In Hindsight: Four Things I’d Tell My University Self

logotransparentGood afternoon, friends, and sorry for any lack of updates lately! To make it up to you, I’d like to share my latest guest blog for Career Camel, a London-based website dedicated to helping college students lock down the career of their dreams.

For my guest post, I was asked to discuss some of the things I would tell my freshman self if I could go back in time. The question was definitely a challenging one, but I have definitely grown in the past five years and learned a lot about myself in that time.

Pop over to Career Camel now and check out my article! You won’t regret it. :) Share with friends and add your own lessons in the comments section!

Late Night Link Love: But First, Let Me NOT Take a Selfie

89c7ab46a1158ee92944f06ad3cb0fdcHappy Wednesday and end of July! The month was a bittersweet one for me, as two close friends from college packed up to move out of state, but I’m looking forward to the adventures that August brings. Beginning Friday, I will embark on my third Whole 30, and am excited for other opportunities in the coming month. I will also take advantage of the warm weather and continue to work on my pathetically miniscule tan!

What are you looking forward to in August? Share your own adventures in the comments section, and in the meantime, enjoy another fabulous round of Link Love.

What are some of your favorite articles and links this week? Sound off in the comments below!

Love Lessons from the Movies

e9431ded-5a77-4fec-8942-d8f5b0a500dbRegular readers of my blog will know that I love to write about romantic comedies. From the gender stereotypes they perpetuate to the misconceptions they give us about love to the modern-day endings to classic rom coms, I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of watching, swooning over and criticizing these films. :)

Of course, the romantic comedies we watch can actually teach us a lot about love and relationships! Below are some of the lessons I’ve taken away from these films, which will hopefully enhance your love life and bring you the happiness you seek!

  • High school is a drag, especially when it comes to dating, but if you change everything about your appearance and personality, you will finally find true love. – Grease (1978)
  • Living under the sea is a drag, especially when your only friend is a flounder, but if you sell your soul to a sea witch in order to change your appearance, you will finally find true love. – The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Don’t fall in love with a womanizing slacker. Instead, fall in love with his workaholic brother who tried to ship you out of the country so he could complete a business deal. – Sabrina (1954)
  • When you love someone, the best way to show that love is by yelling at the other person. – Katherine Heigl movies
  • Women are most charming when singing among nature or not talking at all. – Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • If you really want to be with someone who is otherwise engaged, you should wait to reveal your feelings until that person’s wedding day. – Various films
  • If you begin a friends-with-benefits relationship with someone, you will ultimately fall in love and end up together. – Friends With Benefits (2011), No Strings Attached (2011), various other films
  • If you’re otherwise sweet and easy to relate to, then it’s okay to steal your best friend’s fiancé. – Something Borrowed (2011)
  • It’s not an inappropriate age gap if the older person in the relationship is undead and still looks like a teenager. – Twilight (2008)

Readers, what are some of the lessons you’ve taken away from the movies you’ve watched? Sound off in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Boy Bands, The Sorcerer’s Stone and Romantic Comedies

harrypotterI hope this week’s Link Love finds you well! Can you believe how quickly the summer is flying by? When I was in high school, I always felt a sense of dread around mid-July, when the new school year seemed to be looming all too closely. Nowadays, I work year-round, but I will never forget the way I felt as I watched the summer slip away. For those of you who have a break from school or work this summer, hopefully you are finding ways to make the most of your days off – away from the computer!

Of course, when you do stop to check Facebook and your favorite blogs (wink, wink), be sure to enjoy some of our latest Link Love!

How are you spending your summer? Any great links you’ve come across this week? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Managing Your Money in College

15 ways to manage your money in collegeWhen I look back at my college life, I’m proud of how much I accomplished in those four years. I made friends early on, joined organizations on campus, participated in internships and experienced a lot of personal growth along the way. However, one practical skill I wish I’d picked up earlier in my college career was personal finance. I was fortunate (and extremely grateful!) to have my family’s support as an undergraduate, as well as scholarships that paid a significant chunk of my tuition, but I wish I had asked the right questions and developed an interest sooner.

Personal finance is something that a lot of students struggle with, whether that involves saving appropriately for their wants and needs, building their credit scores or even understanding the basics of a checking account. After graduation, I quickly learned the importance of budgeting and using money responsibly, as I acquired new bills I had never dealt with in student housing. Now working in a financial institution, I learn something new every day, and am excited to share my tips for managing your money as a college student! Whether you receive support from your family or are completely financially independent, hopefully some of these tips will help you to save money and stay out of trouble.

The Freshman 15: Managing Your Money in College

1. Take advantage of student discounts and free resources on campus.
Any time you plan to spend money, bring your student ID along for the ride. Local retailers, restaurants and other vendors may offer student discounts that will cut down your expenses, and it never hurts to ask. Some nearby museums and attractions may even offer free admission for college students, and it’s easy to find out which ones simply by googling “free and cheap things to do in ____.” On campus, you can save money as well. Use the university’s gym instead of purchasing a membership elsewhere, or join an intramural team. Instead of hitting the mall on a beautiful summer day, spend some time by the university’s pool. You already pay for these resources through your student activity fees, so why not make the most of them?

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2. Attend workshops.
Chances are, at least one organization on campus offers free workshops on financial topics that are important to college students. Go to the ones that fit your schedule. Different institutions may offer slightly different advice, but the more you attend, the more you learn. Take good notes and ask questions. By familiarizing yourself with these concepts now, you’ll do a better job preparing for the future.

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college overpriced3. Don’t buy new textbooks from the university bookstore.
This is how you guarantee you’ll pay the most for your books. Instead, you have a few options. You can use sites like Amazon to get new books at a cheaper rate, especially if you do so through their private booksellers, or you can buy used through those sites. You can rent books, either through your university or through sites like Chegg. My honors college hosted book buyback as well, where students could advertise old textbooks of theirs at the prices they selected on their own, and others could purchase through that same program. If your university has a program like this, it’s a great way to save money on textbooks and get a little cash back. If not, consider starting one yourself!

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4. Join a credit union.
As a credit union member and employee, I may be a little biased, but credit unions generally pay higher interest on your savings accounts and charge lower interest on your loans. They offer everything a bank would offer, but because they are not-for-profit, there are usually fewer fees associated with your account. Many universities have their own credit unions that students can join and receive special perks or student products, like accounts with no monthly fees. Even if you don’t join a credit union, make sure you know what types of fees your institution will charge so that you can avoid them!

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5. Join something accessible.
Whether you are a credit union member or you prefer using a bank, make sure that you can access your money easily. Does your institution have branches nearby? Do you know where to find the nearest ATM? Do they offer mobile or online banking? Make sure you have the answers to these questions before you commit.

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6. Avoid foreign ATM fees whenever possible.
The solution to this is simple: Unless you’re in a real emergency, use the ATMs for your financial institution only!

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HIMYM7. If you decide to live off campus, get a roommate!
Having a roommate will cut your bills in half and make everything a lot more manageable. Plus, living with someone will improve your quality of life and make things much less lonely off campus!

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8. Become an extreme couponer.
Okay… maybe not an extreme couponer, but you get the idea. Check for discounts on items you use regularly, and use them to stock up on the things that won’t go bad – toothpaste, soap, paper towels and detergent, just to name a few. Meanwhile, avoid buying perishable foods in bulk; even if they are on sale, you may still spend more than you originally planned and wind up throwing some of it away by the expiration date.

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9. Apply for scholarships.
Scholarships are a great way to save money on your education. Check out your school’s financial aid website, listen for announcements around campus and look for scholarships out on the web as well. It doesn’t hurt to apply, and many these scholarships don’t get enough applicants! Hint: If a scholarship deadline is extended, it often means that fewer people have applied for it, which increases your chances of receiving it.

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10. Pay your bills on time, every time.
Keep a schedule of when your payments are due to ensure that you pay them on time. This will help you to build your credit score, which will in turn help you later on as you apply for major loans and even for jobs. If you have a credit card, try to pay the full balance every month to avoid damaging your credit and paying interest on what you owe.

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truly-honored-wedding-ecard-someecards11. Create a budget to stay on track.
A great way to remember to pay your bills is to create a monthly budget that includes your income and expenses, including gas, car payment, rent, utilities and other payments you must make throughout the month. If you’re spending more than you’re saving, adjust accordingly. Go online to find some helpful tools for creating your budget!

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12. Save on gas money.
Carpool to campus, ride your bike or use the school’s shuttle service. If you already live on campus, walk to class! Gas money does add up, and by taking advantage of alternative modes of transportation, you can transfer some of that money into savings.

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13. Transfer 10% of your earnings into a savings account.
The more you save now, the more interest you will earn in the future! If you use direct deposit, you can automatically transfer 10% (or another amount, depending on what you can afford) into a savings account. When paying bills, use the checking account, and try not to dip into your savings.

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credit card14. Be smart about your credit card.
If you do get a credit card as a student, look for a card with no annual fees and low interest. Read the fine print! As mentioned earlier, pay the card on time EVERY time to avoid late payments, interest or other fees. Your card does play a key role in your credit score, so make sure you aren’t using it to pay for things you can’t afford. If you have trouble applying discipline to your spending habits, use a debit card instead – that way, you can’t spend money you don’t have.

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15. Get a job on campus.
Departments on campus often hire student workers and can be flexible with hours based on your class schedule. This helps you save money on gas (you’re already on campus, so you can stay in one place!) and allows you to build connections with people at your university. During my senior year, I worked in the Career Services center at my school, and not only did they allow me to work within a schedule that fit my needs, but I also met a lot of staff, students and faculty members that I still correspond with to this day.

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What are some of your tips for managing your money in college? What other topics would you like to read about on The Freshman 15?

The Weekend Five: Tips for Road Trip Etiquette

five rules for road trip etiquetteWe are in the thick of summer, which is the best time of the year for a road trip! I’ve personally never taken a long trip in the car (I prefer flying!), but over the years I have taken several mini-road trips out to other parts of the state, and I’ve definitely picked up my share of advice and pet peeves in that time. As you gear up for your own road trips this summer, keep these five rules in mind. (Want to share? Tweet this!)

The Weekend Five: Tips for Road Trip Etiquette

1. The driver controls the music.
If you’re not the one driving, don’t touch the radio unless the driver says so. Driving can be as stressful as it is costly, so the driver should play the music or radio shows that put him or her most at ease. Of course, if you’re the driver, you should also be polite and open to suggestions from your passengers (it’s not nice to blast Megadeth when your friends are trying to avoid hearing loss, for example), but as a passenger, it’s not nice to turn off the driver’s song just because you dislike Nickelback or whatever.

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2. Keep your feet off the dashboard.
There is nothing that I hate more than when passengers want to treat my car like their dirty apartments. (Okay, that’s a little dramatic – I also hate bigots, Internet trolls and cockroaches.) You don’t live in my car, so keep your feet off the dashboard and sit up straight.

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five rules of road trips3. No backseat driving allowed!
This has always been another huge pet peeve of mine! As a passenger, you should speak up if you believe you’re in serious danger or if you see something that the driver can’t, but avoid criticizing minor aspects of the driver’s technique: a slightly crooked parking job, a turn signal that started a little too soon or a little too late, the driver’s speed being slightly faster or slower than you would drive. Again, unless it is something that could put the passengers in danger or get the driver in trouble, there is no need to comment on minor mistakes – chances are, they are one-time mistakes that the driver has already caught, and you would be making them too if you were the driver that day. Backseat driving can also put the driver on edge and make him or her very uncomfortable, which doesn’t always make for safe driving.

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4. Show your appreciation to the driver.
On a long drive, it is only fair that the passengers contribute something for the driver, whether that includes gas money or lunch. Long drives cost a lot of money (and energy), and your driver deserves contributions that make the trip easier.

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5. Don’t eat in the car without the driver/car owner’s permission.
Some car owners are cool with passengers eating whatever they want in the car, but others are not so lax. Find out what your friend will allow early on (Food? Drinks?) and if he or she does allow food in the car, try to only bring food that won’t make a huge mess or have a strong smell. An easy road trip food I like to bring is a bag of grapes – they don’t make crumbs and they won’t make your fingers sticky, either. I love hard boiled eggs, but I don’t bring them in friends’ cars because the smell can bother people. Be respectful of your driver!

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Other tips: Don’t douse yourself in perfume or cologne if you’re going to be in close proximity to people for a long period of time. (Conversely, make sure you’re clean and wearing deodorant if you’re going to be in close proximity to people for a long period of time!) Offer to help the driver navigate if he or she is lost. If you do bring clean snacks, share with the other passengers!

What are some of your tips for road trip etiquette?

Link Love Thursday: Harry Potter is Back!

CA.0802.harry.potter.hallows.2.Good afternoon, friends! We are (sort of) back to our regularly scheduled programming here at So It Must Be True, and once again, I’m excited to share the latest batch of Link Love. Hope everyone had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend filled with friends, family and ESPN’s hotdog eating contest!

Happy reading! What are some of the best links you’ve come across this week?

Job Hunt Series at Talent Cupboard

TalentCupboardHi there, readers!

In place of this week’s Link Love, I would like to share my latest guest post for Talent Cupboard, a London-based company for upcoming and recent grads that allows you to create your own digital CV. I was honored to contribute to their Job Hunt series and share my own experiences and advice for finding the right job after graduation. You can check it out here!

Have a wonderful day and a safe Independence Day weekend! :)

What My Email Inbox Reveals About Me

070103_pre-web-emailIn the past, you could learn a lot about a girl by looking through the contents of her purse. However, as we become increasingly glued to our iPhones and computers, we can learn even more about one another electronically: through social media profiles, texts, most recently used emojis and especially the inbox of your personal email account.

This week, we’ll go behind the scenes of my own collection of emails — all the empty gum packets, crumpled receipts and loose coins that metaphorically comprise my inbox. Get ready to learn a whole lot about me! :)

  • I’m connected to Nigerian royalty.
    I know what you’re about to say. “But Val, that’s impossible! Nigeria is a presidential republic, not a monarchy!” That’s where you’re wrong. For years, I’ve received emails from Nigerian princes, begging me for my banking information so they can finally send me their fortune. I must have done something really philanthropic in a previous life, because my e-benefactors keep promising to give back in a big way. (I also have quite a few contacts in India who have offered me large sums of money in return for minor personal details, like my address and social security number.)
  • I have an extreme and very eclectic shopping addiction.
    This is the only explanation I have for the countless emails I receive from local and national retailers: clothing stores, home goods stores, chocolatiers, wine supermarkets, even Israeli cell phone carriers. In fact, my personal account receives more emails from these companies than from friends and relatives. What can I tell you? I’m addicted to the discounts!
  • Someone is looking at my profile on an Indian dating site.
    Never mind that I’m not Indian and I already have a boyfriend. I’m assuming my wealthy friends overseas (the ones who want to give me money; see above) set up the profile for me as a token of their gratitude. Very sweet of them!
  • Someone has just commented on my blog.
    It might just be a spam bot diet pill company like last time, but hey – it’s the thought that counts!
  • All the clubs I joined in college are still active.
    I never unsubscribed from their email lists, so the fun never ends.
  • When I was in middle school, I wrote fanfiction.
    Really, really bad fanfiction. Apparently, ten years later, people are still reading it.
  • I have severely offended a “nutritional supplement” company.
    Or rather, they believe they have offended me. Every few months, I receive the same exact email with the subject line “I’m SORRY” followed by a whole lot of groveling because I still haven’t clicked through their website to make a purchase. I’m not sure how I keep winding up on their list, but I have to admire their sketchy persistence.
  • My mom sends me really funny articles and videos.
    Unfortunately, they get buried in my inbox underneath all these junk emails!

Am I leaving anything out? What does your email inbox say about you?

Link Love Wednesday: Draco Malfoy & Shane at Walmart

Courtesy of HelloGiggles.com

Courtesy of HelloGiggles.com

It’s that time of the week again! You know, that time when I post interesting, funny and sometimes bizarre articles from around the web for a very eclectic link roundup. Get ready for this week’s Link Love and share your own favorites in the comments section below!

Any fantastic articles you’ve come across lately? Drop a note in the comments section or share your favorite posts that you’ve published!