Studying abroad is one of those dreams everyone has but not everyone can afford. But I’ve spent the last seven years ambling around the globe collecting tidbits of advice that can help you realize the goal of going abroad and doing it cheaply. When considering if, when, and where you’d want to study abroad, here’s some important things to consider:
Europe is beautiful but it isn’t cheap. Remember that there’s a whole world out there. And even if you study abroad through your college and have the pleasure of paying the same tuition to go abroad, remember that living expenses are significantly more expensive–in no small part because, excepting a few places like Czech Republic, you’ll be converting your dollars to euros. Simply put: your money doesn’t go as far. Also remember: the value of a study abroad program isn’t solely in the academics. You are abroad to learn about culture, language, global politics, and a social structure different than your own. I studied abroad in Ghana, where the classes were questionable. But the most valuable things I learned weren’t related to studies at all. And the best part? Ghana was cheap. Consider South America, the Middle East, and Asia as places to go, to learn, to scare yourself, and to pay less for it.
Think about travel expenses way ahead of time. Planning ahead can save you buckets, especially on plane tickets. As soon as you know where and when you’re going, make a reservation. Use comparison sites like Kayak.com to help. Other personal favorites: BT-Store.com and Mobissimo.com. Another consideration: be flexible in your departure/arrival times and what carriers you fly. Flying late at night or switching to a European or Asian airline could save you hundreds of dollars.
Forget phone calls. Technology means you can talk and see your family for free. Skype is the standard, but lots of instant messaging clients also offer video options. That means you can talk as much as you want and save your money for better things, like your education. One caveat: you’ve got to have internet that’s reliable enough to sustain video chat. Or even just voice chat. And from experience I can tell you: sometimes that’s hard to find. If you can’t manage, get a local cell phone and have your family call you via Skype-to-phone. It’s not free, but when compared to the cost of talking phone-to-phone, it’s almost nothing.
Consider changing your bank. If you’re studying abroad for an entire year, consider local banking options. Or switch to a domestic bank that refunds ATM fees even if they’re international. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars throughout my years of traveling on ATM fees alone by using Charles Schwab.
Get an ISIC card. If you don’t have one already, they’re great. You can find information on the card here. It’s not free, but it can help you save a lot of money on all kinds of things: hotels, tours, historical sites, transportation costs, museum tickets, even restaurants. The rule of thumb: once you have the card, show it everywhere you go. Sometimes places don’t advertise their student discounts. But ask and you might get one.
Someone once said you’d be a good graduate student if you can tell the time of day by looking at the traffic flow in the library. Or if the only thing separating you and your all-pasta diet from scurvy is a weekly box of Fruit Loops. But if that were the real measure, the entire fresh-out-of-college crowd would jump straight into grad school, telling their families how beneficial the twentieth grade would be to their future without ever evaluating it’s cost to their wallets.
That’s not to say graduate school isn’t useful. It just isn’t necessary for everyone. In some cases it could be a debt-burden without a lot of benefit. It pays, then, to know if you really need an advanced degree or you just want to go back to school because you miss it. Here’s how to gauge the difference:
What are the reasons you want to go back? If you’re intellectually curious and the cost of school isn’t an issue, then by all means enroll. Or if you’re looking for increased earning power and professional advancement in a field of study with job potential, then an advanced degree might be worth the cost even if you need loans to afford it. But the worst mistake we see is students going to grad school because they don’t want to enter the professional world yet and want to put of their search for a job. This just creates debt without the guaranteed ability to pay it later.
In light of the above, ask yourself: are you at risk of becoming a “professional student”? Again, this circles back to your motivations. Don’t just go to school because you have nothing better to do or just because you enjoy it.
Can you afford it? Graduate school is expensive. Fortunately most students qualify for some form of financial aid. In addition, many graduate programs offer fellowships or teaching assistantships that may cover some or all the cost of attendance. But that’s very school and field specific, so do all the research and know what aid is available before you pursue an education. It’s also very important to know what your earning potential will be once you graduate. Talk to alumni and search job listings to see what experts in your field make. After all, there’s no sense in paying $80,000 for a degree that won’t increase your pay grade as much as you need to cover that original cost.
Is your desired advanced degree program a practical one? While advanced degrees in academics and art are certainly beneficial in their own right, it’s much harder to justify them from a financial point of view. Job opportunities are scarce and therefore the return on your investment is slow. But advanced degrees in fields like business, law, medicine, and science not only increase your earning potential in an immediate kind of way, they’re also required for a lot of high-level, high-paying positions.
The point here is that graduate school is a wonderful opportunity to advance your education and pursue your ambition. Unfortunately it’s often expensive, meaning there’s a caveat: it’s not for everyone. And it’s probably not worth the cost if you’re just going for fun.
By: Doug Feirstein, CEO and Co-Founder, uSell.com
With the fall semester in full swing, like most college students you’re probably already in need of some cash. This time of year, after shelling out for books, dorm room accessories and a meal plan, chances are you’re fishing for funds anywhere you can find them.
The good news is: you’re not alone. With 45% of the average student budget going to tuition and room and board alone, according to a student budget breakdown by Westwood College, that doesn’t leave much for food, books, transportation and entertainment.
But before you go donating blood or hunting for loose change in the couch, consider this: you probably have old or unwanted gadgets just sitting in your desk drawer that you could be turning into spending cash. In fact, based on EPA estimates, over one billion wireless phones are gathering dust in households across the U.S.
And it’s not just cell phones that you can sell back. All electronics are worth something and there’s latent value in just about anything, from mp3 players to digital cameras, tablets, e-readers, even your old PlayStation.
Here are some helpful tips for making the most of your old electronics and turning trash into cash:
- Don’t procrastinate! I’m sure you’re used to waiting until the last possible second to do your laundry or turn in that English paper, but if you’ve been putting off trying to sell back your old gadgets, wait no longer. The older the device, the less money you’re likely to get for it, so be sure to trade in old items as soon as possible.
- Protect your stuff. Are you carrying around that smartphone or tablet without a case? Any physical wear and tear on electronics, including scratches, nicks, dents and cracks, will significantly decrease its buyback value. Protecting your gadgets now is an investment that will pay off down the road.
- Keep the extras. Be sure to hang on to any chargers, connection cords or other accessories your device came with, and if you can, the original box. This makes it easier for items to be resold once they’re refurbished which can add significant value. My recommendation? Put them in a clearly labeled plastic shoebox as soon as you remove them from the packaging, this way they won’t get separated over time.
- Skip the engraving! Whatever you do, do NOT engrave your iPhone, iPod or iPad. This kind of customization negates any resale value in the device. Make your gadgets your own by outfitting them with fun, colorful case instead.
- Shop around. From corporate buyback programs to peer-to-peer sales channels such as eBay and Craigslist, there are lots of different ways to earn cash for electronics, but the first offer isn’t always the best. Obtain multiple offers or go to a comparison-shopping site for electronic re-sale like ours to see which service offers the most cash for your goods. Plus, uSell.com’s 100% Max Cash Guarantee ensures consumers get the most cash for their items or we’ll pay you the difference.
Douglas Feirstein is the CEO and Co-founder of uSell.com, The Consumer Cash Commerce Platform™, that instantly finds the highest cash offers from top-rated buyers of cell phones and electronics.
The ideal employees: There are plenty of jobs available for college students on and around college campuses because we are the ideal employees that employers are looking for. Think about it—we have class only a few times per week, we are paying big bucks for things like tuition, housing and food so we need an income, and—hey—we’re smarter than we look. Even if you wind up serving pizza to your fellow students, at least you’re doing it while earning a degree.
Why work during school? First is the obvious reason, college students need the money. Second, depending on where you are working and what you are doing, it’s possible to apply what you are learning in the classroom to what you do for work. Biology majors should check out local research labs, journalism students, the school newspaper and education majors should look into tutoring—all excellent resume boosters. Finally, work experience fills up your resume. The jobs you have now will show your future employers the hard work you’ve accomplished and the skills you’ve gained through whatever kinds of jobs you’ve had. Whether it was mowing lawns in the quad or doing research to find the cure for cancer, every job counts!
Where to find the work:
- Look on your university’s student employment page. There should be plenty of listings for employers seeking out college students to watch their children, fill a position for a desk job, or serve coffee in a nearby neighborhood. Even if it’s not your dream job, it will still help pay your tuition bill.
- Extend your job search to on-campus, off-campus and work study (if you qualify for it). This will give you a greater number of options in your school’s area.
- Take advantage of your school’s career center and meet with a counselor for help with your resume, cover letter and interview skills. These people are paid to help college students find jobs.
- Check your department’s website or bulletin boards for any job openings. Jobs recommended to students of specific majors can be a great way to get experience in your field of study.
- Go to your school’s job fair at the beginning of the academic year. Bring a resume, dress professionally, and remember to smile when introducing yourself.
Hopefully I’ve helped you gain some insight on why you should find a job in college and where to look for one. Best of luck on the job hunt, and happy fall term!
Brittany is full time student and part-time writer for SavvyStudent.com and Portlanders.com
Published every three years, the College Board’s Education Pays report (last published in 2010) is a good reminder of what impact a higher education has on the life of a student. It contains all the same statistics you’ve heard about future earnings and job stability, which is a welcome reassurance that the price of college is still worth it, but the report goes beyond that and addresses the social and health impacts of getting an education. That’s right. Going to college impacts your health and the health of any children you may have. Read the full report or check out the highlights:
- From 1998 to 2008, the percentage of four-year college graduates who smoked declined from 14% to 9%, while the rate for high school graduates declined from 29% to 27%. That means college grads are three times less likely to smoke.
- The report says, “At every age, individuals with higher levels of education are more likely than those with lower levels of education to engage in leisure-time exercise.” The numbers are more compelling: 63% of four-year college graduates said they exercised vigorously at least once a week. Among high school graduates in this age range, it was only 37%.
- College grads are less likely to be overweight as they age. Among 35- to 44-year-olds, 23% of four-year college graduates and 37% of high school graduates were obese in 2008.
- Mothers with only a high school education are 31% more likely than mothers with a bachelor’s degree or higher to give birth to babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds (a low birth weight, which could have medical implications).
The point here? Going to college isn’t just about your ambition, your salary, or your job. Education affects the way you live. So stay healthy and get wise by going to school.