4 Ways to Make College More Affordable

So you’ve decided to get a college degree, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of eating Ramen noodles for every meal. Well, don’t worry. By creating and sticking to a budget, you can potentially avoid that all-too-common “broke college student” scenario, and maybe even have some money leftover to eat out.

As you prepare for the school year, it’s important to not forget key expenses. In addition to tuition, supplies, and financial aid, also be sure to consider:

  • Housing, food, transportation and other necessities, especially if you will need to make any changes to your location or lifestyle
  • Reduced wages as a result of working less while in school
  • Emergency savings for unplanned events

With a little research and a strategy that looks closely at your expenses and your income, you can figure out how best to finance your education.

Here are four tips for back-to-school financial planning:

1.  Figure out your expenses

The best way to know your future financial requirements is to examine your current expenses. If you pay most of your expenses with a credit or debit card, an online budget tool can be helpful. Look at online tools like Mint (or if you prefer not to give a third party your information, try an application like BudgetPulse.)

When you see your spending and can categorize it, you’ll be able to see how much your regular expenses cost, such as housing and transportation. You’ll also have the information you need to make choices about where you could spend less — and free up more money for tuition or supplies.

2.  Explore financial aid options

There are two main kinds of financial aid: the kind you don’t have to pay back (grants and scholarships), and the kind you do have to pay back (student loans). The U.S. Department of Education offers a general guide on the different kinds of financial aid and how to responsibly manage loans once you have them.

Grants and scholarships

This type of financial aid is an award of money that you don’t need to pay back. Grants are usually need-based, and the Department of Education offers a variety of federal grants for different kinds of students. Scholarships are usually (but not always) merit-based.

You can search for scholarships on sites such as Scholarships.com, The College Board, and Fastweb. Some scholarships invite anyone to apply, while others are available for much smaller groups of applicants.

Eligibility for scholarships can be based on veteran status, ethnicity, organization affiliation (for you or possibly a relative), winning a contest, overcoming past adversity, and many other factors.

The sites listed above offer you many ways to narrow down the options and find scholarships with requirements you may meet. In addition, the U.S. government and various organizations offer special grants and scholarships for military families  and for veterans and dependents.

Student loans

Student loans are a type of financial aid that you do have to pay back. Interest rates and terms can be very different between private and public loans and even between lenders. The Federal Trade Commission’s guide to private and public loans  is a great place to start studying the different options available.

The Department of Education’s guide to fraud and identity theft is also full of helpful information to help you make the best choice possible and avoid scams. The government offers both private and public student loans, but your bank or credit union may also offer private loans too.

When considering student loans, don’t forget to figure out how much you’ll be paying per month during school or after graduation. The Department of Education’s Repayment Estimator is a great place to start figuring out if the loans you can get are worth taking.

3.  Decide if you’ll work while you study and how much

Understanding your expenses and financial aid options will make it easier to see if you need to work throughout school or if savings plus grants and loans will be enough. Review your job responsibilities and needs, together with finances, to decide how many hours you’ll have available for work and how much time you can set aside for your studies.

If you’re looking to advance in your current field, your employer may offer tuition reimbursement. If you’re looking to switch fields, it may still be worth asking if your employer will offer you a limited or flexible work schedule.

4.  Make your budget

Once you know your expenses and what money you’ll have available from work, loans, grants, or other sources, you can create your budget. It can come in lots of forms: a handwritten list, a spreadsheet with formulas, set categories in an online budgeting tool, or even the classic cash-centered envelope system for financial planning.

If you’re on your computer or phone pretty often, an online version might be best. If you find it easier to work with ink and paper, use that method. Once you have your budget set, revisit it every three to six months to see if you should move money between categories.

Budgeting for school can be summed up with this equation:

  • Take your existing budget
  • Minus any expenses you can cut
  • Minus any changes in your wages
  • Plus grants and student loans

Make use of helpful online resources, learn about financial aid options at your school, and check in with your current or potential employer, and you’ll be well on your way to getting all of the benefits of higher education.

CollegeAmerica offers a wide variety of degree options in healthcarebusinesstechnology, and graphic arts. Call 1-800-622-2894 or visit www.collegeamerica.edu today to learn more.

3 Reasons a Healthcare Career Could Make You Happy

 

Are you interested in a rewarding, satisfying career that helps people and provides opportunities for advancement?

Explore a career in healthcare, either in direct patient contact or behind the scenes in healthcare administration. With a career in healthcare, you’ll be able to help people, enjoy expanded career horizons and greater job satisfaction, and put your skills to use in a fast-growing field.

According to U.S. News, 40 of the top 100 careers for 2014 were related to healthcare. These rankings factored in such important components as salary, job security, and work-life balance, and projections indicate these careers will continue to grow.

In short, the time couldn’t be better to start a career in one of the many areas of healthcare.

1. A growing field

Along with fantastic career opportunities, healthcare professionals are at the very forefront of the ever-changing field medicine.

The nature of science, research, and medicine is that there will always be new treatment options available to patients. Doctors and their staff have many choices to offer.

When you work in the medical field, you are able to help patients on their journey to wellness.

2. Helping others

Working in healthcare offers the unique benefit of giving you a genuine sense of satisfaction in your work.

There are few careers that offer such immediate fulfillment. You’re often able to see the impact of your work when patients are treated in your office or hospital.

3. Showing compassion

When a patient seeks care from a doctor, it can be a scary experience. The terminology is confusing, the options are not always clear, and the potential costs can be daunting.

If serious health issues involved, the patient may experience extra stress. But properly trained, compassionate medical professionals can alleviate the patient’s concerns and make them feel at ease.

You could be the first and last point of contact for patients, or you could work in administration and be instrumental in determining how the office or department runs and how the policies they adopt will affect patients and their care. Both options provide opportunities to help people when they’re vulnerable and are important functions that can change the lives of patients.

So whether you want to work with kids or the elderly, in research or records, in administration or directly with patients, a healthcare career has something to offer you and can enrich your life and improve your happiness at work. With so many options and opportunities, now is the time to pursue a career in healthcare.

CollegeAmerica offers a wide variety of degree options in healthcare, business, technology, and graphic arts. Call 1-800-622-2894 or visit www.collegeamerica.edu today to learn more.

How to Break into the Website Design Industry

Sometimes getting a job in graphic design or web design might feel like a catch-22.

In order to get a job, you need experience. But to gain experience, you need a job. How can you break in if you’ve never had a job in web design? With the right educational background, you can make it happen.

Here are five tips for how to break into this growing, fulfilling industry.

1. Freshen up your skills

The simplest way to stand out is among your competition is to make the best product, and that means staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends.

With technology always changing, being on the cutting edge is crucial. Be sure to study the latest trends and keep your programming language skills current at all times.

2. Hone your portfolio

The stronger your portfolio, the easier it will be to sell potential employers on your skills. You need a body of work that shows potential employers you’re good at building apps, presentations, and user interfaces.

Upper level web programming and mobile app development classes teach you what you need to know, and typically send you off with projects you can add to your portfolio.

3. Give it away for a while

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get hired right away.

One of the best ways to find work is to volunteer. Does a local non-profit need help designing an app to help organize its volunteers? Are any online businesses looking for a web design intern?

Even if you have to keep your “day job” for a little while, building experience through volunteer work takes you a step closer to landing a full-time gig.

4. Apply skills at internships

The best thing about internships and volunteer work is that you get employer feedback without the risk of being actually employed.

As you volunteer, take the opportunity to apply the best practices you learned in your classes, and listen carefully to the feedback you get from clients. Does the app do what the client needs it to do? Is the design what they were hoping for? This is the time to learn how to use the skills you learned in class to please a client, and maybe even earn a referral.

5. Nail down a freelance or contract gig

Once you’ve started designing websites, programs, or apps for clients — even if you’re doing it for free — you’ll have the work experience and references needed to apply for a full-time position. If you realize you enjoy the flexibility of choosing your own projects and clients, you can start charging for your contract work and keep working as a freelancer.

Jobs are opening every day in web development and graphic design. It just takes some education, a little experience, and plenty of creativity to land a satisfying position.

To find out more about how to get started on your way, check out CollegeAmerica’s web design and development programs.

10 Steps to Success in IT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It can be daunting to start a new career path, but breaking things down into smaller parts can help the process become much more manageable. With that in mind, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to illustrate what a career path in information technology might look like. Here’s to taking your next step!

1. Finding the right program

IT is a large and interesting field. Whether you see yourself working behind the scenes as a computer systems analyst, managing a team as a systems manager, or troubleshooting security issues as an administrator, figuring out your area of interest is an important first step.

Consider whether you’d prefer to work alone, with colleagues, or with clients. For instance, solitary workers may prefer programming tasks, while team players may like to work setting up small business networks. Here are some resources that can help you keep up with the changing job titles for IT.

2. Finding the right school

The next step will be researching the schools you’re considering attending. Do you prefer to take classes online or on-campus? Will your class schedule need to be flexible in order to fit around your current job? How much are you planning to spend on your education?

You may want to browse specific course offerings online. CollegeAmerica offers a variety of IT programs and degree levels.

You can also schedule a campus tour with an admissions consultant or get in touch with current students to learn more about their experience and how they plan to use their degrees. If you have financial questions, explore your financial aid options with a financial planner.

3. Perfecting your application

IT program applications usually require transcripts from your high school, personal information, and sometimes the answers to essay questions. Review your application carefully and speak to your admissions consultant if any questions come to mind along the way.

When you’re writing your admissions essay, think of ways you can set yourself apart and highlight your unique skills. Be sure to have a trusted friend or mentor proofread your application, and don’t forget to submit it on time!

4. Make connections with mentors and peers in your field

Once you’ve begun your IT studies, begin building your professional network by being vocal in class, creating study groups with other students, and taking your professors up on their offers to help. You never know: the new friendships you forge now could turn into potential employers down the road.

5. Volunteer your time and take on new projects

When you are just starting out in IT, build your skills and gain experience by helping friends, relatives, non-profits, or other community groups with their IT tasks. Doing so not only feels good—because, hey, helping out feels good—it also helps you practice communicating with others about technology while giving you hands-on experience with coding, network troubleshooting, and/or website building.

6. Begin charging for your services

Once you’ve practiced doing work for free; consider entering the world of paid IT services! Whether you’re offering services as an independent contractor or scouting for entry-level positions, make sure to research current jobs and salaries in your local area. Check in with mentors and fellow students to see how others are marketing their skills.

7. Network, network, network

As you search for jobs in IT, there are many different ways to put yourself out there. Invite local tech leaders out for coffee to pick their brains about their work and learn of possible job openings. Stay active with college IT chapters and alumni groups. Attend conferences and panels organized by leaders in the IT industry. Connect with people who share your interest in IT and you’ll grow your understanding of the field as you build a path to employment.

8. Make sure that potential employers can see your qualifications

While a job application can certainly get your foot in the door, don’t wait for an opening to market yourself. Build up your online profile, create a website that features your resume as an easy download, and provide samples of your work (if applicable).  All of this ensures that employers can easily find you and your job skills.

9. Stay current and keep applying

Don’t be afraid to contact businesses that aren’t currently advertising positions–it’s always good for them to have your resume on file. Keep your web domains active and up-to-date, while also requesting that friends and colleagues “recommend” you for certain skills on online networks like LinkedIn. You never know when a recruiter will stumble upon your profile!

10. Success!

Through your years of hard work, dedication, and careful resume building, you’ve now found your dream job! Pay it forward by mentoring the next generation of IT professionals, continuing to stay involved with industry organizations and events, and staying current on the changing IT landscape. Your new journey is just beginning.