Author Archive | Jessica V.

How College Students Can Prevent Identity Theft

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Millennials are widely recognized as the most tech-savvy generation. The generation who grew up at the dawn of the digital age and can hardly recall a time before the internet. However, studies suggest that, for all their tech fluency, millennials are shockingly susceptible to identity theft.

A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2014, 22 percent of students found themselves the victims of identity fraud, a rate three times higher than the overall national average.

This leads us to an obvious question: what behaviors are college students engaging in which lead to such astronomical rates of identity theft?

What is Identity Theft?

The United States Department of Justice defines identity theft as the following:

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

With such a broad, generic definition, it is sometimes hard to discern identity theft attempts. It doesn’t help that ID theft tactics have changed significantly throughout history.

identity theft infographic

As new technologies are developed, new identity theft tactics are sure to emerge. It is essential for everyone, including college students, to remain vigilant.

How Does Identity Theft Affect You?

Some students might not believe that identity theft is such a major concern, and that misconception is a big part of the problem. Identity theft can quickly turn your financial situation, as well as your life in general, into a nightmare.

First and foremost, these people can steal from you. If an identity thief gains access to your bank account, they can easily drain your funds. In addition, they may have access to any savings accounts you have tucked away as well.

Besides this, becoming the victim of identity theft can be disastrous for your credit. As a college student, you are probably just starting to develop credit. However, becoming the victim of identity theft early on can put you into a hole right from the beginning. A bad credit score as a result of identity theft can affect your ability to:

  • Open a credit card
  • Take out student loans
  • Buy a car
  • Rent a house or apartment
  • Get the job you want after graduation

That’s right – some employers check job candidates’ credit scores before hiring, so having a bad credit score may ultimately stand between you and your dream job.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

So what can you do to protect yourself? Try adopting these responsible behaviors:

  • Beware of Oversharing: Take advantage of privacy settings on social media, and don’t follow any links unless you know the person who posted them. Keep personal information like your birthdate and address off of the internet.
  • Limit Public Wi-Fi Use: A public Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to identity thieves. Never do anything sensitive like shop or check your bank account on an open connection. It’s better to spend a little bit of data than leave yourself vulnerable to attack.
  • Don’t Bother with Credit Card Offers: Those booths offering a free t-shirt if you fill out a credit card application are common sights on college campuses. Do not give your personal information to anyone, even to seemingly reputable individuals. If you need to fill out a credit application, do it online using a secure connection.
  • Lock Up Your Personal Information: Don’t keep documents such as your social security card or other highly sensitive information in your wallet. Get a good quality, easily-concealed lockbox to store your private documents. Also, don’t just leave the lockbox sitting out on the coffee table – hide it, and don’t let your roommates know where it is.
  • Shred Sensitive Material: Documents such as bank statements, bills and credit card offers should be shredded, not simply thrown in the trash. Investing in a $20 paper shredder is a much cheaper and easier option in the long run.
  • Keep an Eye On Your Bank Account: It’s not always the most pleasant sight, but you need to check your bank account regularly. If you detect any unfamiliar activity, contact your bank right away.
  • Cash is King: Avoid carrying around a debit card or checkbook. Instead, try to pay for everything with either cash or a credit card. It’s much easier to correct fraudulent activity with a credit card than with your bank account.
  • Use Unique Passwords: Do not use one password to access all of your social media and financial accounts. Pick out a unique password for every account, and try to avoid writing down any of your passwords.

If you suspect that you might be the victim of identity fraud, contact your bank or credit company immediately. You should also contact all three credit reporting bureaus in order to issue a fraud alert, so that the abuse does not ruin your credit.

Only through due diligence and responsible financial and personal management can you protect yourself from identity theft and credit fraud.

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8 Reasons Why College Students Should Consider an IT Career

Image by StockSnap, pixabay.com

Image by StockSnap, pixabay.com

Not everyone starts out with a clear vision of what they want to do. After all, trying to choose how to spend the rest of your life is a pretty scary prospect. For those who remain tenuously undecided, there is still hope.

IT professionals are in high demand these days. As Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College, explains,

There truly will be a major shortage, in terms of graduating students in areas of computers and technology, to meet the needs of the companies out there.

Here are just a few of the fairly convincing reasons why you may want to explore IT as a future career path:

1. There is Lots of Personal Freedom
Of course, office culture will vary from one company to the next; however, IT professionals are generally left to do their own thing. Many positions will allow IT pros to set their own hours, work remotely, pace their work as they choose and have control over their workspace. Having a high degree of personal freedom on the job is never a bad thing.

2. You Have Flexibility in Picking a Specialty
Let’s say you pick a professional area of expertise, but then later realize that it isn’t quite right for you. With many career paths, it may be too difficult to go back and try to change gears. With IT, it’s actually rather simple.

Many IT professionals will change their specialty at some point, from software developers to network administrators, or from database administrators to web developers and so forth. There are numerous different fields to choose from, so you are definitely not going to get bored any time soon.

3. You Get to Travel Frequently
The IT field is constantly changing. It’s your job to always learn and stay informed on new developments in the tech industry. As a result, you will likely be traveling fairly often in order to attend classes, conferences and industry shows. IT conferences happen constantly in all corners of the world, and having a job which involves traveling around the globe and learning new things is a serious perk.

4. The Money is Good
Although it may not be the first thing on your list of credentials for a prospective career path, it’s worth noting that IT jobs tend to pay pretty well. After all, being an IT professional means that you have a valuable set of skills which most people do not possess, but which pretty much all organizations rely upon in order to survive.

The actual salary will vary based the organization, but many companies are willing to pay pretty well for skilled IT professionals.

5. You Get to Help People
As mentioned above, IT professionals possess a set of skills which most people do not have. Working in IT, you will be able to help people on a daily basis, and many individuals in the field find this as one of the job’s most personally fulfilling prospects. After all, it is nice to be needed.

6. You Can Think Creatively
As an IT professional, you will be confronted with unusual problems pretty much constantly, and it will be your job to find creative solutions in order to overcome them. IT is a challenging field, but in a good way; you will be expected to employ creative problem solving as part of your regular skill set. As such, it’s an especially great career path for those who love puzzles and other activities which involve thinking outside the box.

In many ways, IT is just as much of an art as it is a science, and many companies have really started to treat it as such. As Global Risk Technologies’ CIO Monica Eaton-Cardone explains, “A lot of my job is cheerleading, and a lot of these guys on my team are like artists.”

7. You’ll Play with Cool Toys
If you are the kind of person who always wants to try out the new gadgets as soon as they become available, then IT could be the field for you. People in IT oftentimes get the newest tech products even before they hit the market. You will be able to test the latest operating systems, smartphones, tablets and other fun pieces before anyone else.

8. You’ll Gain Lots of Helpful Knowledge
Who needs to call tech support if you’ve got a background in IT?! You can be your own tech support! Being able to competently handle your own tech issues outside of work is one of the most frequently overlooked, though handy, benefits of pursuing a career in IT. Plus, your friends will love you if you can save them time and money by handling their tech questions.

Very few other fields offer such a high degree of independence, good pay, personal fulfillment and job security as IT. Considering all of these perks and benefits, there’s no reason not to at least think about the idea.

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Credit Card 101: Everything New Cardholders Need to Know

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

It’s a milestone, a rite of passage that marks the journey into adulthood: holding your very first credit card with your name in shiny, raised letters.

There’s a sense of freedom in the moment – you can go buy things, no matter what your bank balance shows. But before you peel that “Activate your card now” sticker off and head out to your favorite stores, make sure that you have a handle on what’s about to happen.

Choosing a Card

Card issuers offer a variety of incentives to attract new users. These offers can include waiving the annual fee, zero interest fees for the first year or bonus points that can be put towards future purchases. While the incentives may be appealing, it is important to remember that they are typically temporary. Check out what happens when the initial ‘new card’ phase is over before applying for a card.

Know the Basics

Before using your card, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the card’s key criteria.

Annual Percentage Rate
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the yearly rate of interest on your credit card. Determined by using an index (such as the U.S. Prime Rate) and adding the bank’s margin, the APR is a method of assessing fees on credit card usage.

The APR for a card can change over time. For example, the card might have an introductory rate or a promotional rate (applicable to balance transfers).

Higher APRs are assigned to individuals with lower credit scores. As both your credit reputation and score improve, see if you can get a lower rate.

Start by talking to your bank and requesting a lower rate. “It’s a simple phone call, and the worst they can say is no,” says Patricia Hasson, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Interest Fees
By calculating the Daily Periodic Rate (the APR divided by 365), credit cards assess fees based on the amount charged on your card. These fees can vary, based on card polices and variable APR rates. Some cards offer an initial grace period for interest fees or offer one year of low interest as an incentive to use their card.

Minimum Payment
The lowest amount of money a cardholder is required to pay each month is known as the minimum payment. Each card has its own formula for determining the minimum payment due, specified in the card agreement.

Card Smarts

Unchecked spending can lead to financial disaster. Before you start swiping the card, make a plan of action.

Use Your Power Wisely
The secret of successful credit card usage is understanding that just because you CAN charge something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Credit card use should be filtered through a need vs. want criteria. Taking your credit card out of your wallet when the purchase is a legitimate need will help prevent excessive credit card debt and abuse.

Cash Advances Can Really be a Set-Back
Sometimes, you really ‘need’ some cash. That cash advance option on your card is tempting, but what are the long-term effects of hitting the ATM? Interest rates on cash advances are calculated differently than on purchases, resulting in higher fees and a reduction in your available credit.

Rich Bialek, a credit card industry expert, said, “A cash advance typically would involve a higher APR than a retail purchase because the card company doesn’t earn a merchant fee on a cash advance.”

Keeping an Eye On the Bottom-Line
Most cards come with a credit limit, a maximum amount that can be charged. Spending over that amount can result in additional fees and fines, which can quickly add up. Keep control of your card usage by paying attention to your credit limit and staying under it.

Know Your Chargeback Responsibilities
Chargebacks are a consumer protection mechanism. If you experience fraud, either from a business owner or a criminal, you have the right to a refund. A chargeback is a forced credit card refund, facilitated by the bank that issued your card.

However, chargebacks should only be used in extreme circumstances as a last resort. You should always try to get a refund from the merchant directly before contacting the bank. If you dispute a transaction with the bank instead of dealing with the merchant, you’re engaging in something called friendly fraud. Merchants consider this illegitimate use of the chargeback process to be cyber shoplifting.

There are major consequences for businesses when chargebacks are filed. A credit card expert, Monica Eaton-Cardone, said:

I don’t think the majority of consumers who file friendly fraud chargebacks are doing it to create a consequence. I think… they are ignorant to what really happens behind the scenes. They think that it is just their bank giving them the money back.

Don’t be ignorant of your credit card responsibilities and liabilities.

Paying Off Debt

Using your credit card is easy, but paying it off just doesn’t have the same ‘fun factor.’ However, it’s a necessary part of the credit card system.

Save the date
Many credit card companies allow you to choose your own due date – a feature that can come in handy for planning purposes. Choose a date that is just after payday to ensure that you have funds available to make your credit card payment. Making your payment on time is an important factor in building your credit and preventing additional fees for late payments.

More Than the Minimum
Your credit card statement will tell you the ‘minimum payment’ that you must make to be in compliance with your cardholder agreement. As long as you pay the minimum amount due each month, your account will stay in good standing.

The reality, however, is that by making the minimum payment you may end up paying for items years after your initial purchase. Your interest is calculated on the amount of credit used on the card, increasing the amount you’re actually paying back by sometimes hundreds of dollars. To maximize your credit, make more than the minimum payment each month. Ideally, you should pay the entire balance off every month.

Anisha Sekar, a contributor to Nerd Wallet, also points out that paying the minimum can hurt your credit score:

Thirty percent of your credit score is determined by how much debt you carry… This means that accruing charges on your card and failing to pay them off is like putting a dent in your credit score every month; over time, this adds up to a lot of damage.

Check Your Status

Using credit cards is both good and bad. Used wisely, credit cards can be helpful in an emergency or for making large purchases. Used improperly, however, these cards can have a negative effect on your credit – a result that can haunt you financially for years.

Monitoring your credit is important. Credit bureaus offer consumers free credit reports annually and many credit card companies offer credit reporting as part of their services. Checking your credit report not only lets you see what your financial habits look like, it allows you to keep an eye on any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

Think Long Term

Incorporating basic financial principles into your college education will help establish a reputable credit history that will benefit you for years to come.

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Tailgating: A College Rite of Passage

Image by Jessica Velasco

Image by Jessica Velasco

Every college and university has a unique culture, so student initiation into college life varies depending on where you go. From holding vigil over the graffiti rocks at Northwestern University to learning how to do the Gator chomp at the University of Florida to having a conditioned response to say “war eagle” at the mere mention of Auburn University, every school is different.
However, there is one rite of passage that is present in any college community. I’m not talking about matriculation, keg stands, or even graduation. No, the real rite of passage for any self-respecting college student is to go tailgating at least once during his or her college career.

What Is Tailgating

If you are already a college student, I pray that you would not really be asking this question. But if you’re not sure, here’s a quick low-down on this crucial, collegiate activity. Tailgating is the party that happens in the parking lot before (and sometimes after) major events. Tailgating is most common at sports competitions, but many folks also like to tailgate at concerts and other types of festivals.

Typically, tailgaters get to the stadium or arena about four hours before the start of the game or concert. Beverages, finger food, and anything grilled are common fare among most tailgating circles. While tailgating, people show their support for the band or team that they are there to see. They also play yard games like the ever-popular cornhole and socialize with other passionate fans.

When To Tailgate

Anytime your school has a sporting event is a good time to tailgate. College football games are perhaps the most common tailgating events but other sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, and hockey are also known for their pre-game party atmosphere. Even if the weather is not that great, chances are there will still be diehard fans tailgating before the game. So throw on a poncho and boots or gloves and a scarf and get out and join them!

Tailgating Tips

Now that you know the basics of tailgating, here are 14 tips to turn you into a college tailgating pro!

  1. Arrive early. Tailgaters are intense. No matter what time you arrive, there will already be people there in full party mode. Arrive as early as you can to ensure you have plenty of space. You’ll want all your friends to park close by, so check to see if there are enough spots. Plus, you’ll need time to set up your gear (tables, chairs, canopies, food, etc.) and you’ll need time to tear down before heading into the game.
  2. Bring something to identify your tailgate. When your friends call, wondering where you are, you can say something like, “We’re in lot D2. Look for the red and yellow balloons.”
  3. Get your food ready the night before. This will help cut down on the game day stress. Marinate and skewer your kebabs, shape burger patties and frost cupcakes.
  4. Remember the golden rule of food service: KEEP HOT FOODS HOT AND COLD FOODS COLD! Has that egg salad been sitting out in the sun for more than an hour? Was your meat stored properly? Is everything fully cooked? If you aren’t sure, don’t eat it no matter how hungry you are. It won’t be worth the consequences.
  5. You can never have enough ice, so bring more bags than you think you’ll need. Everyone wants their drinks to be cold. If you have extra you can make someone else’s day by sharing.
  6. If you are grilling, bring a metal bucket for still-glowing coals. The bucket can also be full of water while you’re grilling for emergencies.
  7. If the weather is cold, bring plenty of thermoses of soup, hot cocoa and cider. Dress for the weather and bring extra cold weather gear for friends who are less prepared.
  8. Have a first aid kit handy. Band-aids, Advil, gauze wraps, alcohol wipes, and the like are all good for small emergencies. Remember that most stadiums have official first aid tents as well.
  9. Bring plenty of water! Not everyone drinks alcohol at a tailgate, so bring alternatives. And water is great to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of it even during cooler months.
  10. Don’t forget the parking lot games. Cornhole is, perhaps, the most popular tailgating game. Nearly every group you pass will be tossing bags. If your tailgating party is large, consider drawing up a cornhole tournament. You can bring brackets to help keep things organized. Without a little structure, the “kids” could be fighting over the bags! Other games could be fun too—beer pong, washers, ladder golf. And don’t forget the basics; tossing a football around or playing catch with a baseball might be all the entertainment your group needs.
  11. Make new friends. Tailgaters are some of the friendliest people out there, so don’t be shy; introduce yourself to fellow fans. Inviting your new friends to play a round of cornhole or beer pong (see number 10) is a great way to bond.
  12. Bring your phone charger with a car adapter. Your phone is indispensable at a tailgate because friends will be calling you to find out where to park and you’ll want to be able to take pictures of the actual game too!
  13. Know the stadium’s rules about tailgating. Most arenas are pretty laid-back with tailgaters, but some do have restrictions against glass bottles, open fires, and other considerations. Find out what the rules are before you go or you can ask other tailgaters once you get there.
  14. Have fun and cheer on your team! Tailgating should be fun, first and foremost, so enjoy the party atmosphere and cheer your team on to victory!

You can’t graduate college without attending at least one tailgating party. Bonus points if you host the gig. Get out there, socialize, meet new people and be part of a universal college experience.

Do you have any other tailgating tips or stories? Share with us on Facebook!

Beware: College Student Scams are on the Rise

 
 

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

One of the best things about going off to college is the newfound independence. You don’t have parents telling you what to do anymore — and that is so liberating.

However, there are tons of people out there who are just as excited about your new independent lifestyle – free from the watchful eye of respectable, responsible parents. Scammers are just waiting for your carefree lifestyle to kick in.

Why You are a Target

Scammers target college students for a couple of reasons. First, you are fairly naive and innocent. You might not think so, but in worldly terms, you are totally unware of what is lurking out there. That means you won’t necessarily recognize scams for what they are.

Second, college is expensive. Scammers know you need money and they are willing to wrap appealing offers up in nice, neat packages.

How They Entice You

There are several college student scams out there. We can’t alert you to all of them, but we can help you identify the most common attempts to get at your money.

Credit Card Offers
These scams can get at you in one of two ways.

Scammers will get your money. Many companies bank on the fact that college students are pretty ignorant of things like interest rates and credit card fees. Signing up for a card might seem like an innocent way to get much-needed money during college. But the card companies will hide excessive fees and crazy interest rates in an attempt to get as much from you as possible.

Second, scammers will get your identity. These people might not even be associated with a real credit card company. But by getting you to fill out an official looking application, they can steal your identity. You might think your identity isn’t worth stealing. But in reality, 1/3 of all identity theft cases feature victims under the age of 30.

Credit card companies have been banned from college campuses in the United States because of these scams. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get you at other local hotspots. A lot of companies will offer college-related gear as an incentive for signing up. But is a new t-shirt with your school’s mascot worth thousands of dollars in credit card fees or a stolen identity?

If you are seriously interested in a credit card, talk with someone older and wiser who can advise you about what to look out for. If you don’t want to go back to your parents, consult your school’s financial aid office.

Digging Through the Trash
Many credit card companies will send pre-activated cards in the mail. They hope the ease of activation will entice you to take action.

But if you aren’t interested, you’re likely to toss the card in the trash. And scammers know that. People who are desperate for free money won’t think twice about digging through your trash. All the scammer would have to do is activate the account and your credit history is instantly tarnished.

Also, you might be tempted to throw out your old credit card statements. However, those little pieces of paper are filled with valuable information — which would also be dangerous in the wrong hands. Get yourself a paper shredder. This could be the most valuable school supply you ever buy. Or, just make sure to rip up any sensitive information and cut up any credit cards you won’t use.

Awarding Scholarships
Many students apply for scholarships before and during their college career. That’s why it seems so innocent to receive a notice in the mail informing you that there is a great scholarship offer awaiting you.

Scammers might ask you to fill out a simple application to be able to access the money. If you provide the information they request, they could steal your identity.

Other offers require the student to pay a small administrative fee before the scholarship can be released. Obviously, once the fee is paid or the information rendered, the scammer is gone; there never was a real scholarship available.

Only apply for scholarships from reputable companies or organizations. Don’t give your personal information to just anyone. And be wary of anyone telling you won something you didn’t apply for.

Pirating Music and Movies
Because college students are almost always strapped for cash, they usually go looking for deals on music and movies. Whether intentionally or unknowingly, students might illegally pirate their entertainment.

Scammers will send a letter saying your illegal activity has been detected. They’ll threaten imprisonment or fines for your actions. But, if you pay a small fee, your sins will be forgiven and the dispute settled.

In reality, there is very little chance that anyone anywhere will be able to detect your illegal activity. Therefore, such a letter would not hold a real threat. Plus, the FBI doesn’t usually allow criminals to pay $20 for a get-out-of-jail card!

How to Stay Safe from Scams

If you do happen upon a scammer, take action right away. You might be able to help other college students stay safe.

If the scam originated from a legitimate business, contact the Better Business Bureau. The BBB acts as a conflict resolution moderator; they aren’t involved in criminal litigation.

The Federal Trade Commission should be notified about fraudsters. They don’t prosecute individual cases, but your information can help them stop wide-spread threats.

Several federal agencies, including the FBI, joined forces to create the Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you encountered the fraudster online, the IC3 should be notified.

You can also contact local organizations if the threat came from someone in your area. For example, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. You will also want to contact the attorney general in your state.

If you’ve lost money in the fraud scheme, check with eConsumerServices. They help those affected by online fraud or credit card scams get their money back. If you’d prefer to just handle things yourself rather than get help from an outsider, eConsumerServices also offers tips on how to rectify the situation on your own. They have step-by-step guides on everything from how to report scam phone calls to filing a complaint against a business.

College is a very liberating time in life. However, it shouldn’t be a dangerous one too. Be on the lookout for potential scams. Be sure to guard your personal information and credit history carefully. Fraud can have a devastating effect on your long-term financial stability.

College Cornhole Dos and Don’ts

Image by Paul-W, Flickr

Image by Paul-W, Flickr

Cornhole is a rite of passage for most college students. Sure, plenty of young co-eds played the game before embarking on their higher education journey. But cornhole is basically a prerequisite; you really shouldn’t try to graduate without mastering the game.

But truly mastering the game involves more than just tossing bags and keeping score.

The Cornhole Basics

If you are a cornhole newbie, here is a brief overview.

Cornhole is a bean bag toss game. It is also known as corn toss, bags, baggo, and soft horseshoes.

The game equipment revolves around two pieces: the boards and the bags. The boards are usually constructed out of wood. The back portion of the rectangular piece of plywood is elevated. A circular hole is cut through the upper portion, creating the target to toss the bags at.

Speaking of bags, you’ll need four per player. The bags are usually stuffed with dried corn kernels or beans. Since both players will be tossing at the same board, each participant should have unique bags (different colors, patterns, etc.).

Individual players can compete or competitors can form teams (two players to a team).

The scoring is as follows:

  • A bag that passes through the hole earns three points. It can either be toss there, slide through after hitting the board first, or get knocked through by another bag.
  • A bag that lands on the board but doesn’t make it through the hole earns one point.
  • A bag that doesn’t land on the board earns zero points.
  • The first player or team to reach (or exceed) 21 points wins.

Now that you have the basics under control, let’s look at some specific dos and don’ts that will make your college experience more enjoyable.

College Cornhole Dos

Here are some tips for getting the most out of this fabulous game.

Acquiring equipment
Do consider your buying options carefully. You can either build or buy cornhole boards. There are pros and cons of each option.

You can build your own boards and sew some bags. This is the most economical option. However, you can only build your gear if you have the necessary tools. And for most college students, it is pretty inconvenient to do woodworking projects in the dorms.

If you choose this route, make sure you consider the cornhole board dimensions. If you don’t get the size right, you won’t be able to compete in sanctioned tournaments. Since the official cornhole board dimensions are real complicated, you’ll want to check them out carefully.

Buying might be a bit more expensive, but it certainly is the easier option. Plus, you can get professional artists to customize your cornhole boards. And, you’re guaranteed to get equipment that can be used in tournaments.

Which leads us to…

Playing in Tournaments
Do get involved. Take a look at your local activity calendar. Besides cornhole tournaments hosted by your college through the intramural department (which you really should sign up for), your city probably has tournaments you can join too. There might even be a league!

Plus, cornhole tournaments are usually hosted in conjunction with a charity fundraiser. Do some good for those around you.

Be Unique
Do customize your boards and bags. You are in college. Now is the perfect time to be unrepentantly obsessed with your school’s mascot. Put it all over your equipment.

Whether you let a pro customize your boards or you do it yourself, there are tons of ways to show your school spirit.

College Cornhole Don’ts

Cornhole is a pretty great sport. But there are some etiquette things you should be aware of.

Worthy Competitor
Don’t be mismatched on the cornhole court. This has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with alcohol consumption.

It is almost impossible to detach cornhole from alcohol (especially beer). That being said, not everyone enjoys an adult beverage while playing. Don’t mix serious competitors with those who are more interested in drinking. Both parties will be disappointed. Remember, if you are drinking, be smart about it.

Prime Opportunities
Don’t forget about cornhole. There are lots of clubs and organizations that are looking to raise awareness for their cause. Let cornhole do the talking.

Host a tournament and the participants will come flocking. Cornhole is the perfect way to introduce new issues, topics, or ideas with the unknowing population.

Plus, cornhole is a great icebreaker. If you are looking for a way to make individuals feel at ease, pull out the cornhole boards. This might be a good way to get freshman to feel comfortable around upperclassmen.

Think Outside the Box
Don’t let cornhole’s simplicity get you down. Yes, cornhole is an amazing simple game to play. That’s what makes it awesome. Anyone of any skill level can play — and enjoy it.

However, the simplicity offers another great feature — the ability to customize the gameplay. No, you don’t want to mess with the particulars when you are in a serious competition situation. But there are plenty of other times when a little creativity is totally appropriate.

For example, set your boards up at the end of a slip-n-slide. Slide down and toss the bags from the prone position. Or, create giant cornhole boards and launch pillows at them instead of bags. Combine cornhole and keep-away for the ultimate defensive game.

Really, the opportunities are endless.

Go Play Right Now!

Cornhole is a great college experience. If you haven’t picked up a bag yet, now is the perfect time. Grab some friends and hit the cornhole court.

Be sure to come back and tell us about your experience!

Making the Sale: Is Direct Sales the Field for You?

Image by reynermedia, Flickr

Image by reynermedia, Flickr

Earning a college degree doesn’t always result in a dream job right after graduation. Many college graduates — and current students — need to find a quick and easy way to earn money while waiting for their big break.

Some people turn to freelancing. Others turn to direct sales. Let’s take a look at the job prospects, responsibilities and earning potential of a direct sales representative.

What are Direct Sales?

Direct sales involve delivering products directly to customers without relying on a fixed retail location. Direct sales companies are also occasionally referred to as multi-level marketing companies. These involve the recruitment of new consultants.

Individuals who work in this field are referred to as independent representatives, independent distributors, sales representatives or consultants. Sales representatives buy products at a wholesale discount. They then turn around and sell those products to friends, family members, and others in the community for a higher retail price, thus, earning income on each sale.

Who Can Be a Direct Sales Representative?

One of the perks of working as a direct sales representative is the lack of job skill requirements: anyone can work in direct sales. In fact, in 2011, more than 15.6 million Americans were involved in the direct sales industry.

Previously, the market was overrun with middle-aged women — work-from-home moms who wanted to earn some extra money. But recently, the sales force demographic has shifted.

The majority of consultants are still women, but more men are joining the industry. In 2011, 22% of consultants were men (up from 14% in 2008). Additionally, the average age of consultants has dropped. More young people are realizing the earning potential of direct sales, especially with greater access to customer acquisition through social media. The added strain of a difficult workforce has made direct sales appealing to a lot of college graduates.

Naturally, there are certain things that will make you more successful as a direct sales representative. For example:

  • An outgoing personality (you’ll constantly be meeting new people)
  • The ability to sell (anyone who falls into the “selling ice to an Eskimo” category will do well)
  • Business management and marketing skills (you’ll basically be running and promoting your own business)
  • Self-control (it will be awfully difficult to resist those excellent discounts on your favorite products)

What are the Best Cities for Direct Sales?

Direct sales can be made anywhere — including internationally. This field allows you to do business on a global level. What you choose to sell might depend on the area you live in. For example, if another sales representative has cornered the market on Herbalife, you might not want to try competing.

The demographics of your area will matter too. Trying to sell young, hip, and trendy products from Thirty-One Gifts might not be too successful in an area that is heavily populated with retired couples.

Do some research in your preferred area before deciding what you’d like to sell.

What are the Most Popular Companies to Work For?

The Direct Selling Association represents 200 different companies (with more than 50 companies hoping to join).

Some of the most notable direct sales companies include:

  • Amway (food, vitamins, and cookware)
  • Avon (cosmetics, skin care and beauty supplies)
  • Discovery Toys (educational toys)
  • Tupperware (food storage and preservation products)
  • Herbalife (weight loss products and energy drinks)
  • The Longaberger Company (hand-woven baskets)
  • Mary Kay (cosmetics, skin care and beauty supplies)
  • Nu Skin Enterprises (cosmetics, skin care and beauty supplies)
  • The Pampered Chef (cooking and baking supplies)
  • Scentsy (wickless candles)
  • Norwex (chemical-free cleaning supplies)
  • Usborne Books (children’s books)
  • Silpada (jewelry)
  • Thirty-One Gifts

Studies show the most popular direct sales niches are:

  • cosmetics, skin care and beauty supplies
  • food, nutrition and vitamins

Most of these companies require the consultants purchase their own inventory and have items available for sale. However, other opportunities require less overhead.

For example, vitamin sales have grown significantly over the last few decades as our society has become more health-conscious. Many of these sales happen online — similar to affiliate marketing. Direct sales representatives help customers they find online (via their website) or through traditional home parties like other direct sales companies.

We talked with Dr. Agin at vitamininjections.net, who gave us insight into their sales process. A vitamin sales consultant works closely with one or more vitamin distribution companies (usually vitamin injections, pills, or other nutritional products). You, as the sales consultant, sell the vitamins; the company fulfils the order and then ships it to your customers.

Can I Make Money?

Here is what it all comes down to: can you earn a living as a direct sales representative?

Before you begin making money, you’ll probably have to spend money. Most companies ask their consultants to buy some of their products. It’s hard to sell something you’ve never used personally. Plus, having an inventory on hand means you always have certain products available for purchase.

You might also need to pay registration fees, buy a welcome kit, attend training, or purchase marketing materials.

Of course, these added expenses aren’t involved in ventures that don’t require a significant inventory (like the above mentioned vitamin sales or large exercise equipment).

The amount you earn will be directly proportional to the amount of effort you put into your company. If you want to earn a full-time salary, you’re going to need to work full-time.

The good news is, there is definite earning potential. In 2011, the direct sales industry brought in more than $30 billion in the US. Individual companies earned big; for example, Herbalife sold $4 billion in products.

Stats show the average income varies between $637 and $336,901 per year. In 2011, the median annual income was $2,400.

Those numbers may seem low, but there are several things to consider. First, the vast majority of consultants (nearly 90%) worked less than 10 hours per week. Additionally, many people become consultants just so they can receive their favorite products at a discount — earning money might not even be a goal.

Here’s a bonus: many companies offer perks to their best sellers. These can range from all-expense paid vacations to pink Cadillacs.

Keep in mind there are lots of non-monetary benefits:

  • You can work from home
  • You set your own hours
  • You can take time off when you want it
  • You don’t report to a boss
  • The majority of your sales will take place in social settings, like food-filled parties hosted by your friends

Should I Do It?!

Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all job opportunity. However, many people have found success with direct sales — whether as a full-time job or an extra money maker. What you’ll need to determine is whether you have the personality and motivation for direct sales. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to try!

Would you become a direct sales consultant? Would you do it for the money or product discounts? Which companies sound most appealing to you? Let us know on Twitter @StudentsDotOrg!

23 Tips for New Lawyers

Image by Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr

Image by Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr

Hallelujah! You’ve passed the bar! You are now an attorney and ready to change the world.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of people out there willing to share the tricks of the trade or even pass down a few helpful hints. Thankfully, you’ve got us to provide some key insights before you step foot into that new office.

23 Things New Lawyers Must Know

 

  1. Check your expectations. Kathleen Brady, head of a career planning firm with offices in New York and Philadelphia, says this: “Your first job may not be your ‘dream’ job, but it is going to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to advance towards your ultimate career goals; don’t discount it because it isn’t perfect.”
  2.  

  3. Some people don’t really want you to fix things, and they aren’t really in need of a lawyer even though they walked through your doors. Instead, they just want you to listen. Yes, we know you could have gotten a therapy degree with a lot less effort, but let’s face it, people are looking for a decent ear!
  4.  

  5. You might be able to attach Esquire to your name, but don’t forget to use your manners. Please and thank you go a long way!
  6.  

  7. Look people in the eye and take notes while they are talking to you. This will help you remember while also making them, and their issue, feel important. You will gain their trust this way.
  8.  

  9. Everyone’s busy. Offer to help when you can, and respect other people’s time as much as you want them to respect yours.
  10.  

  11. Don’t let your online persona be a hindrance to your professional aspirations. If you’ve got embarrassing (or potentially embarrassing) Facebook posts or Tweets floating around, do yourself a favor and clean up your cyberspace act.
  12.  

  13. Always look for ways to improve. If you’ve just finished a case, ask the boss how you did. Make sure he knows you’re not looking for compliments; tell him you want guidance and maybe he’ll give it to you!
  14.  

  15. While your mentor/boss/supervisor might offer the improvement advice you ask for, don’t forget that he’s not your momma. He’s not going to clean up your messes or take the heat for your mistakes. You’re on your own; it’s your job now.
  16.  

  17. Don’t be afraid to give people credit. Sometimes the best answer is one somebody else has. Encourage them and utilize their strengths to build on your own. They’ll be glad to work with you the next time.
  18.  

  19. Don’t forget to take time off. This is a stressful venture and the burnout rate can be high. Don’t neglect moments to rest and renew; they’re just as necessary as working hard.
  20.  

  21. Communicate with your clients – don’t just tell them things. Communication means they understood your statements, and that’s far better than just hearing what you have to say.
  22.  

  23. Make yourself worth it to your clients. Don’t forget that while you’re worrying about your hourly wage, they’re worrying about whether or not you’re worth it.
  24.  

  25. Don’t get tunnel vision. Yes, if you want to earn the big bucks, you’ll need to work with clients who are willing to pay for your legal services. However, there might be non-legal alternatives that are a better fit for your prospective client. For example, although Michael A. Ziegler is a bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney, it doesn’t stop him from offering the best solutions for financial stability. He even wrote a blog article about how to avoid foreclosure.
  26.  

  27. Life is very much like a puzzle. So, when you’re struggling to put a case together, remember to look at the big picture before trying to put the little pieces in place.
  28.  

  29. People like to feel valued. Show up early to meetings and if you’re going to be a tad bit late, call and let people know. Respect them and they’ll respect you!
  30.  

  31. Don’t promise the moon and produce smoke. Under-promise and over-deliver–always!
  32.  

  33. It’s your job to get all the facts, even when people don’t want to give them to you.
  34.  

  35. Ask your clients what success will look like. Don’t guess. They know what they are expecting from you; get it out of them before you even start working.
  36.  

  37. Don’t just tell, teach–in everything you do. You went to school a long time and you’ve got valuable information to share. Don’t hoard it.
  38.  

  39. You’ll probably need to carry someone else’s briefcase before you get to the “good” stuff in this profession. Everybody has to start somewhere and that’s usually near the bottom. Don’t get discouraged – realize there’s nowhere to go but up!
  40.  

  41. Answer and return calls promptly. Don’t shut people down; help them figure out how they can get the job done.
  42.  

  43. Most of the time your client is always right. Figure out how to deal with the other moments.
  44.  

  45. Keep your staff happy. There are people that know more than you; let them help you. Don’t be a smarty pants or a kiss-up.

 

All You Need is Here

If you adhere to these 23 tips, you’ll be better off than a large number of your colleagues. Everyone wants to be treated as though there is intrinsic value within. You have the power to assure each client that you care. Don’t miss your chance to make a real difference.

Job Profile: Chargeback Analyst

Image by Financial Times , Flickr

Image by Financial Times, Flickr

Deciding what to do after college is a top priority for students–particularly as the day to don the cap and gown nears.

Your major does not necessarily determine what you will do with the rest of your life. It does, however, provide insight to future employers about your interests and background. It can also provide a springboard into your first job.

For students with a business major, particularly in finance or accounting, one potential career to explore is that of a chargeback analyst. If you are interested in commerce, read on to learn about this field that can be an inroad into the financial industry.

What Is A Chargeback Analyst?

First of all, to understand the position of chargeback analyst you must understand chargebacks.

Chargebacks exist to protect consumers from having to pay for fraudulent purchases made with their credit card. If a person notices that an unauthorized transaction was made with his card, he can file a chargeback with his bank. The bank then temporarily issues a refund and notifies the merchant that a chargeback has been filed.

Merchants can then dispute the claim if they suspect the consumer of fraud, or they can forfeit the refund and pay a fine.

A chargeback analyst is crucial for monitoring chargeback transactions. Analysts investigate and have the power to reverse refunds, track chargeback patterns, and serve as watchdogs for fraudulent activity.

A chargeback analyst is particularly important on the merchant end, as they work closely with merchants that choose to dispute chargebacks. Merchants must provide proper documentation–such as video evidence or a receipt–to prove that the customer actually did make the disputed purchase. A chargeback analyst can help round out these essentials and submit them in a timely fashion.

An analyst can also coach the business about proper chargeback prevention practices to help reduce the risk of future problems.

Qualifications

Most companies prefer incoming analysts to hold a bachelor’s degree (in the field of business is particularly valued) and have one to three years of experience in a relevant field. It is also possible to get a job with less experience or with a high school diploma, but higher education and prior work experience are qualifications that make you more likely to land the job.

Besides education and experience, chargeback analysts are also expected to be comfortable making judgment calls and have a certain degree of creativity and flexibility. Skills in accounting, analyzing, communication, and computers are also important.

Average Salary

As of July 2014, the median annual salary for a chargeback analyst in the United States is $32,255. This number will vary based on several factors, including geographic location, size of the company, level of education, and number of years of experience.

Best and Worst Cities

Some of the best cities for aspiring chargeback analysts to seek employment are:

  • Hackensack, NJ
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA

The aforementioned cities have salaries that are higher than the national average. Cities below the national average include:

  • Knoxville, TN
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Abilene, TX
  • Provo, UT
  • Macon, GA

Being a chargeback analyst can be a rewarding career itself, and it can lead to further opportunities in the finance sector. College students and recent graduates with a degree in business can at least consider this career option.

Even students without a business degree can consider a career as a chargeback analyst as an understanding of accounting and a mind for analytics can also make you a strong candidate.

Chargeback management is a relatively new concept. Therefore, there are definite opportunities for growth, expansion, and career advancement. It is absolutely a worthy idea to consider.

Would you consider working as a chargeback analyst?

Top Magazines for College Guys and Gals

Image by Ted Bigham, Flickr

Image by Ted Bigham, Flickr

College students already spend a lot of time reading textbooks and journal articles, but in their down time, many students enjoy picking up a magazine.

Tastes in magazines vary between the young adult male and female audience. Listed below are the top five magazine subscriptions for college students, starting with the ladies first.

Magazines for College Girls

  1. Cosmo (short for cosmopolitan, as the magazine targets cosmopolitan women) is well-known for its headlines promising tips for great sex. However, the magazine also includes fashion trends, dating advice, celebrity profiles, and recommendations for healthy living. By covering all these bases, it is no wonder that Cosmo has the largest readership in the college female demographic.
  2.  

  3. Seventeen is marketed at teenagers aged 12 to 19. It has a lot of similar content – such as fashion, dating, and fitness sections – that the aforementioned Cosmo includes, but Seventeen has a stronger focus on promoting career-minded women and featuring good role models.
  4.  

  5. People magazine provides a weekly update on the latest celebrity happenings and human-interest stories. People enjoys popularity outside of the college market and is the most widely circulated American magazine. It is not a tabloid and has actually won numerous awards for its exclusive articles and savvy advertising.
  6.  

  7. Glamour began in the United States in the 1930s and now enjoys local publications in several other countries. It is a monthly publication that features “Woman of the Year Awards” and provides contemporary insight on fashion trends, make-up tutorials, beauty care, love and life tips, and celebrity gossip.
  8.  

  9. Vogue is a pre-eminent leader in the fashion magazine industry. Though the products and fashions that it features are out of reach of many college students, young women still enjoy staying abreast of the latest fashion and beauty tips.

Magazines for College Guys

  1. Game Informer is a monthly publication that features reviews of the latest video games on several platforms, screen shots of new games, player tips, and news of upcoming happenings in the gamer world. Though college males may be busy with their studies, many still make time for gaming.
  2.  

  3. Sports Illustrated is a well-established magazine that caters to athletes and sports fans alike. Throughout its history, it has been known for including innovative color photographs of games and athletes, hence the name. It also includes interviews with athletes, insights into player’s private lives, and game scores and predictions.
  4.  

  5. Maxim–with its tagline “what men want” and covers featuring skimpily-clad females–is clearly geared toward the male audience. It enjoys a broad readership beyond college students and caters to men who enjoy sports, jokes, entertainment news, and, of course, ladies. Maxim also features profiles of successful career men to offer advice to aspiring adult males.
  6.  

  7. GQ, formerly known as Gentlemen’s Quarterly, is a monthly men’s magazine that enjoys worldwide publication. Unlike Maxim or Playboy, GQ chooses to feature men on the cover of its magazine. GQ‘s content ranges from male fashion trends to relationship advice to articles about culture, food, literature, technology, sports, travel, and more.
  8.  

  9. Playboy is one of the most well-recognized brands in the world. It got its start by featuring photos of nude women, though the fiction and relevant articles about the “playboy lifestyle” made it what it is today. Playboy caters to men of all ages, and is known for publishing rankings of the top “party schools” in the U.S. each year.

Even though college students are busy with their studies, many make time to read magazines that are relevant to their lives. After all, college is about the all-around experience, not just what is found in textbooks.

Credits: Special thanks to Dan Lewis. Dan works for Priority One Magazines, educating the masses about the amazingness of print publications. Priority One Magazines is a magazine subscription clearing house—so naturally Dan has several of the above mentioned subscriptions himself! He helped us craft this gender-specific list.