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Plan School Costs

148 posts

Author: Betsy Mayotte (betsym)


A few weeks ago, the IRS quietly removed access to its IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) that students and student loan borrowers use to apply for federal aid and lower payment options. The DRT is used by millions of students each year to make filling out the FAFSA easier and less error prone by allowing them to automatically import their tax information into the application. Federal student loan borrowers use it to apply for or renew their income driven repayment plans in much the same way.


Here are some FAQ’s to help you understand how to manage these tasks while the DRT remains unavailable.


Why was the DRT shut off? How long will it be unavailable?

According to the IRS and the Department of Education (ED), the DRT was shut down as “a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”  There is no word when the tool will again be available or what exactly prompted this action. The tool is expected to be down for at least several weeks.


Should I worry about ID theft if I’ve used this tool in the past?

The IRS statement claims that the issue is fairly isolated and that most people using the tool were not at risk.  If you want to be sure, request a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus to check for unusual activity.  You can also put a credit freeze in place to ensure that no new credit instruments can be opened without your express permission.


What are the implications of the DRT being unavailable to students filing their FAFSA?

Students filing their FAFSA without the use of the DRT will be forced to supply their tax information on their own.  While you can still file your FAFSA online, it’s recommended actually, you’ll have to enter your tax information by hand on the online form.  Further details are posted here.  If you don’t have a copy of your tax return handy, you can request one from the IRS at  Note you will need a mobile phone to verify your identity to use this option.


Should I just wait until the DRT is back up?

Probably not. Many financial deadlines, especially state aid deadlines, are fast approaching.  As we have no estimate as to the return of the DRT, and considering that the process students must use can take a little longer, it’s best to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible.


How do I submit my income driven repayment plan application or renewal application without the DRT?

You can still apply online through your loan servicer and upload a copy of your tax return or alternative income documentation.  If you don’t have a copy of your tax return, you can obtain one by clicking here.


I have other questions!

If you have any additional questions about filing these applications without the DRT, log in and ask here in the comments.

We’re almost 25% of the way through 2017—time flies when you’re having fun I guess.


I’ve put together another list of awesome scholarships with deadlines coming up in April 2017. To those of you who are participating (or vowed to participate) in the 2017 Scholarship Challenge, I will check in on each of you during the month of March to see how things are going (don’t be shocked if you get a message from me!).


In two weeks, I’ll post the third scholarship challenge and that challenge heavily relies on you completing the first two challenges. If you want to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and learn from an expert (me!) who used scholarships to eliminate the burden of college financing, now’s the time!


For everyone else, feel free to raise your voice if don’t see a scholarship that you can apply for on this list. Simply give me a shout in the comments with your eligibility requirements, and I’ll try to include a scholarship for you next month.


As always, good luck!


Ray Greenly Scholarship

Amount: $25,000

Deadline: April 3, 2017


This scholarship is open to students who have a creative and entrepreneurial spirit and who can articulate innovative ways to connect retailers to the digital world.


“Essay 1: Innovation (one-page maximum):

Tell us about an app or product that is cutting-edge and has changed the way you shop or has the potential to do so. Explain why it is innovative and how it makes the shopping experience better. Include any suggestions you have for making it even better. Be original and choose something unique that will make you stand out.”


“Personal Brand Video (maximum of two minutes):

Create a video that reveals who you are, what you are passionate about, what you intend to do in your career, and how you will get there. There is no specific format to follow, so be creative!

This is not a video resume. It is your chance to differentiate yourself from other applicants.”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a college sophomore, junior, or senior undergraduate student

  • Must be studying full time at an accredited U.S. college or university


Donaldson D. Frizzell Scholarship

Amount: $30,000

Deadline: April 7, 2017


This scholarship is awarded in honor of Donaldson D. Frizzell. Frizzell was a former First Command Educational Foundation (FCEF) President and former First Command Financial Services Director of Investments for over three decades.


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a traditional or non-traditional student (see scholarship website for details)

  • Must be a member of the U.S. uniformed services (active, guard, reserve, retired, or non-retired veteran) or a dependent family member of the above mentioned services; OR a first Command Financial Services’ client or their dependent family member; OR a dependent family members of First Command Advisors or field office staff member; OR a non-contractual ROTC student

  • Must have at least a 3.0 GPA

  • Must be able to pass a free online course on basic financial literacy


WU Scholars Program

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: April 12, 2017


This scholarship is offered by Washington Mutual (hence, WU) to help students who exemplify perseverance, aspiration, and community involvement.


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or business

  • Must be between 18 and 26 years of age

  • Must be studying at an accredited post-secondary institution seeking an undergraduate degree


HENAAC Scholarship For Hispanics

Amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: April 30, 2017


It’s the HENAAC time of year again! If you qualify, but haven’t applied for the HENAAC scholarship, then I highly suggest you throw your hat in the ring this year!


The HENAAC scholarship is a very prestigious scholarship awarded to students of Hispanic descent. Over $2M in scholarships have been awarded thus far to students pursuing degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must have a GPA of 3.0 or greater

  • Must be majoring in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or a math-related major

  • Must demonstrate your leadership through academic achievements and campus/community activities

  • Must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program for the preceding fall semester at an accredited 2-year or 4-year college/university in the United States or its territories

  • Must be of Hispanic origin and/or must have significantly participated in organizations and activities in the Hispanic community


Have any questions on these? Log in or sign up with your Salt account to let me know—and for a limited time, earn 50 bonus points for doing so!

Few people know what it means to be an “independent student” at a college or university. If you do, you likely understand how difficult it can be—from both a procedural and a personal standpoint.


When I applied for independence, I had no knowledge on what to do, and because the process lasted so long, I was constantly worried about the outcome. In the end, I achieved my financial aid independence. If you think you may need to do the same, here are a few things I learned during the process that could help you.


Know Who Qualifies (And Why)


To get federal financial aid for college, all students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Dependent students must provide their parents’ financial information on this form. Independent students provide only their own information, and they can receive more financial aid because they lack financial support from their parents or family. To determine whether you qualify as an independent student, check out the reasons on the federal student aid website.


If you’re like me, you’ll likely seek independence because of an inability to provide parental information on your FAFSA. In this case, consider doing what I did: becoming an emancipated minor. This won’t make sense for everyone. But for me, it seemed like a logical step because I  was already on my own long before I needed to apply for college and had a substantial amount of documentation for it. I also had the support of various teachers and school officials. If you are in a similar position, talk to the guidance counselors at your school about this option.


To start the overall process, ask your financial aid office about their protocol on applying for independence. Also, if you don’t fall into any of the standard categories for independent students, you may ask them for a “dependency override” if you’re dealing with an unusual situation.


Prepare Yourself


Once you have figured out which criteria you meet, it is important to start gathering your paperwork. This means any and every piece of documentation you can find to support your case as to why you need to be considered an independent student.


For my situation, this included letters from guidance counselors and teachers vouching for me, letters from courts or agencies I’ve been a part of, and receipts and/or hospital records. Collect pretty much anything that shows concrete proof of what you are asking the financial aid office at your school to take into consideration.


Be prepared to make calls to the financial aid office to stay on top of your application. They may request several documents from you. In my case, these requests came long after I submitted my application. The process of granting independence can take several weeks on its own, so the last thing you want to do is to slow it down.


Stay Patient


Keep in mind that these things are hard and take time. It’s hard not to worry about your financial situation for college, but it’s equally important to keep your emotional health in check. Remember to take time out for yourself and to confide in someone so that you are not alone during the process. I leaned heavily on my support system during this time.


Being granted independence for college is something that’s rarely talked about. I wouldn’t have known about this option if not for my financial aid adviser at my high school who pushed me to apply for independence after reviewing my award packages. I hope I was able to provide some clarity for at least one student who may have to go through this. 


Do you have questions about this process? Log in or sign up to post them in the comments.


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Welcome back to the scholarship challenge! (Per the usual, check out this blog post if you have no idea what I’m talking about).


How are you all coming along on the first challenge? (Challenge #1: Find 10 Scholarships is due by February 28, 2017). Each challenge builds upon the previous challenge so you’ll want to jump in early to get the most benefit (you still have until Tuesday to complete the first challenge)!


Today, I’ve got the scoop on challenge #2. Remember, I based these challenges on skills that allowed me to pay for my entire college education with scholarships! There’s no reason you can’t win some awards by doing the same!


Challenge #2: Transform Your Weaknesses Into Strengths


If you’re like most students, a big part of the challenge with finding scholarships is actually convincing yourself that you could win. Meaning, you might be “eligible” for a scholarship, but you are hesitant to apply because you don’t think that you’ll win. Perhaps it’s because it’s a prestigious scholarship—or maybe you feel that way about every scholarship!


This month’s challenge is designed to give you the confidence, skills, and credentials you need to win any scholarship. How? Simple:


Review the 10 scholarships you’ve collected from Challenge #1 and identify five areas where you are weakest. Then, think of at least three things that you could do to greatly improve each weakness. 


If you want to win a scholarship (or lots of scholarships), you have to be willing to work hard on both your application and yourself. The first step to winning is knowing what we’re currently working with. We have to know what we are good at and what we are bad at to determine where we need to improve.


Read through each of the 10 scholarship applications that you’ve collected and highlight the questions, essays, and requirements that you feel the least confident about.


Are you not confident in your writing skills?


Do you lack strong letters of recommendation?


Is there a special challenge (like writing a poem or filming a video) that you aren’t too sure about?


Identify at least five of these potential areas of weakness and come up with three things you can (and will!) do to improve each area.


Here are tips for overcoming some common weaknesses:


1. Essays


This is by far the most common scholarship weakness. If you’re like most students, then you’re not too confident in your writing abilities. That’s OK! It’s easy to improve your writing.


I improved my writing by having writing professors review and provide feedback on my scholarship essays, working on my writing daily by free writing, and reading books (the more you read, the more comfortable you become with vocabulary and sentence structure—it really works!).


2. Community Service


Accumulating community service hours is one of the easiest ways to improve your scholarship application. If you currently don’t have a lot of community service hours, then I highly suggest that you work on a plan for increasing your hours to at least 100 hours or more.


3. GPA


While GPA is more of a long-term improvement, it is definitely worth the investment. While there is no “easy” way to improve your GPA other than earning better grades, there are some methods to consider.


For example, opt to take less-challenging electives to balance out more challenging courses, take honors courses to boost your GPA quickly, and aske your professors for bonus assignments for extra credit (doesn’t hurt!).


4. Awards & Honors


Winning awards can be easier than you think. Many times, it’s just about showing up! Keep your eyes open for contests, club memberships, and annual academic awards at your college (and be sure to sign up and throw your hat into the ring).


5. Recommendations


Letters of recommendation are key for many scholarship judges, and you should work hard to find at least three professors who would be willing to write you a glowing letter. If you don’t have these allies now, then start by scheduling meetings with your best professors and introducing yourself.


Let them know a little about you, your goals, and that you’ll be applying for scholarships that require letters of recommendation. Then, participate in class, be cordial to your professor, and try your best do well academically. The letter practically writes itself!


The key to overcoming any challenge is to apply yourself honestly. If you try your best and commit yourself to improvement (no matter how slow), you will improve. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”


Having trouble? Ping me in the comments below (@dianemelville) with your questions, and I will do my best to help!


Ready to get started? Log in or sign up with your Salt account to join the challenge!

How is everyone doing on the 2017 Scholarship Challenge? (Does the silence in the comments mean that everyone is doing well?)


If you still need a few more scholarships to round out your list for challenge #1, check out these scholarships with deadlines coming up in March. For those of you who are not participating in the scholarship challenge, do not fear—this is the same ole monthly scholarship list that you know and love.


Don’t see a scholarship for you? Give me a shout in the comments with your requirements, and I’ll try to include a scholarship for you next month.


As always, good luck!


The Tailhook Educational Foundation Scholarship

Amount: $2,000 – $10,000

Deadline: March 1, 2017


The Tailhook Educational Foundation is dedicated to preserving the memory of the United States Navy carrier aviation by providing scholarships to those who have served (and their families) in the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Applications for this scholarship are available online.


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a high school graduate
  • Must be accepted to an undergraduate institution
  • Must be the natural, step, or adopted child/grandchild or a current or former Naval Aviator, Naval Flight Officer, or Aircrewman from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, or U.S. Coast Guard


National Association Of Black Journalists: Allison E. Fisher Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: March 1, 2017


The Allison E. Fisher Scholarship is being offered by Ronald and Pat Fisher in memory of their daughter Allison Fisher, a journalist who lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 28. Applicants must complete an online application, transcripts, work samples, and a 1,000- to 2,000-word essay on the following topic:


“What are the top three (3) reasons you would like to pursue a career in journalism and what do you hope your legacy as a journalist will be?”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be majoring in journalism or communications
  • Must have a GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Must have a history of community service


Cancer Survivors’ Fund Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 3, 2017


The Cancer Survivors’ Fund is offering various scholarship awards to students who are cancer survivors or currently diagnosed with cancer. Applicants must complete a simple online application, letters of recommendation, and a 500- to 1,200-word essay on the following topic:


“How has my experience with cancer impacted my life values and career goals?”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a cancer survivor or currently diagnosed with cancer
  • Must be enrolled or accepted into an accredited undergraduate institution
  • Must be open to performing cancer-related volunteer work if selected as the winner


Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship

Amount: $2,000 - $4,400

Deadline: March 8, 2017


The Michael Yasick scholarship is dedicated to students who are struggling with ADHD in the United States. To apply for this scholarship, students must complete an online application and a personal statement on the following topic:


“Applicants are asked to write an essay describing the challenges they have faced in living with ADHD and how they have met them, and sharing insight about themselves, their interests, hobbies, community work, and career aspirations.”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Must be accepted or enrolled in a 2- or 4-year undergraduate or graduate program
  • Must be attending an accredited college, university, trade school, technical school, vocational school, or qualifying institution in the United States
  • Must be a legal resident of the 50 United States or District of Columbia


Paul S. Mills Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: March 30, 2017


The Foundation for Financial Service Professionals is offering an undergraduate award to students who are pursuing a career in the field of financial services. To apply for this scholarship, students must complete an online application and a personal statement on the following topic:


“Why do you wish to pursue an education in the financial service field and why is this scholarship important to you?”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a United States citizens or legal residents
  • Must be living in the 50 United States and DC or U.S. territories
  • Must be a full-time student
  • Must be enrolled or accepted into an undergraduate college or university program
  • Must be pursuing a major in the financial services industry
  • Must demonstrate financial need


Other scholarships:

The Christine B. Foundation Scholarship Program

The Lt. Jon C. Ladda Memorial Foundation

The Palumbo Family Foundation Scholarship for Cook, Dupage, Kane, Lake, and Will Counties of Illinois


Have any questions on these?  Log in or sign up to let me knowand for a limited time, earn 50 bonus points for doing so!

For students attending U.S. institutions from abroad, the recent travel ban may have raised some important questions regarding affordability. Many of these students may have planned to travel home for the summer, but concerns about being able to reenter the country may discourage them from doing so now.


At this time, we still don't know how the ban will impact students long-term. However, it has forced many to face a pressing, unexpected question: How do you come up with the funds to afford last-minute room and board? Reducing your expenses can be a big help, but unfortunately, that likely won’t save you enough on its own. Combined with a few other options, though, it just might.


We’ve compiled a few resources we hope will help, but for on campus support, a good first stop will be your school’s international student office.


Find Additional Aid


International students often qualify for grants and scholarships, which are a great option since they don’t need to be paid back. Even though it’s later in the school year, organizations offer scholarships year-round. You can find scholarships by their due dates here.


You also may be able to borrow money for school. This is common in the United States, though some cultures are averse to this practice. In the event that you plan to seek a loan for continuing your education, consider a few important points before you do. You will need to ensure your loan funds reach the school (disburse) by the last day of your term.


Students are usually able to borrow up to their school’s calculated cost of attendance (COA), or the total amount required to cover tuition, room, board and estimated supplies. Think of this as the total amount you’re allowed to borrow, not the amount you will need. Since loans have to be paid back with interest, it’s always best to minimize the amount you take out.




The F-1 visa allows international students to work in the United States, but it limits where and how much. At this point in the semester, campus jobs may be scarce, but you can still keep an eye out for openings due to summer turn-over. Also, make sure you’ve exhausted all your options. Many schools employ students in roles such as teaching assistants and food service. Campus tutoring centers and student support offices may also offer employment opportunities.


You may also qualify for some off-campus work exceptions related to your area of study. These typically come in two forms: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). CPT refers to things like credit-bearing internships required by your major. Part-time job opportunities related to your field of study may be covered under OPT, however, any amount of OPT you use now could impact how much you’re able to use later on.


United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides strict guidelines on working while on an F1 visa. It is important to review these carefully.


Spread The Word


If you’re not personally affected by recent events, you can still help those who are. More than ever, it’s important to share resources on campus and within your community that are available to students in need. Large unplanned expenses can lead to a number of problems, including housing and food insecurity.


Many students are unaware of the offices, tools, and resources that exist to help them—and may not even know where to begin looking. These will vary by school and community, but examples might include school-based assistance with housing, scholarship counseling help via financial aid or college access programs, or in dire situations: food and housing support services. Aside from the international studies office, check your school directory or ask a professor about offices devoted to student support services. Often, the dedicated staff members who work in these offices will know about community resources as well.


Leverage the power of your community—online and offline—to communicate with others and provide support. Whether you’re sharing details on campus social media pages or using good old fashioned announcement boards, get the word out that there’s help. And never underestimate the power of good old word of mouth. It may not seem like much, but it could make all the difference. It also shows that you care.


Have you or others at your school been affected by the recent travel ban? Was this advice helpful and is there more we can add? We welcome more practical advice for helping students.

It’s the last day of the first month of a new year. If you haven’t set goals for the year ahead of us yet, you still have time to do so in January! (Or to start them again, if you’ve already bailed!)


I, for one, love to set goals. It helps me stay focused, motivated, and accomplished. However, if you’re not careful, it is easy to set goals that make you feel overwhelmed or unsuccessful. While I do have big dreams, I know that achieving them takes time and lots of hard work. Here’s how I ensure that I can.


Stay Practical


I never set a goal that is not practical time-wise. I often write down everything I want to and then pick out what I can fit into a year’s time frame.


For example, saying that I want a car by the end of the year may not work for me if I take on an unpaid internship. However, I can say I will save a certain amount of money by the end of the year to put toward my car. I think a good indicator of a strong goal is one that is measurable. If you can’t put down a time frame on it, then it’s best to break it down further.


Balance Short- And Long-Term Goals


Like I said before, goals help me feel motivated and accomplished. Feeling accomplished helps me feel more motivated to go after whatever else I want, and so that is why I set more short-term goals. Personally, I consider long-term goals as ones that are attainable in “x” amount of years, while I can achieve short-term goals in weeks, months, or less than a year.


I enjoy these because committing myself to something, and then achieving what I set out to do is a great feeling. For instance, last summer I told myself I would save all my $5 bills and ended up with over $250 in just a few weeks! This motivated me to save for a longer amount of time and for a set amount of money ($400). I am still currently working on this goal as I started last semester.


Don’t Beat Yourself Up


Sometimes, we set goals and don’t meet them, but that does not mean we failed.


For myself, I set a goal of getting all A’s and B’s for fall semester (I wanted to make Dean's List again). I almost had it, except for one math class, which I obtained a C in. At first, I was upset, but after reflecting, I was actually really proud of myself.


Although I didn’t meet the goal, I still did everything in my power to achieve it, such as seeing my TAs more, reaching out to professors, and getting tutoring specifically for math class. I am now more certain that I can take on the higher level math class I have for the spring semester.

What are some things you guys keep in mind when setting goals? Log in or sign up and let me know belowand for a limited time, earn 50 bonus points for doing so!

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Welcome to the first official scholarship challenge for 2017! (Check out this blog post if you have no idea what I’m talking about). I’m so excited to kick this off with you all—and I hope that we can win tons of scholarship money as a team.

We’re going to start slow at first, but we’ll really pick up steam as the challenges continue. Don’t get left behind, jump on board!

Challenge #1: Find 10 Scholarships by February 28, 2017

This first exercise is all about finding the scholarships that you’ll be applying for in 2017 as a part of this challenge:


Your first challenge is to go out and find at least 10 scholarships (with deadlines ranging from March 2017 to December 2017) that you are absolutely committed to applying to this year—no matter what.

All participants in the challenge should post links to their 10 scholarships below by February 28.


My job is to review your dream scholarships and make sure to design challenges throughout the year to help you apply (and, of course, win) your chosen scholarships.


  • Deadlines: Find scholarships with deadlines in March 2017 or later. I have a few challenges planned in February and March related to scholarship essays that you’ll probably want to do before applying for one of your scholarships.
  • Read the articles: I’ve posted some helpful articles below that give practical advice on how to use scholarship search engines and find great scholarships.
  • 1-hour sessions: Each time that you sit down to search for scholarships, commit to spending at least 1 hour on that session. Scholarships can be tricky to find, so you’re going to have to dedicate some time to searching deeply. Remember, it may take many of these 1-hour scholarship search sessions to find your ideal set of 10 scholarships.
  • Mix & match! Try to include a mix of general scholarships (those that are open to all students) and specific scholarships (those that are tailored for your specific circumstances).
  • Nope” scholarships: Remember, If a scholarship doesn’t look appealing to you (like a 1,000-word essay contest on Lincoln’s favorite BBQ restaurant), then it probably won’t look appealing to a lot of other students. If a scholarship looks annoying, it will probably receive few applications (giving you a greater chance of winning). Learn to love the scholarships that you traditionally say “NOPE” to.
  • Don’t be picky: People out there are handing out free money in exchange for completing an application, and there are no consequences for being denied. Apply to as many as you can!
  • Having trouble? Ping me in the comments below (@dianemelville) with your questions, and I will do my best to help!

Helpful Articles

I’ve published a few articles over the years on Salt that may be helpful for you to review before you start your scholarship search. Here are a few that I think are most relevant:

Ready to get started? Log in or sign up to join the challenge!

My little brother, or Little Goose, started his college adventure 3 years ago at Syracuse University. He went with the idea that he would pursue a career in the engineering field, following our dad’s footsteps. I was hesitant about him not exploring other fields of study, but I knew he had to make these decisions on his own.

Earlier in the summer, my little brother told me that he didn’t think he did so well in his engineering classes and that he wasn’t inspired by it. Turns out “not doing so well” was pretty much “not passing the semester.” Now, he wanted to change his major.


I told him, “Why didn't you explore this option your second year, or why didn’t you talk to an adviser earlier in the semester?” Ultimately, “¿por qué no pediste ayuda antes? (why didn’t you ask for help sooner?). Part of him thought that he would fall in love with engineering once he learned more about it. That wasn't the case.


A lot of ideas came to my mind as to “what to do?” or “who to talk to?” He could stay in Puerto Rico and take classes at the local university. He mentioned he enjoyed Syracuse and the people there and wouldn’t want to leave, to which I brought up the point of how much this will cost him in the future. We also talked about the idea of taking a semester off and working on a job that piqued his interest.


In the end, I knew my little brother had to accept his responsibilities and really think about his future. It’s his, not mine. So, this past semester, Little Goose changed his major. In my opinion, it was a little late in the game, but now, he's looking to get more into biology and eventually, something in the medical field.


I am happy that he got the courage to go to his adviser and begin the process of switching to another field of study. Although he might have to take some summer courses and pay some more money to graduate on time, I am happy he figured this out before he got a degree that doesn't inspire him.

College is a different experience for everyone. Everyone makes the best of it based on their own standards. I hope others can learn from the Little Goose and be aware of their grades and ask for help sooner rather than later. He’s very positive he will be able to graduate on time and is excited to venture into something closer to the medical field. I’m just happy he’s growing up and taking responsibilities.

Did you change majors in college? Why? How was your experience? Do you regret it?

Log in or sign up for the community to let us know in the comments.

I sometimes dread going back to school after break. There is always a little bit of anxiousness for the new semester and the upcoming summer. (I also miss staying up until 4 a.m., waking up at 2 p.m., lounging around with friends, and eating terribly over break.)


I feel a lot better by going back prepared and with a plan in mind. Here’s how I set myself up for success the next semester, so you can do the same for yourself too!


1. Set Goals


This one is kind of a no-brainer, right? It’s definitely something people say a whole lot, but that’s because of how important it is. Writing down a few goals at the start of the semester helps set the tone, and gives you something to look forward to.


Goals can be academic, personal, etc. I try to set more short-term goals than long-term goals, as they help me feel more motivated. (I’ll write more about my goals in an upcoming post.) As long as it's somethings that sparks either intrinsic or extrinsic motivation and pushes you to be your best self, it's a great goal!


2. Get A Wall Calendar


Or some type of “in-your-face” organizational aid. Wall calendars are near and dear to my heart. If I didn’t have one, I’d probably never remember anything.


They’re great because they are a visual aid that you are forced to see every day. This helps you keep track of things and stay accountable. I like to “X” out days that are finished because it shows me that time is moving along (yay for summer break!), as well as how much I have accomplished thus far (yay for Cass!).


On the calendar, I use different colors to represent things such as classes, job schedule, homework/projects, gym, and deadlines—especially deadlines. Even though it’s only January, now is the time to search and apply for summer internships. Write down application deadlines for these on your calendar, along with contact information for said internship. And remember to update the calendar EVERY time something new pops up. It is so simple to forget things.


3. Bring Things Home Little By Little


Things like winter clothes, boots, coats, space heaters, and extra storage bins can all go back home long before the last day of school. If you travel home for weekends, bring something with you each time.


You’d be shocked how hassle-free traveling will be at the end of the year once you realize that you’ve already packed up half your room! This takes some stress off and makes move out a breeze. I don’t have the opportunity to do this, but my roommate successfully packed up half her room before winter break and I was uber jealous.


These are just a few tips that I use to set myself up for success. What are some things you do to get yourself back into scholar mode?

Log in or sign up for the community to share your tipsand for a limited time, earn 50 bonus points for doing so!


Happy New Year, Everyone!


As you may know, my main goal in the Salt Community is to help you all to find and win free money to pay for college. To do this, I’m trying something a bit different this year—and launching a monthly scholarship challenge series!


Instead of writing blogs, I’m going to work with you each month to develop a new scholarship skill. Think of me as your hands-on, “remote” scholarship coach!


What Is It And How Does It Work?


I truly believe that some lessons can only be learned through real-world experience. I can share advice with you all day, but nothing will motivate you to apply for scholarships like the pride of overcoming your biggest fears and the sheer joy of actually receiving a scholarship check in the mail.


So, instead of using words, I’m going to design actionable challenges with real deadlines to give you the experiences you need to succeed. From practical things like finding eligible scholarships, writing a great essay, and improving your résumé to less discussed barriers, such as fear of rejection, intimidation, and analysis paralysis, you’ll learn how to overcome the biggest scholarship obstacles students face.


How Can You Participate?


Each month (starting January 27!), I’ll post one of these challenges in the community. Anyone who wants to participate is encouraged to pledge their commitment to tackling all 12 challenges in the comments below. If you do, for each monthly challenge, I’ll expect you to “report in” on your progress.


I promise to hold accountable everyone who commits to all 12 challenges. Meaning, if you pledge to participate, I’ll keep an eye out for your updates and may message you from time to time if you don’t report in! Sometimes, a little accountability can take you a long way!


Of course, everyone is encouraged to participate even if you can’t do every challenge or don’t want to be hounded by yours truly. As an additional bonus, be on the lookout for special community points and badges for participating, too.


I won’t tell you what the challenges are ahead of time, but feel free to share your scholarship struggles with me in the comments below. I’ll do my best to design a challenge to help overcome it!


Log in or sign up to comment now! And in addition to Diane's expertise, you'll also earn 50 bonus points for joining up!

A new year has begun, which means it is time to set new goals. One goal I think every high school student should consider is taking a college course. If possible, you may still have time to take a course this semester or over the summer. If not, look into for next year right now, so you don’t miss out again.


I took advantage of a program that let me do this while in high school, and the benefits were well worth it. Here are five reasons why I think taking a college course during high school is important:


1. It’s The Best College Prep


You get real first-hand experience: the flexibility of a college course, the weird due dates, etc. You learn ahead of time what’s in store for you when you actually get into college.


For instance, my professor taught us how to read a syllabus and pull out its important information. When I got to college, my freshman year was scary, but I felt like I was one step ahead because I knew the importance of “syllabus day.” I knew to always pull out the teachers’ contact info, the important due dates, and their grading technique.


2. Save Money


Do well? You could save yourself a few thousand dollars! If you’re planning to go to a 4-year university/college or are in one, then you know that the cost per credit can range anywhere from $400 and up. Taking a class beforehand at a local community college could cost you much less.


Plus, if you do well in your classes, you may be able to transfer those credits over and not have to take the class at the college, thus less money out of your pocket! Check with the school you plan to attend first to see if they’ll accept the credits.


3. Head Start In Your College Career


As mentioned before, you may be able to transfer your credits if you pass the classes. While saving a few bucks is great, you’ll also now have a few credits to start with. With those extra credits, you may even be able to meet your required number of credits early! And that means saving even more money!


I decided to take an introductory psych course. When I got to school, I didn’t have to take it again and was able to take higher level courses instead.


4. Higher High School GPA


At my high school, if you took advantage of this opportunity, the school added the college class into your calculated GPA. If you do well, this can result in a great GPA boost. Check with your high school to see if they’ll include the course in your GPA. Fortunately, my school did, and boosting my GPA like that made me that much more of a competitive candidate when applying for schools.


5. Networking


Just because you are taking this college course doesn’t mean that’s where the experience has to end. If you are able to take a course at a college you actually want to attend, then use that to your advantage! Make a good impression on the teacher so that you have someone who can vouch for you and set yourself up for success.


Although this may not be something you can do right away, it's important to start thinking about it because deadlines are usually months ahead. Taking a college class in high school is so helpful and the benefits you reap are so worth the extra work! I am definitely grateful that I took one and if I could do it again I’d take more.

Did anyone here take a college course while in high school? How was it?


Log in or sign up for the community to share your experiences.

I think it is time to officially retire the phrase “winter is coming” and admit the winter is finally here. If you find yourself snowed in this winter, use that free time to cozy up to some scholarship applications!


Here are some of the great scholarship opportunities available in the heart of winter.


Good luck!


The National Security Education Program: Boren Scholarship

Amount: up to $20,000

Deadline: February 9, 2017


The Boren Scholarship is a unique opportunity for students seeking careers in federal national security to study linguistic and cultural studies and work for the federal government for at least 1 year. This program operates more like a fellowship than a straightforward scholarship. For more details, visit the provider’s website above.


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must be planning an overseas program that meets home institution standards in a country outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Boren Fellowships are not for study in the United States


The Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: February 15, 2017


U.S. Attorneys is awarding one grand prize winner with a $2,500 scholarship for writing the best 800- to 1,000-word essay on one of the following topics:

  • Deportation
  • How to Apply for a Work Visa H1B
  • The Importance of Having an Immigration Lawyer
  • Investment Visas
  • Explain the Different Types of Visas


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a U.S. resident or citizen
  • Must be accepted to or currently attending an accredited US university or college


The Levin Firm Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 15, 2017


The Levin Firm (a car accident law firm out of Philadelphia) is offering a $1,000 essay contest scholarship to the student who writes the best 500-word essay on the following prompt:


“What safety features can be added to cars to cut down on injuries when a car crash occurs?”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • NOTE! I couldn’t find any other tangible eligibility requirement for this scholarship other than this line on the scholarship provider’s website “individuals who are currently attending or planning on attending college or graduate school in the near future.”


The Beinecke Scholarship

Amount: Up to $34,000

Deadline: February 17, 2017


The Beinecke Scholarship Program seeks to promote students seeking graduate degrees in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Students apply as undergraduate juniors and winners will receive $4,000 immediately and $30,000 upon enrollment in graduate school. You must be nominated by your institution to apply, so visit the scholarship provider’s website early to find your campus liaison.


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must demonstrate superior standards of intellectual ability, scholastic achievement, and personal promise during your undergraduate career
  • Must be a college junior pursuing a bachelor’s degree
  • Must plan to enter a master’s or doctoral program in the arts, humanities, or social sciences
  • Must be a United States citizen or United States national from American Samoa or the Commonwealth or the Northern Mariana Islands


The PAF Scholarship for Survivors

Amount: $3,000/year renewable for 4 years

Postmark Deadline: February 25, 2017


PAF stands for the Patient Advocate Foundation, and their scholarship is dedicated to supporting students who have been diagnosed with or treated for cancer or a chronic, life-threatening debilitating disease within the past 5 years. The organization is awarding a $3,000/year scholarship for up to 4 years ($12,000 total). To apply, students must complete an application and a 1,000-word essay on the following prompt:


“How has your diagnosis impacted your life and future goals?”


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be a legal resident of the United States
  • Must be under the age of 25
  • Must have been diagnosed with and/or treated for a chronic, life threatening debilitating disease within the past five years.
  • Must be pursuing a Bachelor’s degree or higher


Have any questions on these? Log in or sign up for a community account and let me know!

12-14-16 Salt Post Photo.jpgEvery semester, I hear students worrying about the high price of textbooks. And while there are ways to save on these costs, the fact that textbooks are getting more expensive concerns me greatly—not only as an adjunct professor but also as an author.


You may think that the authors of textbooks make a ton of money. I would love to tell you that royalties for my five books pay for a nice lifestyle. But the truth is a little less romantic.


In reality, authors work very hard and make very little. If you’re going out of your way to not buy books, you’re hurting yourself a lot more than the author. With the January term right around the corner, consider these facts when buying next semester’s required texts.


For Love, Not Money


Most authors, myself included, don’t write books for the money. If so, we would be broke because traditional publishers don’t pay very much for our work. I write because I want to educate students and professionals on a topic that I care deeply about.


All my books are about personal empowerment, with the last several dedicated to teaching financial advisers how to more effectively communicate with clients like you. My writing career would be considered successful, but I assure you that my biannual royalty checks, even when added together, typically would not cover dinner for two at a nice restaurant.


Publishers Set Prices


Traditional publishers set the price of a textbook—and authors like me have very little power to change that. I am contractually obligated to let the publisher set the price. If I refuse to charge that fee, then they refuse to publish me.


When a book sells, I get between 10% and 15% of what’s left after the publisher pays all of its expenses. This translates to cents on each copy. I am not complaining, as I knew this when I signed up for the job. But please factor this in when you protest your high book expenses.


Knowledge Is Power


Becoming a published author requires making a conscious decision to sit and write for hours and weeks and days about a particular topic. It can be lonely work to produce 60,000 words on a subject—then wait 7 to 9 months to see it in print. But I won’t change being an author for anything.


The knowledge I gain in the process of writing a book is well worth the endeavor. And the thrill I get when just one person, one student, one professional says he or she read the book makes me just want to write another.


When you buy your books for next semester, remember that knowledge is power. Think about the price you are willing to pay for being enlightened and for learning more about the world. Investing in knowledge is never a bad decision, even if the cost for doing so stings for a while.


How much do you usually spend on textbooks? How much do you think publishers should charge for textbooks? What ideas do you have on how to compensate a textbook author, while at the same time keeping the price of each book reasonable?


Log in or sign up to let me know!


Don't Be SAD This Season

Posted by cassandrag Employee Dec 7, 2016

Despite the fact that the weather has been treating us fairly well in the Northeast, I know cold, gloomy days are approaching. And with them, a “SAD” mood may follow.


“SAD” stands for “seasonal affective disorder,” and people can suffer from this when the weather changes and their moods dampen because of it. Winter may bring increased feelings of sadness, depression, and social withdrawal—and arrive at a time when college students like me are already stressed out with due dates, classes, responsibilities, etc.


The last thing we need is to be in a mood around this season. But it is important to remember that this is normal, and you can get through it. Here are a couple easy ways to avoid (or get yourself out of) the funk this season.


Be Self-Aware


Most people can combat SAD by talking through their feelings with parents, friends, and if needed, a therapist. But first, you need to be aware there’s a problem. If you are finding it harder to get out of bed than usual or losing interest in the things you love, take action.


Practice Self-Care


To practice self-care means to do something that you like, something that brings you joy, and taking time out for yourself. My self-care is blocking out 1 or 2 hours (sometimes more) to watch TV on my computer (haha).

I binge-watch shows because I find it very therapeutic. My friends do things like going to a fun part of campus. Other go out to eat and talk. It’s really up to you. Just make sure to have time set out for yourself.


SAD hits in the fall and winter, and as we know, exams, midterms, and finals all occur around this time. It’s important to be at your best mental health, so you perform your best in school (among other reasons!). Practicing self-care and reaching out for support when you need it will help you academically, mentally, and emotionally.


Have you overcome SAD? Help others do the same by sharing how you did it. Log in or sign up in this community to post a comment and get started!