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You’re graduating college soon…

Congrats, so what’s next?

Have you thought about your credit score and what the loans will look like after your six month grace period is over? Did you buy an interview suit and practice your elevator speech? Is your resume current? What about grad school, did you think about that?

The questions are flooding and the tension is getting to the point where a butter knife is needed. You will probably exhaust all the to do lists and still feel like deer in headlights. Breathe.

  • Keep track of your student loans. 

It is going to be painful, but before the 6 month grace period is up, it is wise to look over your loans. Be sure to keep track of both your private and federal loans; if you figure out what you owe, you can figure out what you need to earn. Some employers may request to see your credit history and landlords will want to make sure you are reliable. Be sure to check your credit report and score: your report is comprised of three reporting agencies and your credit score is a three digit number representative of your credit history. You can check you credit report once a year for free (beware of third party companies that will try to charge you) through annual credit report so you know where you stand and you can dispute anything that isn’t consistent with your record.  For your credit score, check with your bank or credit card directly as some offer it for free.

  • Practice makes perfect.

Use the internet as a resource. There are lots of employers willing to give feedback on what they are looking for and what they absolutely hate when interviewing. Practice your elevator speech and get used to speaking in public, toastmasters is a great way to practice public speaking and get the butterflies in your stomach used to a room full of strangers.  That being said, make sure your resume is up to date and be ready to answer questions about it; think teamwork, there’s not “i” in team.

Remember when everyone tried to get you to do something or be involved? Now is the time to thank yourself because those were networking opportunities, so find those contact and connect. Just like your resume, your LinkedIn profile should be up to date with information about your work history and things you are involved in. The website can match your skills with employment opportunities based on the information you provide. It is also a great way to look for a job, follow companies, and keep up with contacts.

  • But I want to go to grad school.

Great. Make sure you meet the deadline for each school and fulfill any requirements such as: GRE, GMAT, or any grad level exams. By checking your school’s deadline, you can ensure that test scores are reported on time. Be sure to check out the school website for deadlines and testing sites so you aren’t scrambling to take a last minute test.

  • I’m taking time off.

You’ve worked hard and there is nothing wrong with that, so do it. Travel the world now because when you start working, it may become harder to take time off. Remember all those skills on your resume? Put those skills and experiences to good use and earn some cash or volunteer in exchange for a free stay around the world. Workaway lets you sign up as a volunteer if you are looking to get away in exchange for a little work, or as a host if you want to earn some extra cash. Never stop learning; sign up for something that can come in handy and be a resource for you to engage in new experiences, teach others, or create an opportunity for you to be where you want.

Whatever direction you take and no matter what people say, only you can decide what is best for you. If you completed this milestone, don’t stop yourself from the next.

Cheers to a new chapter.

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Farewell MAP grant, Rauner promises you

If you are a low-income student who lives in the state of Illinois, you may have benefited from the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant. The grant provides financial relief to students wanting to pursue a college education, but may not have the money to do so. The program has been around since 1967 and was funded in the late 50’s with only $600,000. Today, the MAP grant aids approximately 130,000 students in the state of Illinois by providing over $370 million in financial assistance.

According to the Chicago Tribune, 21 community colleges and 15 private colleges have already indicated that their MAP grant recipients will be held accountable for any unpaid balance if a budget is not established and funds are not disbursed by the state, that can be a maximum of $4,720.

The chart below is a small example of schools affected by the budget standstill that has many students wondering whether or not they will be footing the bill for a grant that was never supposed to be repaid. More so, students who cannot afford the cost may find themselves dropping out.

 

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On Monday January 25, Illinois lawmakers approved bill SB 2040 that would provide funding for the MAP grant, but it has been on hold and waiting the approval of Governor Bruce Rauner, who does not want to fund the MAP grant and has promised to veto the bill once it reaches his desk.

Rauner is also fighting CPS in an attempt to take over the Chicago school system calling it “failed”, referring to the work of Rahm Emanuel. Senate President John Cullerton expressed outrage along with House Speaker Michael Madigan who,

“each accused Rauner of using Chicago Public Schools’ financial crisis as a new avenue to push his efforts to curb union power while diverting attention from the lack of a state budget.”

 

As the bill sits and awaits its fate, approximately 466 Concordia River Forest students wonder if estimated funds of $2.4 million will be distributed to the university. Concordia’s Director of Financial Aid Aida Ascencio-Pinto said, “Degrees will not be held hostage,” and asked graduating seniors to have any balances outside the MAP grant settled in order to attend the graduation ceremony on May 7. This gave students hope: perhaps Concordia is willing to forgive the balance if the state does not pass a budget.

The bill is scheduled to arrive at Rauner’s desk for a decision on February 16.

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