When I was in high school, I made it a point to take as many AP classes as I could in order to get college credit. When I entered the University of Wisconsin as a freshman, I came in with 24 credits, all from AP courses and was able to register as a sophomore.

Because enrollment in new classes was based on a students’ academic year, I was able to register earlier than all of my friends and dorm-mates. I was able to bypass a number of general education requirement courses and take courses that were more interesting to me. While many students use their AP credits to graduate early, I opted to stay for the full four years, but used the flexibility that came with my AP credits to complete three full majors in those four years.

Advanced placement courses were created in the 1950s and today, there are more than 30 AP courses offered through College Board, ranging from Art History and Music Theory to Physics and Statistics.

My personal experience with AP courses was very positive. The courses gave me a head start in terms of college credit and helped prepare me for college-level coursework.

However, not everyone’s experience with AP courses is the same, and there are some important drawbacks to as well. A recent study on AP courses by Challenge Success raised questions about many of the common assumptions about the benefits of AP courses. There are no mandatory requirements for AP teachers, meaning that the quality of an AP course can vary greatly and may be far lower than the college course it is meant to replace. Additionally, the study found that AP courses on average have very little impact on the length of time it takes students to graduate college, meaning that students may not ultimately be saving time and money by paying to take AP exams, which cost $89 per exam. Furthermore, college treatment of AP credit varies widely by school, with some schools refusing to grant AP credit at all.

At the end of the day, a student’s experience with AP courses will depend on your own academic aptitude, the quality of teachers and how your desired college treats AP credit, among other factors. Regardless, taking a course or two to test the waters is a great way to feel out how well AP courses fit into the student’s long-term academic plan.

 

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The reality for millions of college students is that there aren’t enough hours in a day or dollars in the bank. Trying to solve both of these problems at once, however, can be almost impossible. Some find support from their parents. Others pay for school using loans, grants, and scholarships alone.

Then there are those among us (like me a few years back) who are forced to balance school life with work responsibilities.

Clock-punching backpack-schlepping student workers, take heart! There are ways to make your life slightly easier and keep your sanity somewhat intact while juggling work and school.

 

Managing your job A few things to keep in mind while you start the juggling act.

Prioritize your classes. Are there classes necessary for your degree that are only offered once a term or, worse, once a year? Make sure to know what those classes are and build your schedule around them ahead of time.

Don’t make commitments you can’t keep. If particular classes or particular shifts are inflexible, don’t expect that your instructors and managers will be forever stoked about your calling every week scrambling for coverage or asking for extensions.

Find ways to work outside of a set schedule. Do you have opportunities to freelance? Are you willing to be on call to work certain shifts? Are you able to work from home? Fattening your bankroll without being tied to a set schedule or a particular location allows you to focus more on the demands of your school schedule.

 

Once you get everything going School schedule? Check. Work schedule? Check. Keeping it all running flawlessly… well, it’s a process.

• Don't be embarrassed. Being open about your responsibilities is much better than pretending they don't exist. Make sure you are communicating with your classmates, co-workers, instructors, and managers. Even and especially on days and weeks you think you may fall short, keeping everybody in the loop is not only the responsible thing to do, it also shows your superiors that you’re serious about your commitments.

• Be creative. Are you able to take your work with you to school and pare it down between classes? Can you do the same with your homework and slog through it when you have a few minutes during a break? Layering time commitments will leave you with more sanity-restoring free time later.

• Ask for help. Co-workers and instructors might be more willing to work with your schedule than you give them credit for. There's no harm in asking.

 

Crises You’ve planned. You’ve made tough decisions. You’ve communicated. And yet… something still manages to take you by surprise. What now?

• Communicate. There’s a reason why this has been repeated twice before: it’s really, really important. It's one thing to take time off without much notice... it's another to do it with no forewarning at all.

• Don't be too proud. It might be nice to say you didn’t use loans to go to college, but it's much better to get a lower-interest student loan than, say, paying for revolving credit on a credit card.

 

Some strategic planning goes a long way toward striking a healthy balance between your job and your education, and keeping these tips in mind will make maintaining that balance a little easier.

 

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Summer is nearing the end and the college semester is hot on the horizons. When you work a busy schedule and live a hectic life, the idea of attending school seems nearly impossible. However, today, there are more and more universities offering degree programs online which allow students of all facets to achieve higher education. The question for most students is; Am I ready for online classes? Is this something I should give a try?

The answer to those questions will depend upon a few different factors, particularly those listed below:

Are you disciplined? Unlike physical classes where you have to show up at a specified day and time, most online courses allow you to review the work whenever you get the chance. If you’re not disciplined enough, you could find yourself falling behind on deadlines and receiving poor grades.

Do you learn well alone? Online learning is for those who are able to learn on their own. The classes are designed for students who will be logging on at different times of day. The work is simply placed for completion with instructions and students are to carry out the assignments and submit them accordingly. For those who learn better in a group setting or with the immediate support of a teacher, they might reconsider online learning as an option.

Are you tech savvy? – While you don’t have to be an IT major to take an online learning course it does help if you’re computer literate. There are times when software needs to be used and/or downloaded, the interface for the online classes will need to be used appropriately, and even when interacting virtually with teachers and students you will need to know some basics. If technology gets your stomach all tied up in knots it may be best to find other opportunities for learning.

There are several schools now that will offer students a “trial” course to ensure that they are ready for online learning. While it may cost you a bit to try out, this is something you might want to do before you spend your hard earned cash on a course and don’t succeed. During these trial classes you are able to see firsthand what online learning will encompass and determine whether it is the right step for your education. If it turns out it’s not for you, don’t be discouraged. There are other options that allow you to get your degree.

 

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Having a summer job is great. It gets you out of the house, and hopefully to an air conditioned location. Plus, many companies hire extra help during the summer months which makes a summer job relatively easy to find. If you would like to continue the cash flow that the job provides during the school year it is important to follow these rules.

Talk to your supervisor

Don't wait until the last minute to talk to your supervisor about extending your time with the company. In fact, you should ask about the possibility during the interview process. If you missed that chance, ask as soon as possible. That way they can train for the position that they'll need help with in the long run, not just the summer. It can also be helpful to get more information from your supervisor about the company, the job, and how to get hired.

Choose your job wisely

If you apply for a job as a camp counselor or lifeguard at the local pool, chances are that the job won't be around when school starts. So make sure you choose a job that can be done year-round.

Work at a national chain

This is especially helpful if you're about to go off to college. If you work for a big company there is a good chance they will be able to transfer you to a different location where help is needed, or to a location closer to your dorm.

Work hard

Be the hardest worker there. If you want your job to last longer it's important that you make sure you become valuable to the company. Most companies like to hire from within and a seasonal job is great way to get your foot in the door. So show up on time, cover shifts when you can, and be a team player.

Work with a company you like

If you're just looking for some cash this may not be the way to go, but if you want to jumpstart your career this is the way to go. Everyone starts at the bottom, so apply for jobs within the company that you are qualified for and work your way into a position that you really want.

 

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Attending a job fair is an entirely different ballgame than going on an individual interview. The biggest mistake people make with job fairs, is they prepare the same way they do for interviews. While it is a good idea to be familiar with common interview questions, there are specific things you should do to get attention and succeed at a job fair.

Do your homework. Research what companies will be there. Even though there could be dozens of companies, it is best to choose the companies you are most interested in and that are offering positions that are suitable. While you are researching the companies, try to come up with an answer to why you are interested in the company, what you like about the company, or why you are a good pick for them. This way you’ll be able to be prepared while talking with them.

Know what positions are available. You can approach the recruiter with knowledge of the position and why you’re qualified. This sets you aside since you are interested in a specific role. It also proves you have done your research in the company.

Check your LinkedIn before you go. Type in the specific companies you are planning to visit. This will then show you any connections you may have that are already working there or have worked there in the past. You can reach out to your connection for advice or ask them to put in a good word for you.

Pack appropriately. Bring any notes you’ve taken and blank paper and pen to take additional notes. Be sure to keep any applications, business cards or other materials organized. Take a brief case or bag that is easy to carry and that allows you navigate your resume and business cards. Besides your resume, you’ll also want to bring samples of your work or a portfolio if it is applicable.

Go early. Allow yourself ample time to be at the fair. Some companies won’t stay the whole time or may get there late. So getting there early allows you to take advantage of those who are there early and gives you time to talk to those who get there later. Plus, this gives you time to familiarize yourself with the layout of the area and any surprise companies that may show up last minute.

Stay organized and collected. Once you get to the fair, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Pace yourself. After each interaction, do not rush to the next. Take a moment to jot down a few notes about the last position. Be sure to note if the recruiter gave you a card, told you to email them, or instructed you to apply to something online.

Follow up. Not following up is a mistake people often make as well. The recruiters met with hundreds of people so send them a personal email so they remember you. Thank them for their time and be sure to include anything you spoke about that would refresh their memory. Attach your resume or portfolio to the email as well.

 

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DeVry University, ITT Technical Institute, Kaplan University, University of Phoenix. You’ve probably seen the advertisements for these schools, but did you know that they are all for-profit institutions? They are in the education business, and they are doing so at a profit to their investors. But do students benefit too?

In 2001, 766,000 students were enrolled in for-profit higher education schools. In 2010, that number grew to 2.4 million, a 213% increase! Here are some more statistics from a report written by the

• A two-year associate’s degree at a for-profit school costs an average of $35,000.
• A two-year associate’s degree at a comparable community college costs an average of $8,300.
• The average student who graduates from a for-profit school has median debt of $32,700.
• The average student who graduates from a private, non-profit has median debt of $24,600.
• The average student who graduates from a public college or university has median debt of $20,000.
• 96% of students at for-profit schools take out student loans.
• 57% of students in four-year, private, non-profit colleges take out student loans.
• Students who attended for-profit colleges were responsible for 47% of all federal student loan defaults in 2008 and 2009.
• 22% of students enrolled in a for-profit college defaulted on their student loans within three years of beginning repayment.

The disparity between for-profit and non-profit schools is clear – for-profit schools are much more costly and require more financial aid. What isn’t clear is whether for-profit schools are good for you or good for them. The answer depends on who you ask. For-profit schools will tell you that they offer programs for nontraditional students, have unique courses of study and can adapt more quickly to meet their students’ changing needs. After all, they answer to their investors, not to a board of trustees.

Let’s look at the flip side. According to a study done in 2011 on trends in higher education, the completion rate for bachelor’s degrees at for-profit schools was significantly lower than those of non-profit schools.

So students at for-profit colleges pay more for tuition, borrow more money, default on their student loans at a rate of 22% and their graduation rate is lower than a public, four-year college. You’ll have to judge for yourself, but to me, for-profit colleges seem to be in it for themselves.

If you haven’t been scared off yet, evaluate your educational and financial options for both types of schools carefully. Compare the following:
• Annual tuition cost
• Available financial aid (grants and scholarships vs. loans)
• Quality of the curriculum
• Accreditation of the schools you’re considering
• Post-graduation job placement

Any school you’re considering, including for-profits, should have this information readily available so you can make an informed decision.  

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Figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life can be difficult. Especially, if you consider that you will work for more than 40 years and it's important to find a job you like, a job that pays well, and a job that will not be obsolete in ten years. So, to guide you toward a bright future we have laid out which 5 jobs are growing the fastest and which are declining rapidly.

 

Fastest Growing Jobs:
1. Personal Care Aides 70.5%
2. Home Health Aides 69.4%
3. Biomedical Engineers 61.7%
4. Helpers (Brickmason, Blockmason, Stonemason etc.) 60.1%
5. Helpers (Carpenter) 55.7%
Fastest Declining Jobs
1. Shoe Machine Operator and Tender -53.4%
2. Postal Service Mail Sorter, Processor -48.5%
3. Postal Service Clerks -48.2%
4. Fabric and Apparel Pattern Maker -35.6%
5. Postmasters and Mail Superintendent -27.8%

Judging from the statistics it would be wise to start a career in health care, as many of the jobs associated with health care are still growing and will not be obsolete at any time in the near future. However, if you were thinking of working for the postal service or in fashion it's wise to think again because those jobs are rapidly declining. 

 

Unless you’ve just won the lottery, you are looking for the best deal when shopping for a new or used car. Understanding how to get the best deal is essential to making sure you don’t break the bank.

Pay with Cash

As the old saying “cash is king” goes, cash has its perks, including when you decide to purchase a car. According to LifeandMyFinances.com, paying in cash increases your chances of getting your car for less than the asking price. Cash gives you a lot of purchasing leverage because the seller doesn’t have to wait for payment. Cash buyers will also save money because they don’t have to worry about paying interest on a car loan.

Invoice v. List Price

According to the Houston Chronicle, the list price is what you see when you look at cars on the lot or ask the salesperson and the invoice price is what the car dealer paid the car’s manufacturer. Based on their findings, room to negotiate can be 10 to 20 percent off the list price. Do your homework for the car’s make and model – information is readily available on the internet.

Go Beyond the Dealer

According to MyMoneyBlog.com purchasing a car from someone other than a car dealer has some benefits. Using Craigslist enables car buyers to find a good used car for a good deal. The website says that you have to use your judgment and ensure you get a good car. It recommends doing a thorough interview with the car’s owner, asking for maintenance records and giving the vehicle a test drive. Another ways to reduce your risk is to get a CARFAX report.

Consider a Repossessed Car

Purchasing a repossessed car can also save you money. With the prolonged economic downturn there is a greater selection of repossessed cars. Many of these vehicles are in great shape. Purchasing a vehicle this way could save you thousands of dollars, but there is a risk of improperly maintained vehicles. USA Today points out that there are dealers that specialize in repossessed only sales, which are a much safer way to have a vehicle inspected and available with some sort of warranty.

However you decide to purchase your next new or used car, you can save money by using this knowledge and applying it to your individual situation.

 

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Trying to create an airtight class schedule is hard enough—forget about throwing any type of work schedule into the mix. Without spending hours staring at a computer screen signing up for classes as new spots open and dropping classes with less-accommodating schedules, we can’t hope to have a remotely attractive class schedule—unless we experiment with online courses.

Online classes are completely different animals than traditional classes. Succeeding in an online class is easy for some personalities, yet extremely difficult for others. Regardless of your personality type or learning preference, following these five steps will help you dominate your next online class.

• Read the syllabus. Then, read it again—and again. Become so familiar with the syllabus that you start dreaming in assignment descriptions and deadlines. Often, online classes are structured to leave you with a feeling of independent study. And, since this is college, no one is going to hold your hand and remind you of critical deadlines.

• Make a schedule. Sometimes class syllabi have ideal schedules listed in them, but you know yourself better than a generic schedule does. Look at the assignments to anticipate which ones will take you the most time—and which should take you no time at all. Then, make a schedule for the semester that will give you the time you need and make sure you meet course deadlines.

• Get to know the instructor. Instructors and TA’s for online classes are often just as eager to help you as those for traditional classes—if not more. Send the instructor a quick introduction email to share your background, interests, and learning preferences. Then, be comfortable emailing the instructor your questions as the semester progresses (just make sure the questions you ask aren’t already answered in the syllabus—that would be embarrassing).

• Interact with classmates. Sure, an online class might not sound like the easiest place to make friends and build your network, but that doesn’t mean doing either is impossible. Just like traditional classes have the “smartest kid,” online classes attract students from a variety of backgrounds. Maybe you can arrange a study time with a group of classmates to make the online class more manageable. The point here? Make sure you take advantage of all of the resources available to you.

• Study. An eLearning format might be much different than what you’re used to, but it’s a college class nonetheless. Study just as much for your online class as you would for any other—maybe more. Do the assignments, ace the tests, and kick your semester to the curb.

 

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Moving away from home and not knowing anyone in your new college town can be daunting. Luckily, the rest of the incoming students will feel the exact same way.

If you live on campus it’s easy to make friends with the people in your dorm, but if you like to meet people with similar interests it’s important to venture out. Joining a club can be a great way to meet new people with similar interests. 

Here are five other reasons why you should join a club.

1. It looks great on résumés.

When potential employers look at résumés, it’s good to have activities on there that have something to do with your career. Taking interest in a club in your field of study will show employers that you didn’t just sit in a classroom, but you gained real-world experience.

2.Networking

You’ll get to meet the people who will be interviewing you, and entering the job market with you. It’s great to get to know people in the business before you enter the workforce. It could lead to job opportunities before you even finish college.

3. Assistance

If you’re struggling in a particular subject it’s possible that members of the club will be able to tutor you. They can also be there for mental support during times when you need it most, such as midterms or finals week.

4.Experience

Being part of a group in high school or college will allow you to serve in a role and gain working experience. Applying for specific jobs within a club can be your way to stand out from a crowd. Creating your own jobs might be necessary to really gain the experience you want.

5. It’s good for your grades

According to a government study, students who participate in extracurricular activities perform better academically, have better attendance and have higher aspiration.

 

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