Author Archive | Jan N.

Image by mpccormi on Flickr

Image by mpccormi on Flickr

Textbooks can be a huge bummer. Not only do you have to read countless pages to keep up with classes, but you also have to pay hundreds of dollars for them! A typical textbook costs around $100. With a full course load, that’s about $800-$1000 a year just on books. So, before you head into your school’s bookstore next year and pay full price for textbooks, consider these alternatives:

  1. Discount bookstore. Usually found just outside of campus, discount bookstores sell the textbooks you need at a cheaper price than your school’s bookstore.
  2. Buy used. Ask friends and other students who have taken the class to sell you their textbooks. Your school’s bookstore may even sell used copies. It may not look as nice as a brand new book but you can save a lot of money.
  3. Rent. This is for anyone who doesn’t want to go through all the hassle of reselling their book. This is also a great option for textbooks that will release a new edition in the following year. Instead of holding onto an unsellable old edition, rent! Rent books through your school’s bookstore or online on websites such as Textbookrental, Rentbooks, or Bigmama.
  4. Borrow. Your school’s library is certainly going to have every textbook you need. The only issue is that you won’t be able to keep it the whole term. Photocopy any important pages you may need when you have to return your book.
  5. E-textbooks. Not everyone’s top choice, but e-textbooks are cheap and ultra-portable. Everyone carries around a laptop or tablet to school, so why not lighten the load on your back and have your book in your electronic device instead? Since you save on printing costs, e-textbooks are significantly cheaper than a physical book.
  6. Online bookstores. Locazu, Bookmob, Slugbooks, Bookbyte and Amazon are just a few of the several websites out there that sell new and used textbooks. The only con is that you will have to wait for your textbooks to be shipped. Some websites such as Chegg give you access to an online version of the textbook while you wait for your physical book to arrive.
  7. Other online websites. Look through Kijiji, Craigslist, Ebay and even textbook exchange groups on Facebook.

Image by lolheyitsrichie!, Flickr

Image by lolheyitsrichie!, Flickr

Most US schools require you to write the SAT, but a few (including the highly competitive ones) require you to write two or three SAT Subject Tests as well. Be sure to review your prospective school’s application process for details. In general, subject tests are a great way to show your interest and skill in a certain subject and will help increase your chances of getting into a US college. Here is a quick rundown of SAT Subject Tests:

  • 20 different subject tests are offered, but only some are offered on specific dates. Go over Subject Test Dates to find out when you can write your Subject Test.
  • Consists entirely of multiple-choice questions.
  • Each subject test is scored on a scale of 200-800.
  • A subject test takes 1 hour to write.
  • A base fee of $24.50 is required to write a subject test and any additional tests are $13, except for Language with Listening tests which are an additional $24.
  • You can write up to three subject tests on one test date, but you cannot take a subject test and the SAT on the same day.
  • Those applying for Early Decision or Early Action are recommended to take their Subject Test by October or November of Grade 12. Regular decision applicants have until January to take their Subject Tests.
  • Some colleges determine placement based on your subject test scores and can exempt you from a class in that subject.

Similar to the SAT, subject test dates and registration information can be found on the College Board website. After registering, if you change your mind about which subject tests to take or how many you plan on writing, you can make the appropriate changes on the actual test day (except for Language with Listening tests).

SAT Subject Test Tips

  • When choosing which subject test to write, identify any you may need for your college application. For your additional subject tests, play to your strengths and choose subjects that you are confident you will score well on. If possible, take tests from very different subjects to show that you are a well-rounded student. Never take a subject test on a subject you are not confident in.
  • It’s best to write your test right after you’ve taken a course on the subject so that the content is still fresh in your head. However, languages should only be taken after having plenty of practice and study.
  • Language with Listening tests are only administered once per year on the same day.
  • Study! Just like the SAT, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort to ensure you get the best score.

Want to learn about other tests?

Image by California Cthulhu (Will Hart), Flickr

Image by California Cthulhu (Will Hart), Flickr

Many Canadian students dream of going to the United States for their post-secondary education. However, the process is tough and spaces are limited. Of the 30,946 students who applied to Brown University’s Class of 2015, only 2,692 were accepted – and only 28 of them hailed from Canada (source: Brown University). Don’t fret, we’re here to help! One of the first things you should be focusing on is the SAT – one of the most important elements of the application process for most US schools. Here is a brief rundown of the test:

  • Every high school is different. A student with perfect grades in one school might only get fair grades in another. The SAT provides a way for every student to be assessed in an equal way.
  • The SAT tests your abilities in three areas: readingwriting and mathematical reasoning.
  • The test consists of several multiple-choice questions and an essay.
  • A score of 200-800 is given in each section, providing a maximum score of 2400.
  • The test takes about 4 hours to write.
  • The cost for writing the test is $51.
  • You can take the SAT as many times as you want, but most students take it twice. The College Board (in charge of running the SAT) recommends not taking it more than twice because of a lack of evidence supporting significant score gains by taking the test more than twice.
  • Most schools accept SAT scores up to December of Grade 12, however individual schools may accept scores at later dates. Review your prospective school’s application process for their requirements.
  • Recently, the College Board introduced Score Choice which gives students the option to choose which score they wish to send to their schools of interest. However, some schools still ask students to submit all of their SAT scores. Review school policies because some only take your best overall score while others will take your best score from each section.

Typically, the test is administered six times a year in Canada. You can find a list of dates to write the SAT in Canada as well as register for the test on the College Board website. Register as soon as you can, not only because registration closes one month prior to the test date, but also to ensure a seat in your nearest test centre. If you have missed the deadline, you can apply for Waitlist Status and depending on whether sufficient test materials, staff and seating are available on the test day, you can take the test. If you are admitted to the test centre on test day, a waitlist fee of $45 will be charged.

SAT Tips

  • A score over 2000 is recommended to be competitive in prestigious US schools such as NYU, USC, Stanford or any of the Ivy League schools. 
  • Most students take the SAT in the spring of Grade 11 and again in the fall of Grade 12.
  • Even though you can take the test as many times as you want, taking it too many times may not send a good message to admission officers.
  • When choosing when to take the SAT, be aware of college application deadlines. You may have until December of Grade 12 to take the test but those applying for Early Decision or Early Action should write their SAT earlier.
  • Study! Some students spend months, even years, studying for the SAT. A really good score can help you stand out.
  • Some college applications also ask students to write SAT Subject Tests. Check out our article on {SAT Subject Tests} for a break down on these tests.

Want to learn about other tests?

Image by Poppy Thomas-Hill, Wikimedia

Image by Poppy Thomas-Hill, Wikimedia

Not every student wants to break open their piggy bank and use their hard-earned pennies to pay for school. Naturally, the ideal situation is to get someone else to pay for you. Lo and behold, these genius inventions called scholarships, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one, may not fully fund your entire post-secondary career, but will definitely help. Typically when students look for scholarships, they seek out a guidance counsellor, search their post-secondary school’s website, or scour the Internet. But don’t stop there! Here are a few unconventional ways you can scrounge up a little extra cash to soften the proverbial baseball bat to the head, also known as tuition:

  • Your part-time job: It may not have been mentioned in the job interview, but several companies offer their employees scholarships. Burger King, Walmart, and Home Depot are just a few companies that offer this amazing opportunity. Ask your boss or look up your company online to see what they offer, and how to apply.
  • Your parents’ jobs: Some companies offer scholarships to the children of their employees. Get your parents to ask their bosses or HR department for more information.
  • Unions: As a worker, unions protect your rights. As a student, they save you money. Unions are goldmines for industry-specific scholarships. For example, the Ontario Nurses’ Association offers scholarships to the immediate family of ONA members studying nursing, and the Canadian Dance Teachers Association offers scholarships to dance students who know a CDTA member. Search your parents’ or teachers’ unions – you never know what they have to offer.
  • Your future workplace: Look through the website of a company or organization you want to work for, and those of their competitors as well. If you receive a scholarship, it will get you noticed by the company and will look great for future internship and job prospects.
  • Extracurricular activities: Playing varsity tennis or being president of the art club is not only rewarding in experience, it can also be rewarding to your pockets. A number of scholarships require applicants to have some sort of athletic, artistic or leadership involvement, so if you’re already into extracurriculars, you’re on your way. Talk to your coach or teacher supervisor and they can help refer you to scholarship opportunities. Research any organizations you’re part of outside of school such as Scouts Canada or the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada for more opportunities.

Most of these scholarships are very exclusive, allowing only members of a specific organization to apply, but the internet is full of surprises. You never know what you’ll find!

 

Image by Ezu, Flickr

Image by Ezu, Flickr

Having fun isn’t as simple as it used to be. With tuition, textbooks and rent, the typical university student is strapped for cash. This can make it very difficult to afford decent entertainment. Here are some ways to prevent the boredom, while saving some money:

  • Support your school. From cheering on your school’s football team at a home game or attending a school play, there is a lot of things for you to do in and around your campus. Most of these school events are free while others usually cost less than $10. Check out posters around your campus for upcoming events.
  • Discover free events around your city. Free events pop up all the time around every city. Be sure to experience your city’s festivals and parades. Bookstores and coffee shops often have free book/poetry readings and live music. Check out your city’s website or local newspaper for a whole list of upcoming events.
  • Cash in on local deals. On Tuesdays, you can watch a movie at a theater for half the price. Also, some museums and art galleries let you in for free or at a discounted rate during specific times. Getting rush tickets are great for impromptu nights out with friends.
  • Take advantage of free public spaces. Spend the day having a picnic in the park or hike through the woods. During winter, your nearby pond or fountain is probably going to be turned into a free ice skating rink. Instead of paying for movies, visit the library and borrow from their collection. Some cities even have free movie nights in the park.
  • Use coupons and discount cards. Being a student gives you access to a lot of deals. Get in touch with your school’s student union and see what fun deals they have to offer. Don’t forget to look through websites like Groupon for some great local deals. Sometimes you can find laser tag and bowling games or even tickets to your favourite artist’s concert for insanely cheap prices.

Image by CollegeDegrees360, Flickr

Image by CollegeDegrees360, Flickr

Congratulations on finding your laptop for school! Now, it’s time for you to buy it. Here are some helpful tips on buying your laptop, without breaking the bank:

  • Take advantage of student pricing and back-to-school deals. Apple offers student discounts and a $100 app store gift card. Microsoft, HP and Dell gave out Xbox 360s with the purchase of a laptop over $699 during back-to-school season last year. Keep an eye on what deals they have this year. Computer stores always have some great deals around July and August.
  • Price match. Look through store websites and flyers for a really cheap price for your laptop. If you can find one, stores like Best Buy and Future Shop will match the price and give you an extra 10% discount.
  • Bargain. It never hurts to ask a salesperson for a better deal. If they can’t change the price, they might be able to throw in some free warranty or accessories instead.
  • Consider refurbished. Refurbished laptops are a great deal, but be careful. See if you can try it out before buying it and know the return policy in case it doesn’t work out.
  • The Internet is your friend. Some people have been very lucky, finding amazing deals on sites like Ebay, Craigslist and Kijiji.

Before you buy, make absolutely sure the laptop is for you. Go to a store and try it out. Pick it up, try typing a few sentences and press all the buttons to get a good feel for the device. And, make sure you like how it looks. This is going to be your ultimate productivity machine for the next few years, so make sure it’s right for you. Good luck!

Image by luc legay, Flickr

Image by luc legay, Flickr

Laptops have become one of the most important all-in-one tools for students. You can take notes, do research for an essay, listen to music, watch videos and much more. There’s a whole list of things to consider before you buy a laptop, but when looking for the best laptop for school, be particularly aware of these aspects:

  • Price: This is going to be a problem for everyone. In my opinion, get something that will last you throughout university/college. Even though it might be expensive, it’s better than buying something cheap but unreliable. Establish a budget, but be prepared to spend an extra hundred dollars for something really good.
  • Operating system (Mac or PC): Choose whichever OS you’re most comfortable with. However, consider your needs when choosing one. Some very important applications only run on a certain OS. For example, some engineering apps only run on Windows and Final Cut Pro (for film students) only runs on a Mac.
  • Portability: Some people are fine with carrying 10-pound laptops with a huge screen. Others are not. You may have to sacrifice screen size for weight, but shop around and you’ll find something with a perfect balance of the two. When considering portability, also think about how heavy your charger is.
  • Battery life: Power outlets in typical lecture halls and classrooms come few and far between. Unless your room has an outlet for every person, battery life is going to be very important. Try to purchase a laptop with enough battery life for your longest class. If you have back-to-back classes, find a laptop with an exceptionally long battery life.
  • Storage: Finding a place to store all of your essays, notes, applications, music and videos is important. For most students, 250 GB should be enough, but if you have a lot of media, you may want 500 GB or even 1 TB. Take advantage of cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive for free extra space to store files.
  • Other features: Think about what features you want in your device. Do you want touch screen capabilities? A specific type of keyboard? An optical drive? Webcam? Mic? USB ports? SD card slots?
  • Warranty: Sooner or later, something is going to go wrong. A good warranty might set you back a few bucks, but is worth it in the long run when something breaks.

Your “perfect laptop” may not exist, but sitting down and figuring out what you want and need will save you time and money later on. Once you have chosen “the one,” check out this article on finding great deals for your laptop.