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The 7 biggest mistakes people make on college applications

College application form
College application form

Below are some mistakes students make on their college applications that really hurt their chances of being accepted at their top schools.

1. Starting too late- give yourself plenty of time to develop your unique story, it make takes months to do so!

2. Being generic- your essay should tell the admissions committee something unique about who you are and what you’ll bring to the campus that the rest of your application doesn’t.

3. Burning yourself out- Don’t join too many clubs, take 5 AP courses and volunteer on the weekends- you’ll burn yourself out

4. Doing anything cold- take practice exam and do a bunch of mock interviews

5. Selling yourself short- don’t be bashful- brag on your application

6. Acting aloof- visit schools, talk to professors and speak with students in programs or organization you may want to join so that you can discuss in your supplemental essays.

7. Skipping the optional essay- don’t let this opportunity slip by as your chance to show all the research you’ve done on the school and why you’re a perfect fit.

Top 10 Things You Will Need For College As A Freshman

College DormThis here is a list in no particular order of 10 things college freshmen across the country will need (aside from obvious things such as bedding) heading into their first year in the big leagues and adjusting to dorm life.

1. Fan: Things are going to be cramped and there is an astounding lack of A/C in freshman housing. This fan will make the temperature in your room a bit more bearable.

2. Some sort of mattress topper for your bed: This will help the stale, stiff bed resembling object that you have to use as a mattress be less of a chore to sleep on.

3. Sandals: The communal showers have seen plenty, put a layer between your feet and that tile floor for your own good.

4. Shower caddy: This will aid in your organization and keep all your toiletries in one place so you aren’t fumbling around when trying to shower and freshen up.

5. Dry erase board: This can help you maintain some form of organization as you can leave reminders and important messages for yourself.

6. Hamper: Bring one of these so you can at least try and keep your floor from being
replaced by a layer of clothing.

7. Small trash can: Also to help you from keeping your room from resembling something like that of a landfill.

8. Desktop lamp: Bring this for all of your late night work. Instead of leaving your main light on in your room, you can have this so you don’t keep your roommate up while you cram all night.

9. Multi-outlet power strip: This allows for some electronic freedom and gives your more to work with than the 23 power outlets you are given in your room.

10. FirstAid kit/Emergency/other medical care items: Mom and Dad won’t be there to help so it’s up to you to care for your scrapes and colds.

Adjusting to College Life

College Lif

College is a time for young men and women to truly realize who they are and what they want to do with their lives. It’s a time of unlimited opportunity where you control how you perform and what you do. No longer are you constrained to the daily responsibilities of you parents and daily structured high school class schedule.

With that being said, however, it is a time of major adjustment for those who want to flourish in their new environment.

One major area of college life that is imminent to you being successful at whichever institution you are attending is proper time management. Yes, college is a place where you can have fun with your newly made friends but like everything, should come in moderation. You must know when it’s okay to go out and blow off some steam and when not to. If you have a paper or test at some point during the week, it may not be the best time to be away from your books and computer. Allocating regular time to doing your work will help you organize your life and, if done properly and efficiently, can still leave for you to take a break and hangout.

Another area in which students should pay particular attention is being able to handle stress and adversity on your own. Being away from home means that you won’t always be able to turn to your parent or guardian for help and they won’t be able to do as much for you as they may have done prior in your life. This is where the school’s guidance counselor may become of some use for you as they provide you with someone to talk to and seek advice right there on campus.  Finding an appropriate outlet for relaxation, whether it be working out, yoga, etcetera, would be a good idea for help with relieving the stress of college life.

Finally, an additional recommendation for adjusting to college life is getting involved in school extracurriculars. Things like clubs, intramural and club sports, and other activities offer a great way to meet new people and companions for your new student life on campus. Clubs allow you to reach out into areas that specifically interest you with likeminded people. Intramural and club sports allow you to participate in sports that you may have played your entire life without the commitment of a varsity sport. Being an active member of your school’s community is a great way to branch out and make new connections with people on campus.

All in all, college is a place of exciting new opportunities. You control your academic performance, social life, and how you live. There’s countless ways for you to thrive in your new life and your success ultimately resides in your hands.

Should You Consolidate Your Student Loans?

refinance student loansThe Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that Americans owe $1.2 trillion in student loans.

According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Education, approximately 1 in 6 borrowers, are defaulting on their student loans and haven’t made a payment in at least a year. For those of you that are in good standing, now may be the time to consider your loan options.

There are many important things to consider when attempting tackling your student loans. First off is whether to consolidate or refinance your loans. Consolidation is combining your student loan payments into one while refinancing is reconstructing your existing loans into new ones. Consolidation simplifies the payment process as you are only cutting once check or ACH debit a month. Refinancing more often than not results in your payments having a lower interest rate and thus a lower monthly payment

The decision process does not end here, however.

Another thing to consider is time and how long you want to be paying off your student loans. Appropriately spacing out your payments is a crucial part in the process. You need to find a plan that best suits you and your life. Having your payments stretched over a longer period of time will mean lower payment amounts, but you are also responsible for them for a much longer period of time. On the other hand, you can pay them off in a shorter amount of time but with a much higher cost.

In addition to time you must consider the interest rate of your loans. It would be an easy decision to refinance your loans so that they have a lower interest rate but it is not always that simple. Things like having a poor credit score could inhibit you from doing so. Also, if you have a federal loan, the only option of refinancing is through a private lender, who are much more complex than the federal government.

Ultimately, the path you wish to take when solving your student loan dilemma is based on how best you can handle the situation. You need to understand and decide how long you want to be paying your loans while still actually being able to pay them.

The Bank of Mom & Dad- Rising Tuition Costs

Parent Loans


As rising tuition costs pile mounting debt on students, lenders and colleges are asking for additional alternatives: Load more debt on their parents.

A rising number of private student loan lenders are introducing parent loans, which allow borrowers to fund their kid’s education without putting their student on the hook. The loans mirrors a similar federal program (Parent Plus Loans) but don’t charge the hefty upfront fee levied by the government (4.3%), which could make them cheaper and encourage more use.  Parents will be able to borrow at interest rates ranging from about 3.75% to 10%, with 5 or 10 years to pay it off, depending on the lender.

The average student debt for graduates with a bachelor’s degree is projected to be $37,000 for 2016, up 78% from a decade ago, according to a recent WSJ article.

This is mostly due to the fact that the average annual cost of a four-year, private college, including room and board, has climbed 53% in the past 10 years, to $43,921, according to the College Board.  For public schools, it is up 61%, to $19,548 for in-state students.

3 Top Excuses Why You Are Not Saving

1) I Don’t know where to get started when is coming to savings?

About 50% of millennials and nearly 40% of Generation X feel they do not know what their best investment options are, according to a survey by Schwab Retirement Plan Services.

A good place to start is your workplace retirement account — likely a 401k plan.  Ideally, set aside 15% of your annual pay but contribute at least enough to get the full matching contribution from your employer, if it offers a match.

2) I Have Too Much Student-Loan Debt

More than 1/3 of millennials say they cannot set aside more money for retirement because they are still paying off student loans, according to the Schwab Retirement Plan Services survey.  Look into loan consolidation and refinancing programs so you can lower your monthly payments and save money by doing so. Take that savings and set up a savings or investment account.

3) I Need to Save for a House

Homeownership still is a big part of the “American dream.” In fact, nearly 2/3 of adults view homeownership as either “an accomplishment to be proud of” or “a dream come true,” according to a survey by Wells Fargo. However, if you aspire to own a home, you likely dream of retiring someday, too.

In fact, you should start saving for retirement as soon as possible, then start putting money away for a home when you can afford to do both.  Another option is to look for ways to earn extra income and cut unnecessary expenses in order to save for the down payment.

What You Should Know About Student Loans and Marriage

It’s that time of year again when wedding bells start ringing a little more loudly! Spring heralds the beginning of “wedding season,” and with that comes a union of more than just two lovebirds. Newly wedded couples will share families, a home and (perhaps a bit less romantically) any accrued debt. If you’re tying the knot, make sure you look objectively at your options for money management, such as student loan debt consolidation. Read on in the infographic below for our tips and tricks on merging wedded bliss with student debt, so there won’t be any reason that these two can not be wed!

Tying the knot




How To Consolidate Your Student Loans

College students who rely on student loans to pay for their education will often find themselves with several, if not a dozen or more, separate loans upon graduation.

The complication of managing multiple loans has made loan consolidation an appealing service to many cash-strapped graduates. However, like many things involving finances, deciding whether consolidation is right for you and determining how to go about it can seem complicated on the surface.

This guide explains how to consolidate your student loans online. As we explore the process, you will learn about the benefits and guidelines for determining if consolidating your loans is right for your financial situation.

How to Consolidate

What is student loan consolidation?

Student loan consolidation is where you take two or more of your unpaid student loans and combine them into one. This option is most appealing to the student who has become buried in multiple loan payments that have become due.

When you consolidate your student loans, this means that a lending institution pays off your loans for you and replaces them with a new single loan. Now, instead of making multiple monthly payments to each of your lenders, you would make a single monthly payment to your new lending institution.

What are the benefits of student loan consolidation?

The primary benefit of consolidating is that it frees up more cash for other expenses. What often happens is that graduates will be stuck with so many different loan payments, that they can’t even afford to make all of the minimum payments without sacrificing on the necessary expenses of independent living such as rent, food, and utilities.

The timing is often unfortunate for the recent graduates: they must make the most payments when they are just starting their careers and probably have the lowest income they will ever have in their lives. For many, consolidating their loans can be an effective way to get the breathing room they need while they figure out how to raise their income and manage their finances.

How do I know if consolidation is right for me?

Generally speaking, it is wise to use about 20% of your income to pay off your long-term debts no matter what your income level. This insures that you will not be burdened by debt for too long yet leaves enough income to live on without having to make unreasonable sacrifices.

You can use this “20% Rule” as a guideline. Sometimes, by having multiple loans, you will be forced to pay more than 20% of your income towards your debts because of the sum of all the minimum payments and because of the fact that you have a relatively low income because you are just starting out in your career.

However, simplifying doesn’t guarantee savings. If your only reason for consolidating is because you have a hard time keeping track of all the payments you may want to consider using auto-debit and using a service like Personal Capital to track all of your debt in a single location.

The goal of consolidation should be to reduce the monthly payment requirements by eliminating the need for multiple minimum payments. Do the math. If the numbers work then it may be a good option for you.

What if I have a poor credit score?

If you have a “fair” or “poor” credit score you may want to focus on improving your credit score before you try to consolidate your loan. You will likely not be able to get a good interest rate or even a loan at all. If you have a poor credit score and can’t afford to make your payments, applying for forbearance on your federal loans may be a better option for you. You can use the extended grace period to save some money and get a better paying job.

saving money

Understanding Your Student Loans

You likely have multiple student loans. To make matters more complicated, you might even have several types of loans. Each type of loan has it’s own rules. Here’s the basic of what you need to know:

Federal Loans

This type of loan is funded with government money. Typically, they come with low interest rates and flexible repayment options. These loans do not require any collateral or credit check, making them very popular with students. Federal student loans come in one of three forms:

  • Stafford Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized)
  • Perkins Loans
  • PLUS Loans

Private Loans

These loans are provided by private lenders and do not use government funding. Students usually turn to these loans if the financial aid offered through their school was not enough to cover tuition. The interest rate on these loans is determined by your credit score and will typically be higher than federal loans but lower than credit card interest. In all likelihood, any loan you have that is not a Stafford, Perkins, or PLUS is a private loan.

Choosing Federal vs. Private Consolidation

You have two basic options for combining your student loans: federal consolidation or consolidating into a private loan (refinancing).

Federal Consolidation

This option is available only for federal loans (e.g. Perkins, Stafford). The government combines your separate loans into a single loan and your new interest rate is a weighted average of your previous rates.

Federal consolidations offers two key advantages:

  • Income-driven repayment plans – if your monthly student loan payment is more than 10% of your income you can lower your payments by providing proof of your income.
  • Public service loan forgiveness – if you consolidate your direct loans (e.g. Stafford and Perkins) you can have your remaining loan balances dissolved after 10 years in a public service job.

However, there are a couple of drawback you need to be aware of:

  • Longer loan repayment schedule – while you can get your monthly payments reduced based on your income, this means that you may need to add additional years to your repayment plan because of all the extra interest you will be paying.
  • Loss of Perkins loan forgiveness – The Perkins loan has its own loan cancellation programs for teachers and other public service employees. You may lose these benefits if you consolidate your Perkins loan into other loans. Read the requirements carefully and make a decision that is best-suited for your plans.

Private Refinancing

Refinancing offers you a new interest rate based on your financial condition. If you have a good credit score and a steady income you could combine all your loans and get a lower interest rate. You can consolidate both your federal and private loans through a private loan consolidation firm.

Of course, the drawback of using a private loan consolidation firm is that you will forfeit the protections you had with your federal loans such as forbearance and loan forgiveness programs. Also, you will need a good credit score to benefit from a private loan refinance.

piggy bank

Deciding on a Repayment Plan

The simplest way to pay off your debts is to allocate 20% of your income towards debt payments. Calculate what that number is and pay that every month by using auto-debit. If your income increases then you increase your monthly payments accordingly. This plan will insure that you pay off your debts in a timely manner yet still have enough income leftover where you won’t have to make unreasonable sacrifices.

Bundling Your Loans With Your Spouse’s Loans

Many debt-ridden graduates find themselves in a position where they are married to a spouse who has student loans as well. It is possible to consolidate both persons loan into a single loan. Just don’t take this decision lightly. If you should ever divorce your spouse you will be responsible for the entire loan if the other is unable to pay. If you are going to consolidate your loans together you need to be intensely committed to staying married through life’s ups and downs and never divorcing.

Gathering the Needed Information

Once you’ve decided to consolidate your loan, you need to gather all the essential info. You will typically be required to complete the application in one sitting so you don’t want to be shuffling around trying to find the information during the application.

You should have the following items ready:

  • Loan servicer names, addresses, and phone numbers
  • Loan types (e.g. Stafford, Perkins, PLUS, etc.
  • Account numbers
  • Balances
  • Federal Student ID
  • Personal information: driver’s license, address, phone number, email address
  • Employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • Two references (full names, addresses, phone numbers, and relationships to you)
  • Your last 2 paystubs

The actual application requirements may vary slightly depending on the institution and your financial circumstance, but it’s best to be over prepared than trying to scramble to find the right document before you run out of time.

Applying for a Consolidation Loan

If you’d like to apply for a federal loan consolidation, you can do that at If you’d like to apply for a private loan consolidation you can take advantage of Cedar Education Lending’s consolidation application. We work with a lot of different lenders to provide the best rates and repayment options available.

Can Love Conquer Debt? 5 Questions for the Serious Dater to Consider

Conquer Debt
Meeting that special someone is one of the most exciting experiences in life. Finally, you’ve found someone who understands you, someone who shares the same interests and passions as you.

But at some point in the relationship, finances will become an issue of concern. Many people rarely consider finances until after they’re married. This is bound to lead to trouble though, as finances are the #1 cause of conflict between married couples.

Now, you don’t need to sit down and cross every “t” and dot every “i” in regards to money before you get married. But if you sense the relationship is getting serious, there are some important questions that you will want to discuss with your significant other before you can confidently move forward towards marriage.

1. Do you have a similar philosophy when it comes to handling money?

Undoubtedly, you will have at least slightly different opinions on handling money. Your partner may be more willing to tolerate risks (or vice versa). You may be a deal hunter while they prefer specific brands, or perhaps one person has an expensive hobby.

These differences in preferences is inevitable. Part of maturing in a relationship is learning to understand the other person’s needs and wants and being willing to accommodate them.

However, while different preferences can be tolerated, what is extremely difficult to overcome is having fundamentally different philosophies on money-handling. For example, you will want to make sure that you are on the same page with the following questions:

Does your partner believe in saving/investing for the future?
If you’re religious, does your partner believe in tithing to your local church?
Is your partner willing to cut back expenses if needed to ensure your income remains higher than your expenses?
If either one of you brings debt to the relationship, do you have similar views on the best way to pay off the debt? (e.g. a fixed percentage of your income, consolidation, a debt forgiveness program, etc.)

If you can come to an agreement on these fundamental questions, then it’s just a matter of discussing definitions. What may seem like an “investment” to one person may be seen as an “expense” to the other. Or what one may be seen as being “thrifty” might be seen as “stingy” to the other.

These are not always easy issues to resolve, but if you have the same fundamental views of money-handling you can at least agree on the basic purpose of your money.

Hidden Debts

2. How is your significant other financing their current lifestyle? Do they have hidden debts?

At the point you start dating, your significant other will have a certain lifestyle that they have grown accustomed to. It is worth asking yourself how they finance their lifestyle.

For example, consider these common causes of debt to find out if your partner is living in a bubble that will pop sooner or later:

Reduced income/same expenses – A very common source of debt stems from simply not bringing in enough income to pay regular expenses. Someone might lead a modest lifestyle but may be relying on credit cards to make up the difference in their basic expenses like groceries, rent, utilities, cell phone, etc. If your significant other does not seem to be working much yet lives a “normal” lifestyle, you may want to raise this concern to find out where they are getting their income.

Gambling – This can be a serious issue and one that might be difficult to detect. There are many ways to gamble and most can be easily hidden or even seem harmless on the surface. Obviously, if you’re concerned you should just ask your partner. If you (or your friends or family) still suspect there might be a problem you will want to keep your eyes open–it will become apparent soon enough. You may want to reconsider the relationship if a gambling problem becomes evident.

Medical expenses – This is an unfortunate form of debt that many people struggle with. The good news is that medical expenses usually don’t indicate a character problem, but nevertheless debt is debt and must be dealt with accordingly. If your partner requires frequent operations or expensive medications you will want to make sure that they have a definite plan for paying off that debt and securing enough income to be able to afford the needed medical expenses.

Education – A very common source of debt, especially among Millennials. Experts argue whether or not student loan debt is “worth it” but if you have it you will need to make sure that you can find a market demand for your abilities and can market yourself so you can quickly turn your experience and expertise into a reasonably high income.

Lack of savings – If your partner seems to constantly “get in trouble” financially you may need to ask them if they regularly save. You do not need to bring this up during the moment of the crisis, but perhaps after things settle down you can ask how they approach saving money. We can expect life to give us trouble from time to time and having some money set aside can give us a cushion for these “expected surprises” rather than having to get into debt every time.

3. Are they willing to undergo financial training with you?

Mastering your finances takes time and discipline so you shouldn’t expect your partner to have everything perfectly together financially. However, you do want to make sure that they are willing to learn. If they willing to learn and correct their mistakes then all of the above problems can be overcome. But if they seem to shrug off financial education as something “boring” or “stupid” then this may an early warning sign: they may never come around.

Here are a few financial training resources that many people have benefited from:
The Richest Man in Babylon – a classic book on financial wisdom written as a series of parables. It was written in 1926 and is still a bestseller today!
Dave Ramsey – a very popular financial advisor and author. Good for those who feel they need the “tough love” approach.
Ramit Sethi – very popular with Millennials. Shows you how to rely more on automation and less and willpower to make your money go where it needs to go.

4. Are they future-oriented?

Handling money requires a future-orientation of some degree. Most of the material things in life that matter most (e.g. house, education, passive income, career advancement, etc.) require thinking ahead and making plans. Very often, to obtain these things we must sacrifice some things that we might want in the moment (e.g. eating out, entertainment, hobbies, etc.).

Much of life is a balancing act between future-orientation and present-orientation. On the one hand, if we spend all our money on pleasures in the here-and-now we will still be poor and maybe even worse off when we are older. On the other hand, if you neglect the present, you may find yourself with more money but also a career that you hate, an unhappy family life, and very few real friends.

The reason you want to know if your significant other is future-oriented is because future-orientation is a result of maturity. Present-orientation is a natural childlike state (that we sometimes lose if we obsess over material success.) You want to marry someone who both enjoys life and can make good life decisions!

Emotions of Debt

5. Do they let their emotions determine their financial decisions?

In a manner of speaking we usually make financial decisions based on emotions. We pay for what we value. We exchange our money for things we believe will make our lives happier.

However, it is dangerous if one is unable to check those emotional desires with logic. There will always be some shady salesman or marketer that will peddle useless products by appealing to the buyer’s emotions.

It’s perfectly fine to get excited and purchase things that will bring pleasure and betterment to our lives. We just have to be able to discern, to the best of our ability, both if something is “legit” and if it is an appropriate purchase given the present situation.
Does your significant other pass the test?
The compatibility of your financial philosophies doesn’t need to be viewed as a “pass/fail” test. Nobody’s perfect and true love and trust can overcome financial problems. But financial problems don’t go away overnight and you can expect to be in it for the long haul. So before you “tie the knot” be sure that, in addition to simply enjoying each other, there is a foundation of general agreement and transparency when it comes to finances.