How to Avoid Costly Mistakes

As you are preparing to go to college, you and your parents have done all the research for the best college, purchased all the items for your dorm and considered the best options to pay for college. Some people say learning from one’s mistakes is part of life; however, it can be costly in the long run. We recommend that you take some time researching about borrowing for college before taking any loan.

You have the power of knowledge in your fingertips with technology and the internet. We hope to provide you with a few tips on how to avoid some mistakes during your educational career when it comes to borrowing.

FAFSA, FAFSA…fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is mandatory for financial aid office to award any type of financial aid. The types of financial include grants (federal, state and institutional) and federal student loans. You will need to complete this application process every year for the financial aid office to award aid. If you do not submit the FAFSA to the school every year, then you will not receive a dime in financial aid. Place a recurring reminder on your calendar so you remember to complete the FAFSA.  The FAFSA is available each October 1st for the next academic year.

Some types of financial aid are available on a first-come first-served basis, so it is crucial that you submit the FAFSA as early as possible. Another mistake to avoid is to not submit any inaccurate information as it can impact the amount of financial aid that is awarded. Proof and double check your entries on the form to save time!

Free Money Options

Federal and private student loans may be a must to obtain a higher education, but you should understand that you will need repay loans with interest. Scholarships and grants are free money. You probably applied for scholarships during high school, but it does not end there. During your years in college, search and apply for Wentworth Endowment Scholarships as well as for national and local scholarships. Free money means less money in loans you need to borrow!

Understanding Private Student Loans

Many of you will need to take out a private loan to cover the difference of your costs and financial aid. You need to do your research on the lenders who offer private educational student loans. These loans may have higher interest rates and less flexible terms than your federal student loans. These loans do not offer forgiveness options. Think of these loans as your last resort.

When applying for the loans, you do not have apply or request the maximum amount allowed. You will need to pay interest on all the money you borrow. More importantly, interest will continue to accrue throughout the 4 years that you are enrolled in college and will continue throughout the repayment period. The interest can add up considerably for the lifetime of the loan.

Research the options that best fit you and your needs. Do the work at the beginning of the loan process by comparing lenders and rates. Read the terms and conditions of the loan carefully. Wentworth has a historical list of lenders, but you can use a lender that is not on this list. Research some of your options at elmselect.com.

Tips:

  1. We recommend you start the application process early on as you may need to find a co-signer. The process may involve a few steps and days to be approved.
  2. Be sure to read the eligibility requirements of the lenders as some of them require at least half-time status or you must be meeting SAP (Satisfactory Academic Process).
  3. Communicate with your Billing Counselor if you have questions about the amount to request on the application, and the refund process and timelines.
  4. Ask your lender if you have questions about the terms of the loan.
  5. Discuss your options with your Financial Aid Counselor. Ask questions if you are unsure of what dates to use on your loan application as the Financial Aid Office certifies the funds to be sent the school based on the dates you indicated on the application.
  6. If you elect to use different lenders throughout your educational career at Wentworth, keep in mind you will have multiple monthly payments after graduation.
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Feeding Student Success

Many students experience a time of food insecurity-the lack of reliable access to sufficient amounts of affordable, nutritious food.  In the Survey of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities, one third have seen hunger and homelessness on the rise with their students.  Locally and across the country many universities have created resources to help students who may need help with their next meal.

In December of 2017, thanks to a generous food drive donation from the Wentworth community, the Student Service Center opened the Leopard Food Pantry with this initial donation.  In doing so we sought to fight food insecurity in the Wentworth community, providing shelf stable products and personal care items for any member of the community who is in need.

Many students have visited the Leopard Pantry since December and we welcome those who need help with their next meal to visit the Student Service Center.   There is no required statement of need or special protocol, you just need to be a member of the WIT community with a WIT ID.  A member of our staff will meet with you to help determine dietary needs and put together as much or little as you need. You’re welcome to visit as much as you need!

We welcome donations from the WIT community and ask that when donating to pay attention to the following:

  • Only shelf stable products (soup, pasta, canned proteins, beans, fruit cups)
  • Personal care items (razors, soaps, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)
  • Donations that have at least six months until expiration.
  • Gluten free and vegetarian selections are very popular requests.
  • Individual sized items rather than large family sized products.
  • Keep an eye open for Leopard Pantry postings on the TVs around campus for specific items needed.

We look forward to our second year with Leopard Pantry and don’t hesitate to visit if you are in need or want to donate.

Leopard Pantry hours are: Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm or by appointment. Feel free to contact us LeopardPantry@wit.edu

How Investing Can Benefit You in the Long Run

When you hear the word investing, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you probably don’t know much and just have this idea of people in business suits running around Wall Street monitoring the stock market, eagerly waiting to see if they are going to become millionaires or lose all their money. Although it might seem like a very complex thing to do, investing your money has many benefits and you don’t have to be a Wall Street millionaire to do so.

The main reason you can make money investing is because of something called compound interest. The simplest way to convey the power of compound interest can best be seen through the chart below, provided by the The Motley Fool article titled “Why should I invest?”.

The chart below shows how a single investment of $100 can increase over time. The different return rates at the top correspond to different forms of investing. The Motley Fool states “5% is what you might get from a certificate deposit or government bond, 10% is the average stock market return, and 15%-20% is what you could get from picking your own stocks to invest in” (1). As you can see, the earlier you start investing, the more money you can possibly make by your retirement.

Investing Chart

But how do you start investing? Where do you buy and trade stocks? Do you have to constantly worry about monitoring the stock market? Thankfully in today’s world, there are many ways in which you can start investing. “Robinhood” is a mobile app that allows you to buy and trade stocks without charging you any fees. You can invest in large companies such as Tesla or Microsoft or even smaller startup companies. This application is best for people who want to research company’s and monitor their stock values during the week. If you don’t want to research and constantly monitor the stock market you can try automated investment apps such as “Wealthsimple” or “Wealthfront”. These applications invest and manage your money for you. You can deposit a couple of dollars a month and the applications will buy and trade stocks based off questions you answer when you sign up. “Wealthsimple” allows you to open an account with no minimum balance whereas “Wealthfront” requires an account minimum of $500. Both apps have their pros and cons and charge a management fee once your portfolio (account) has reached a certain amount of money.

Like many things in life there are risks when it comes to investing, but thankfully there are many apps and resources on the internet that can help you expand your knowledge and understanding of basic investing. So, what are you waiting for? investing has many benefits and through practice, research, and proper investing habits, you could make a lot of money by the time you retire.,

Best regards,

Gabe, LeopardCents Ambassador

Works cited

Staff, Motley Fool. “Why Should I Invest?” The Motley Fool, The Motley Fool, 16 May 2008, Accessed 3 October 2018.

 

Buying Textbooks… Saving Cash!

 

One of the biggest costs incurred by college students is the purchase of textbooks for your classes each semester.  Here are some timely tips we have collected to help you save some money from www.studentdebtreleif.us:

Buy Used Textbooks

Before you resort to buying brand-new textbooks for any course, always check to see if you can find used textbooks.

Where to Buy Used Textbooks

Used textbooks are the perfect, money-saving alternative to new textbooks, if you get your money’s worth.

In Person

One of the best ways to find cheap textbooks is in person, where you can handle and see the used books for yourself. Many college towns have student bookstores that buy and sell textbooks, and there’s likely one on campus if you attend a major university.

Online

Although buying in person has its benefits, you might be able to find the book you’re looking for at a lower price, or even in better condition, online. You won’t be able to handle or inspect the book yourself, though, so be careful which websites and sellers you use.

Avoid Unnecessary Textbook Purchases

A little-known college secret is that you might not need every piece of material on your syllabus. You’ll likely receive a list of required materials before the term starts, along with the recommendation to stock up right away–but that isn’t always a good idea.

Identify Unnecessary Materials

Many professors pad their syllabuses with extra books or “recommended” textbooks that you won’t use, or only use once. If you’re trying to save money, there’s no reason to spend $80 on a book you won’t need to succeed in your course. If a book is listed as “recommended” or “suggested” rather than “required”, your best bet might be to avoid that purchase.

Wait to Buy Your Books

Another strategy used by college students to save money is waiting to buy their books. While going through the syllabus ahead of time can be helpful, many of the textbooks marked “required” there may still be unnecessary or redundant. By waiting until the semester has gotten under way, you can feel out which resources you really need.

Ask Past Students

Facebook got its start on college campuses for a reason. Universities act as great, in-person and online social networks, which you can use to save money and gain valuable intel. Join groups and ask around to find people who have taken the courses on your schedule. Ask them which textbooks they used, and which ones you won’t need. You may even be able to score cheap textbooks by buying theirs used.

Borrow Textbooks

While buying used books can save you money compared to buying new, renting or borrowing books can potentially save you even more. If you won’t need to take notes in a textbook required for class, renting is a great option.

Check Your Campus Library

Cheap textbooks are great, but free textbooks are even better. One way to rent the books you need, for free, is through your on-campus library. Search your campus library for your required books as early as possible, as they’ll likely go fast. If you’re lucky enough to find a book on your list, make sure to take good care of it and not damage it in any way, as you’ll need to return it in the same condition as you took it out.

Rent Online

Many of the same sites that sell used textbooks also allow students to rent the books they need for class. This works much the same as buying a book and then reselling it, but with a guarantee built in that the site will take the book back when you’re done with it. Just make sure to return the book in the same condition as you received it and investigate late fees and shipping charges.

Sell Your Used Textbooks

Another way you can save money on textbooks is by selling them when you’re done. Like with renting your books, this only applies to books which you won’t be marking up with notes. Selling your used textbooks requires you to keep the books in good condition throughout the term, which isn’t always possible.

Campus Bookstore

If your campus bookstore deals in used books, this is a perfect first stop. The bookstore might not always offer the highest price for your textbooks, but the convenience of selling in person and avoiding the hassle and cost of shipping may even things out.

Online

If you bought your books online, you can likely sell your used textbooks back to the site from which they were purchased. If you bought your textbooks new, and you’re interested in selling them when you’re done, you can likely get a great rate online. The same sites which sell used textbooks usually offer textbook buying services, as well.

Network

A combination of selling your used books in person and online, using social networking to recoup some of your textbook money can be convenient and effective. When the term is coming to an end, post in your Facebook Group or Twitter that you’re selling your used textbooks for an affordable rate. You may even be able to trade for the books you’ll need next term.

Online Textbooks

In some cases, a physical textbook is your only option. However, if you won’t need to mark pages or take notes in your textbook, an online textbook might just do the trick.

Find Free and Cheap Textbooks Online

It might sound too good to be true, but in certain instances, you may be able to view and even print a textbook online, for free. If not, you should still be able to find affordable and printable versions of your textbook.

Buy eBooks

Your books might not always be available for free or in a printable format, but you could still save by buying the eBook versions of your textbooks. Remember that eBooks aren’t always the cheaper alternative, however, and that they don’t always offer the opportunity to recoup your money when you’re done with your book. Most sites offer e-textbooks on a rental basis.

 

 

Advice for Incoming Wentworth Freshman

As an incoming freshman, I wish I’d known what really to expect. Being the oldest sibling, I was needless to say, a little bit scared of failure. With freshman year being a chance to redefine yourself, to challenge assumption, and lay the foundation for the rest of your life, it easy to become overwhelmed by the pressure. You may feel pressure from your parents, the pressure to be a good example for your sibling(s), or even the pressure to not be the kid your friends talk about as “the one who dropped out of college”. However, what I often find is that the most pressure to succeed actually comes from yourself. While college courses may be stressful, college is a time to get involved and make new friends. Therefore, the purpose of this blog is to spread light as to what college is like and what you should expect during your Freshman year.

To begin with, being a junior here at Wentworth, I have learned a lot since the start of my freshman year, whether it be on how to adjust to live on my own, making new friends, and even on how to do well in my courses. This all starts during freshman orientation, which takes place in June. During freshman orientation, you get the first sense of what it is like to be a college student. Being away from your parents for the most part a day and a half, you get the experience of eating at the cafeteria, living in a dorm room, as well as interacting with other incoming freshman. Being only a few days, it may seem like not much can be gained from it. However, I found it to be a good way of understanding what you really need to bring to college when you come up in late August, as well as who you can hang out with. For instance, after checking in to my freshman orientation, the first thing that I did was drop off my stuff in my room. After making my bed, I immediately began to take note of what is in my room. Like most freshman, you often have to share a dorm room with another student. Having lived in a single room back home, this instantly requires quite an adjustment. While you may have grown quite attached to your belongings back home, it is not realistic to expect that you will be able to bring all of your stuff with you to school.

However, as we wrapped up our freshman orientation and the summer progressed, I didn’t start to focus back on school until August rolled around. At which point, I realized that I needed to make my housing selection. Initially confused as to what courses I needed to take, I found a course tracking sheet for my major on the school website, which instructed me as to what courses I should take during each semester. Being a junior now, I have seen realized that it is important to check your emails constantly and be alert for any emails identifying when registration opens. As you progress through your major, the number of course sections will be limited. Therefore, if you don’t make your selections immediately right when registration begins, you may not get the courses that you wanted. As a result, you could end up with a night class on a Friday. In addition, the same applied to housing registration. With the times for housing selection being randomly assigned, it is important that you and your friends selection your room/suite whenever the earlier one in the group’s registration time opens. As you will find in the summer of your junior and senior years, if you don’t register early, you may not be able to get the building that you wanted.

Additionaly, once you are registered for a room, it is important that you coordinate with your roommate(s) in regards to what each of you is bringing. With limited space, you may not have the room to have 2 televisions and 2 mini-refrigerators in each room. With purchasing all of the supplies being quite expensive, splitting up who brings what both reduces the amount of money that you need to spend as well as prevents clutter. For a list of supplies that are recommended to bring on campus for your freshman year, it is best to reference the link below which contains a checklist of what you can and can’t have on campus.

https://wit.edu/reslife/prospective-students/what-to-bring

While this knowledge may help you in knowing what you should do/have upon arriving on campus, the most important knowledge that I gained was how to manage your time. Pursing a mechanical engineering major with a minor in aerospace engineering, I have found the coursework over the years to be quite heavy. While you may initially look at your course schedule and think that you have so much free time, you will find this time quickly filled up through completing your homework, studying, or even getting involved in clubs. Personally, for me, I initially though that I was going to have all of this free time to explore Boston as well as attend many sporting events. However, as a junior, I often find my time being spent in the library or in my room during school work. This is not to say that you won’t have time to hang out with friends or catch a game here and there, it just means that you need to plan out how you will manage your time.

While everybody works differently, I have found it best to plan out how many hours each homework assignment will take as well as how many hours I want to study for each exam coming into the week. On average, I find that I spend anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours working on each homework assignment as well as spending approximately 2 days studying before each exam. While this may seem like a long time, I have found this to be the best approach for me to retain all of the material. While I am doing quite well now, I found at times that I was struggling during my first semester of freshman year. I found myself becoming too distracted with other events as well as was not spending as much time on my course work. In result, I missed the dean’s list. However, since then I have changed my approach toward my classes.

To begin with, I recommend that you start by taking thorough notes during class. Make sure that you write neatly so that you will be able to reference your notes later on. When it comes time for an exam, I often go through my notes as well as read the corresponding chapters in the textbooks in order to recall what we went over in class. From here, I have found the best approach to then rework on the problems that we did in class as well as for homework. The exams for each class will most likely be filled with problems similar to these. After going through each problem once, I then check my answers, noting which problems that I got wrong. At which point, I go back to that section in my notes and make sure that I understand the concepts. In the end, I will work through each problem roughly 3 to 4 times to ensure that I fully understand each concept/method. Overall – this approach has seen allowed me to make dean’s list every semester since. If you do not understand it, don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it be your professor or even a friend. Most likely, they will be glad to help.

Aside from doing school work, is it important however that you still have some fun. This includes getting involved as well as hanging out with friends. At times, it is important that you get out of your comfort zone and try new things. After all, you may find you actually like it as well as make new friends along the way. In the end, while this knowledge may or may not help you, to be a successful freshman – have an open mind, and be willing to learn as you go.

Until next time,

Adam

Homelessness and Food Insecurity

 

It’s hard to imagine how one can start off by living in a stable home, but quickly find themselves homeless. In fact, many people who are homeless today never thought this could happen to them. With the increased expenses due to inflation, many families are now sinking into serious financial crisis as rents and the cost of living continue to rise. In result, all it takes is the loss of a job, a bereavement, or a traumatic event such as an injury or illness to cause individuals to fall behind in their rent or mortgage. Being that we are all susceptible to such events to affect our lives, it is important to understand when you are at risk of homelessness as well as what resources are available to help you prevent becoming homeless.

To start off, it is important to first understand what being homeless actually means. At first thought, many picture an individual sleeping on a park bench or against the side of a building. While this is homelessness, being homeless can being in many different forms. According to Section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homeless youths are defined as individuals who lack fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. In result, a homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets, stay in a shelter, or it could be someone who sleeps on the couch of a friend or family member. Many students who fall into this last category don’t consider themselves homeless, but they can be recognized as homeless youth and receive some of the benefits that come with this determination.

Becoming homeless has a lot of factors to it other than money. Most notably, it often includes a form of conflict between individuals. For students, this may include having a disagreement with family. In which case, they may kick you out of the house, forcing you to scramble to find a place to stay. While you may go live with a close friend/extended family member, you would legally be defined as homeless. While some may know where to seek help, it is important to note that you are not alone. According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 564,708 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the U.S. Of those, 36,907(6.38%) are children, 47,725 (8.33%) are veterans, and 269,991 (47.6%) are disabled and unable to work.

While you may acknowledge the staggering number of individuals homeless in the U.S., it may not take away from the fact that you may still feel embarrassed about being homeless. While it may be easy to say that it is only temporary and not seek help, homelessness can have a staggering effect on an individual’s body if proper help is not sought. If your body does not consume any food and water over an extensive period, your body will begin to shut down. Therefore, while you may have thought being homeless was temporary and didn’t want to seek help, the effects that you can suffer in result can be permanent.

For individuals and families who do not meet the definition of “homeless” under any of the categories established in the Homeless Definition final rule, the McKinney-Vento Act was amended to allow homeless prevention assistance to be provided to persons who are “at risk of homelessness.” In the event that you become homeless, it is important that you take advantage of the provided resources. Here in Massachusetts, there multiple shelters available including the Friends of Boston’s Homeless and Pine Street Inn, which are open free of charge to the homeless. In addition, to prevent food insecurities, there are numerous food pantries in Boston available to the public including the Sojourner House. The Student Service Center even has their own on campus Leopard Pantry available free of charge to any student who is struggling to buy food. If you have questions email leopardparntry@wit.edu.

Budgeting

Budgeting can help you take control of your money. A budget is simply a plan of how you’re going to spend your money and how much you want to save. Budgeting can help you to stay out of debt and achieve your financial goals.

Build Your Budget
The first step to creating a budget is to identify the 3 main components.

  • Your income
  • Your expenses
  • Your spending

First, record the expenses that you have to pay every month. This will include things like your rent, utility bills, and student loan payments. These will be your “fixed” expenses. It’s important to start with these numbers because you must have enough set aside to pay for these each month.

Next, figure out how much you spend on “flexible expenses” these are things like groceries and transportation. You might not be able to come up with an exact number, but you can get an estimate by looking at what you spent in the past few months.

*Utilize online banking to track exactly what you’re spending each month.

Finally, think about how much you normally spend on “discretionary expenses”, these are things like clothing and eating out. It’s important to allow for these things in your spending plan so you won’t have to feel guilty about going out for a friend’s birthday or buying something new.

Now that you know your expenses, you need to determine your monthly income. If you have a fixed monthly income, you can simply plug in the numbers. If your income varies from month to month, do your best to estimate your average monthly income.

There are lots of budget calculators available online like these:
https://www.saltmoney.org/Assets/PDFs/salt-budget-worksheet.pdf
https://www.quicken.com/budget-calculator
https://www.mint.com/

Set a Goal
Once you’ve created your budget and subtracted your monthly income from your expenses, see how much money you have left over. If you have no money left over, you will need to reevaluate your budget. Find places where you can cut spending so you can stay out of debt. Put any extra money towards paying off debt or savings. It’s important to have money in savings in case of emergencies. Set a savings goal for yourself and use your spending plan to help you achieve it!