to pay for it yourself without loans (1). Waiting also gives you the option of changing your mind in what field to master in and perhaps being able to have your employer help fund your degree (2). 

    Should I Even Get a Master’s Degree?

    Many people wonder if getting a master’s degree is even worth it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, each advanced degree you get means you have higher pay and more job security. However, it is not necessary for all job routes. Analyze the pros and cons of master’s programs and what they can do for your career to help you in deciding if graduate school is the right path for you. 

    Why I’m Not Waiting

    I seriously debated whether I should head straight to graduate school after graduation. I would also like to go to law school one day, so I didn’t know if a graduate degree would be necessary. However, as I got further into my major – International Business and Economics – I realized how much more I’d like to learn about that field. I began researching double JD/MBA programs. I was wary of doing this though, as getting a law degree along with a master’s would be seriously taxing in all aspects. Also, I didn’t know what I would do in my time off, since school has always been my life. It was not until I found an 11-month master’s program that I even considered going straight into graduate school.

    Here are the top three reasons this choice is best for me. First, I am already used to having a full schedule. Second, it would make it possible for me to still take a year break and graduate from law school before I’m 30. And third, it makes me a more diverse student, which could help me stand out in my law school applications. So going straight into graduate school is a choice I decided was better for me and my future.

    The bottom line is this – you should make the choice based on what is best for YOU. Of course, take into account the opinions of those around you and the factors that affect your life, but ultimately it is your decision. In the end, whatever you do will be amazing. 

    Resources

    1. https://www.mastersportal.com/articles/275/should-i-study-a-masters-degree-right-after-a-bachelors-or-later.html 
    2. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/031915/should-i-go-grad-school-after-college.asp

     

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  • Living your reality after studying abroad

    by Vivianna Loza

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    Most students who have had the opportunity to study abroad say it is an amazing and magical experience. However, time flies when you’re abroad and before you know it you are back home. Re-acclimating to your old life can be really difficult. So, here are five things you can do – abroad and at home – to make coming back a little easier. 

    Keep a Journal

    You experience a lot while abroad and it can be hard to keep track of everything you do and see. The easiest way to avoid forgetting parts of your experience is to keep a journal. Take a few minutes every night to describe the day’s highlights in a journal or in a document on your laptop. Journaling helps you unwind after a jam packed day and is a great way to immortalize your experience. Looking back to your journal after your trip will help you remember all you did. You can also share your journal with family and friends when you’re tired of recounting your study abroad story for the millionth time.

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  • Find Your Perfect Program for Studying Abroad

    by Vivianna Loza

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    I’ve always wanted to travel and learn about other countries. Being an International Business student, I’m lucky enough to have to go abroad. Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity that everyone should consider doing, regardless of their major. However, with this opportunity comes many scrutinizing details to pick over beforehand. I hope to give you some insight on things like what type of program to go on, how long to go, and how to prepare once you’ve decided.

    Faculty Led

    This type of program is the best for first-time or timid travelers. It’s somewhat structured, with still a fair amount of free time depending on your school. With this program, you go abroad with one or multiple professors that teach your course. This program is the cheapest option of the three and has varying duration lengths of 3 weeks up to 10 weeks. Here, your credits will come directly from your school. If you’re scared of venturing off on your own, or have never been abroad, this type of program is a great option to consider!

    Affiliate

    The affiliate program is great for those who want to have more independence while abroad. In this type of program, students go to a foreign school that’s affiliated with their own. You’ll still have a somewhat direct connection to your school, but will have the freedom to do what you want most of the time. Normally, there’ll be no faculty from your school with you, but it’s a possibility. An affiliate program is more expensive than a faculty led program, but generally cheaper than an exchange program. The duration is usually between a 5-10 week summer program, or a semester. Your credits will either come from your school or be transferable from the affiliate school. This program is great for more adventurous travelers.

    Exchange

    An exchange program is what most people imagine when they think about studying abroad. In this type of program, students go to study at a foreign school with no affiliation to their own. Students have complete freedom, and no true connection to their school while abroad. This is the most expensive option with the longest duration time. The shortest program length is a semester, while the longest is a full academic year. In this program, your credits will be transferred from the school you choose. This program is great for people that wish to fully immerse themselves in another culture.

    Where to Go?

    You’ve decided what type of program you feel comfortable going on and that you can afford. Now, how do you decide where to go? Your school’s study abroad website will most likely have specific locations for each program, but which to pick? Go to the country that you’ve always wanted to visit. If you’re going to go abroad, you might as well go somewhere that interests you! But keep in mind that certain locations might make the programs cost more than others.

    Now What?

    Most schools require you to apply to your program because of limited space so sign up as soon as the application becomes available. After you’ve completed all of the paperwork, have all of the program information, and you’re just waiting for the program to start, you’re done, right? Wrong! Depending on your school and program, you may have to buy your flight to and from the program. Get this done as soon as possible. The earlier you buy it, the more you save. Plan beforehand as much as possible. It’ll save you from stressing out while abroad.

    Now you’re ready, so go out, see the world! It’s going to be an adventure, make sure you make the most of it. To learn more about study abroad, visit your school’s study abroad website.
     

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  • The magic button of "Help me solve this"

    by Vivianna Loza

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    Everyone always has that one class that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get the hang of the material. For most people it’s a math or science course, and I am no exception. Accounting, Managerial and Financial, was that class for me. Accounting is math on a whole other level. It’s a full on different language, which makes reading and answering the problems challenging. Most of the problems take multiple steps to answer, so if you mess up one step you are going to have trouble getting the final answer right. Thankfully, the MyLab programs have a helpful solution. The “Help Me Solve This” button on my homework saved my life.

    A magic button

    This magic little button is an amazing tool that can be easily mis-valued and unseen as it’s under the “Question Help” tab. It gives you a similar question to the one you’re working on for you to solve, while explaining the steps and processes as you go. You get two chances to answer each step and if you are unable to answer correctly it will give you the correct answer. You get hints before each step to help you get the answer right the first time. You’re walked through the demo problem in its entirety, but you can exit out at any point if you feel confident enough to finish your homework problem on your own. The best part is that you can click on it at any point of problem solving and can utilize it as many times as you want.

    Unlimited uses

    I used this aid on every single homework set that I was assigned. It was my holy grail. My favorite part was the hints, because many times I knew what to do, but had something simple like a formula wrong. I also appreciated that I didn’t have a limited number of times to use the button. If I was still having problems, I could go back and rework the “Help Me Solve This” problem. I would even write down the steps as I went, to ensure that I would know how to solve my actual homework problem. This was also beneficial when studying for my tests, because I could learn the steps that I had written down.

    Found everywhere

    Though I’m emphasizing my use of the “Help Me Solve This” button for MyLab Accounting, I’ve also used this tool in various other courses. For example, you can use it in a similar way with MyLab Economics, Finance, Business Statistics and more across all subjects! It was also beneficial on MyLab IT for my Business in Computer Science course, and I expect to use it in my Marketing by the Numbers exercises with MyLab Marketing.

    This tool has helped me in so many of my classes and I don’t think I could have done as well without it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to use this tool. It is extremely helpful and there for a reason. Pearson wants to help you succeed and that’s why it is there. So, the next time you need help, give it a go! You’ll never know how useful it is until you try it.

    Pearson Students: What tools do you use to help your grades? Share by commenting below!

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  • Color code your life: How to make planners more efficient

    by Vivianna Loza

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    “Having a planner is great!” – you tell yourself every semester. You can write everything down and never forget what’s coming up! Except for when you forget to write things down, check the planner or even write in it at all. As students, we want to be able to stay on top of our busy schedules and use as many tools as possible, including planners. However, students often don’t know how to properly use them. Here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me use and check my planner more efficiently.

    Color Code Your Planner

    I know what you’re thinking, color coding is a lot of work; yet, it only takes a few extra minutes out of your week. The easiest way to color code your planner is by assigning a color to each class you take. How do you choose the color? Match the pen color for each class to the color of the notebook/binder for each class! Using the same color for each individual class creates a link in your brain, which makes looking at your planner take up less of your time. Last minute assignment? Keep the colored pens in your pencil bag so you’re always prepared. Don’t forget to set a specific color for your personal life events, such as black or dark blue.

    When to Color Code

    The best time to color code your planner is at the end of your first week each semester. At this point you have your syllabi, all your notebooks or folders – meaning your class colors are already chosen – and you know what assignments lie ahead. It’s easiest to fill in your planner while following your class order. For example, fill in Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes first and then Tuesday/Thursday classes. Do one class at a time and make sure to double check the syllabus’ assignment calendar.

    How to Check Your Planner

    The hardest part of having a planner is remembering to check it. An easy way to remember to check your planner is by decorating it! Setting aside five minutes Saturday or Sunday night to add a sticker or stamp to the upcoming week’s page can save you from forgetting important events or assignments. Decorating also allows you to make your planner feel more personal and fun. If you’re looking for a more efficient way to check your planner, try highlighting exams, quizzes, and important personal events. This makes truly important things pop-out and not get lost in the jumble of your everyday life. You can also add a separator to quickly find the current week.

    These tips and tricks have helped me better use and check my planner. Taking a few extra minutes out of your week to color code, decorate, or check your planner allows you to better control your life. Hopefully this can help you use your planner more efficiently and maybe you can add some of your own tips to this list.

     

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