Schwarzman Scholar Program Sends Students to China

May 1st, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

Schwarzman ScholarsBillionaire and Blackstone Group founder Stephen Schwarzman has announced the creation of the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. It’s mission? Schwarzman Scholar Program sends students to China. The scholarships, to be funded by Schwarzman’s own $100 million dollar donation as well as $200 million more from other international donors, will function similarly to Oxford’s prestigious Rhodes Scholarship though will obviously allow students to study in China rather than the U.K.

Starting in 2016, 200 international Schwarzman Scholars annually will get the opportunity to study in China at one of the country’s most prominent educational institutions in an all-expenses-paid, year-long program in Public Policy, International Relations, Engineering, or Economics & Business. These elite students will then leave the program with a Master’s Degree.

Schwarzman hopes that encouraging students from around the world (though scholars from the United States will represent the largest proportion) to study in China will foster an enduring academic and cultural relationship between the rapidly rising China and the rest of the world. Classes in the Schwarzman Scholars program will all be taught in English, further emphasizing the program’s mission of connecting Western, English-speaking powerhouses like the United States and the United Kingdom with the increasingly relevant China.

The Schwarzman Scholars program’s international commitment is also reinforced by its impressive advisory board, which is graced by influential figures such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice, and even famous cellist Yo-yo Ma.

The Schwarzman Scholars program represents a very exciting new opportunity for U.S. students looking to study abroad. With its high level of prestige in its host university and advisory board, setting in an emerging world superpower, and its fantastic zero dollar price tag, the program looks poised to provide quality international education to students when it does kick off in 2016.

*Photo Courtesy of BusinessInsider.com


5 Tips When Writing a Scholarship Essay

April 23rd, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

student_135853697Cranking out a great scholarship essay is one of the most important factors in determining whether or not you wind up landing that crucial scholarship to study in the U.S. But writing a scholarship essay is difficult if you don’t know the basics. Here are 5 tips when writing a scholarship essay that will help you along the way:

1. Address the prompt

While some scholarship essay prompts will be very open, others will ask you to write about a pretty specific issue or prompt. Make sure you look closely at exactly what the prompt is asking for and write your essay accordingly! If you’re supposed to describe a time you learned from a mistake, for example, writing a scholarship essay about your life-changing trip to India won’t get you anywhere.

2. Be yourself

Though it is quite possibly the single most cliché bit of advice on writing a great scholarship essay, it is VERY true that you should write honestly rather than trying to say what you think the reader will want to hear. The readers are professionals; they can smell dishonest kowtowing and they respect reading an applicant’s true voice.

3. Tell a unique story

Whatever the prompt is, try writing a scholarship essay that avoids commonality. For example, if the prompt asks you to recount a difficult time in your life, try to avoid common topics like parents’ divorce, deaths of loved ones, and so on. Of course, in keeping with Tip #2 above, if you are very passionate about writing on one of these topics you should listen to your instinct and go for it.

4. Show growth

Especially if you’re asked to discuss a negative experience, you’ll want to put emphasis on how you learned and grew from the issue. This will show maturity, perseverance, and insight.

5. Proofread!

It’s awful to have a great scholarship essay derailed by poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Have friends, teachers, and family members look over your essay exclusively for these specific problems. The more eyes you get on it, the better.

If you enjoyed reading our article on the 5 tips when writing a scholarship essay, then check out our partner InternationalStudent.com’s Scholarship Essay Center.


Who Should Review My Scholarship Essay

April 15th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

shutterstock_132446729Your scholarship admission essay is a very important part of nabbing that all-important application that gives you entrance into your dream school – while high test scores and extracurricular excellence get you partly there, it’s a great essay that makes you really stand out from a pool of similar applicants. One key step in delivering a great essay is to get someone (preferably a few people, actually) to review your essay. But who should review my scholarship essay? Who will have a valuable outside perspective?

First off, go against your first instinct and don’t have your parents review your essay. The problem is that many parents are so encouraging of their children that they’ll actually be unhelpful when it comes to giving you real, constructive advice rather than just telling you everything looks great! If you still want your folks to look it over, tell them to go through your scholarship essay for specific, objective mistakes like spelling and grammar errors rather than broader considerations like structure and theme.

Who should review my scholarship essay, then? An honest friend who knows you well and isn’t afraid to give you constructive criticism is a good choice to review your essay. One of the best types of advice you can get from a close friend is how much your own voice comes through in your essay – and your friend should be able to tell you if you’re expressing yourself or if you just come across as dull and ordinary.

Another great person to have check out your scholarship essay is a teacher. Teachers are knowledgeable and have no reluctance about giving feedback since that’s an integral part of their job anyway! In addition to the obvious choice of an English teacher, try to find a teacher who will be close to the target audience of your actual essay to review your essay. If you’re applying for a scholarship to an engineering major, for example, try getting one of your math teachers to check it out.

Your scholarship essay is very important, so make sure you take all the necessary steps and get your essay reviewed!

*Photo of student writing an essay courtesy of Shutterstock


Taxes for International Students

April 9th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

shutterstock_131714795Tax time in the United States is here, with the IRS’s filing deadline of April 15th quickly approaching. Taxes are confusing for anyone, but taxes for international students can add another layer of difficulty given the varying classifications that international students can fall under.

The first thing for international students to determine at tax time is whether they are filing as residents or non-residents. Taxes for international students will mostly fall under nonresident filing status, but to make sure what category you fall under you should go to the Substantial Presence Test on the IRS website. Note that residency status is different from your immigration status, and depends on a number of factors revolving around the dates, length, and nature of your stay in the U.S.

If you find that you need to file as a resident, you can proceed to complete your taxes as any U.S. resident would. Remember that this includes your total worldwide income, not just money earned in the U.S.

But as most taxes for international students are filed as nonresident status, you’ll likely find yourself moving on to the next step: determining whether you’ve had a U.S. source of income. What exactly counts as a U.S. source of income is also outlined in detail on the IRS website.

All nonresidents must file Form 8843. Those without a U.S. source of income get to stop there; nonresidents with a U.S. source of income must also fill out a 1040 NR or 1040 NR-EZ. To fill out either of these latter forms you will need either a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you do not have one, you can apply for an ITIN at the time of your filing.

Tax time is a notoriously stressful period for anyone in the United States, and international students certainly aren’t spared. Get started navigating the process as soon as you can so you have time to sort out any snags, and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or school advisors for help! Check out our partner, International Student’s Tax Return Help, for more information.

* Tax, budget and calculator photo courtesy of Shutterstock


When Are Student Loans Disbursed?

March 28th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

student handing in application87347451Students going to college in the United States may be partly paying their way student loans, using them for everything from tuition and room and board to books and supplies. But the exact time for student loan disbursement, as important as it is, can be hard to pin down. So when are student loans disbursed?

Generally speaking, student loan disbursement is split between a school’s two semesters (or four quarters, three trimesters, etc.). This means that your $2,000 yearly loan won’t give you that full amount right away in the fall; you’ll get $1,000 for fall semester and $1,000 for spring semester. This splitting of the disbursement by semester is usually not a problem since tuition and fees are charged by semester as well – meaning you won’t be left with a huge bill to cover in the fall and only half of your yearly loan amount to help cover it.

When are student loans disbursed within each semester, though? The answer to that question is a little less definite because student loan disbursement ultimately depends on each school’s financial aid office and its specific policies. The loans usually show up in a student’s account sometime between the start of classes and the tuition payment due date. Before the funds actually show up, they will often be listed as “pending” so you can get a clear picture of what your financial situation will look like once the loan comes through.

There are some reasons that your student loan disbursement may be delayed, however. A delayed disbursement may be due to a failure to meet minimum enrollment or GPA standards, an unpaid fee from a previous semester which must first be settled, or various other factors. If you think your disbursement should have come through already, contact your financial aid office to see if there are any other snags like these you need to address.

So when are student loans disbursed? It’s not an exact science, but they come through in halves toward the beginning of each semester. If you’re waiting on student loans for immediate needs like housing or food, get in touch with your school to find out exactly when you’ll be getting them.


Understanding Interest Rates on Student Loans

March 25th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

interest rate149070729Coming to college in the United States involves a lot of expenses, and you may find yourself turning to a private loan to help you meet the financial burden. While loans can be great, it is important to understand the full financial burden of repaying them. One of the most important factors in picking a loan to help you finance your college education in the United States is understanding interest rates on student loans.

Interest is a fee that a bank requires you pay on top of the base loan amount so it can make money from the loan. Interest rates on student loans are given as yearly percentages. For example, a $1,000 loan with an interest rate of 7.5% APR (annual percentage rate) will mean a total repayment of $1,075 after one year of interest.

Stretch this out across years – even decades – of repayment, and clearly interest rates on student loans can have a huge impact on how much you pay in total. So how can you make sure you lower your interest rates on student loans?

To a certain extent, interest rates on student loans are fixed. Student loan interest rates are based off parameters set by reputable American and international banks and generally vary between about 2% and 9% APR.

But your student loan interest rates will also change based on the creditworthiness of your US cosigner. A cosigner is a financially responsible person who, by cosigning a loan, agrees to cover any costs that the original borrower can’t. Find a cosigner with a solid credit history (as an international student, you’ll need a cosigner in the US anyway) and banks will be more likely to give you a favorable interest rate on the loan.

Another way to lower the overall impact of interest costs is to repay your loan more quickly – thereby accruing less total interest. This can mean anything from paying a little more than the monthly minimum when you have the spare cash to choosing an official repayment plan that features earlier or more substantial regular payments.

Understanding interest rates on student loans is very important part of your college financing, so make sure to look into your best options before you decide on a loan!


Ten Highest Paying Majors

March 18th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

A report recently released by NACE, the National Association of College Employers, has detailed the ten highest paying majors in the United States. The study measures these majors with top pay by looking at the average starting salary for a newly hired employee. Here’s the full list:

  1. Computer Engineering
  2. Chemical Engineering
  3. Computer Science
  4. Aerospace/Aeronautics/Aeronautical Engineering
  5. Mechanical Engineering
  6. Electric/Electronics and Communications Engineering
  7. Civil Engineering
  8. Finance
  9. Construction Science/Management
  10. Information Sciences Systems

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of these ten highest paying majors come out of the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There are a few major reasons for this.

First off, STEM fields are many of the vital forces that drive our world today – the influx of computer and web technology in day-to-day life, for example, makes jobs in the above categories of Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Information Sciences Systems significantly more important than they were even a few short years ago.

Another main reason that most of these majors with top pay come from the STEM fields is that relatively few students choose to pursue these majors over the more popular ones in liberal arts, making the actual STEM-field graduates very hot commodities for employers desperate to hire workers with the appropriate expertise.

Does this mean that you should go into one of these fields just because it’s one of the ten highest paying majors in the United States once you snag that first job? Certainly not. But some planning ahead and honest soul-searching in your pre-college and early college years can help you consider what you’d really like to do and see if any of the above majors is in fact something that inspires you.

Also keep in mind that it’s never too late to shift gears into one of these ten highest paying majors if you decide that it is indeed the right thing for you. Even if you’re already finished with your undergraduate education, there are various ways such as grad school and community college that you can use to get you started on a major career change.

If one of the above majors sounds like a good choice for you, make the commitment, study hard, and be ready to land a great job once you join the workforce!


Costs to Consider When Changing Apartments

March 13th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

opening apartment doorAs a college student, you can find yourself changing apartments often. New school years or semesters often come with new housing setups, and changing circumstances during the middle of a schooling period can result in an unexpected change in living situation. To help you save money in the process, it’s important to know the costs to consider when changing apartments.

Deposit

Your biggest new apartment cost (besides a possible uptick in rent) is probably going to be your security deposit. A security deposit is a one-time payment generally ranging from a half a month’s rent to a full month’s rent that is paid upon renting a new apartment. At the end of your tenancy, the security deposit will be returned to you minus fees for cleaning or repairing your apartment that your landlord sees fit.

Moving fees

Another one of the costs to consider when changing apartments is the actual price of moving. Using a professional moving company to help you is the most expensive way, but even if you forego this convenience and haul your stuff yourself you can rack up costs. Truck rentals, gas, boxes and other packaging – all these things should be considered when you look at your new apartment cost!

Furniture

Furniture is an especially important new apartment cost if you’re moving from a furnished apartment into an unfurnished one, where you can find yourself in the market for pricey items like beds, couches, and dining tables. Even if you own some or all of these things already, you may want to buy new furniture that better fits the space in a new apartment.

Utilities

Different apartments come with different utilities paid, making utilities one of the sneakier costs to consider when changing apartments. While basics like gas and electricity are almost always the responsibility of the renter, other utilities like hot water and garbage tend to vary. Make sure to discuss this with your new landlord so you know what kind of different expenses you’ll be getting into with your new place!


Who Can Be My Student Loan Cosigner

March 4th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

cosigner161002339International students who are looking to get a student loan to help pay for college will probably find themselves searching for a student loan cosigner. But finding a cosigner for your student loan can sometimes be a difficult process. Let’s break down who can be a cosigner for your student loan.

If you plan to attend college in the United States, your student loan cosigner will have to either be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident having lived in the US for the past two years, depending on the requirements of the loaning institution. How can you find this type of person if you don’t live in the United States in the first place? Try reaching out to your extended family to see if anyone has the required citizenship status. If you still can’t locate the right match, turn to trusted friends and ask if they know anyone who can help you. It can be daunting to ask someone a little less familiar to you for such a big favor as cosigning a loan, but if you’re having trouble finding the right person it may be a step you have to take.

The other major requirement of a cosigner for your student loan is that they have solid credit themselves. Since the main purpose of a student loan cosigner is to back up the loan’s repayment if the student cannot, having an established and strong credit history is an absolute must for your cosigner. This means a current stable source of income, low amount of other debt, and very few to no bad marks on credit history.

So enough with all the limitations – let’s look at the good news. Who CAN be your student loan cosigner? Well, as long as they fit the above criteria, pretty much anyone who is willing. Your cosigner doesn’t necessarily have to be a family member or even a close friend, doesn’t have to have any previous affiliation with the lender or your prospective college, and so on. So just make sure the cosigner for your student loan meets certain citizenship and credit history requirements, and you’ll be on your way to getting your loan approved!


How to Budget for Your Spring Break Trip

February 27th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

With spring break just around the corner, now is the time for international students to be planning their budget for their upcoming spring break trip. Follow a few key tips and you’ll find you can have a great time without needing a massive spring break budget!

Book early

It’s no secret that airline fares and hotel rates rise steeply the longer you wait before you book; this is even truer for a notoriously high-traffic time like spring break. Yet with the hectic start of a new semester getting in the way of talking with friends and finalizing plans, many students wait too long and pay an arm and a leg for their trip. Get on your game a few months ahead of time and reduce your overall spring break budget.

School-sponsored trips

Many schools have organizations that will plan their own spring break trips, whether they involve the organization’s interest (an archaeology club trip to Rome, say) or whether it’s just a fun outing. These trips often come at a discount, especially when they are only open to the members of the sponsoring organization. See if you can find any enticing options like this to help you budget for spring break trip.

Get it all together

You can cut down your spring break budget a lot by booking as many parts of your trip as possible together. Get a flight paired with a hotel with a side serving of shuttle service to and from the airport, and you might save yourself a significant chunk of change.

Reduce incidental expenses

There are a lot of little costs that come with spring break that many students forget to include in their budget for spring break: meals, baggage fees, tips, and so on. Do your best to reduce these costs! Pack your things in fewer bags to avoid exorbitant baggage fees, or pay more for a hotel with a kitchenette and save on going out to eat for every meal. If you don’t include these expenses in your budget they can be an unwelcome surprise, but if you consider them you can curb your spring break spending by quite a bit.

Spring break is a time to explore and have fun, so don’t let a budget issue stop you. Follow the above tips to make sure you can do something great!


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