Monthly Archives: January 2014

Internships: How to find them & why it’s worth the effort

Many college students and recent graduates work as interns. That means they take a temporary job to get hands-on experience, usually in a field they’re interested in. College graduates sometimes use internships to start a career. But did you know that you can get a summer or after-school internship while you’re still in high school?

Why Intern?
Some internships involve pay, and others are unpaid. But internships offer many benefits besides money. For example, taking an internship can:
• Show you what the working world is like
• Teach you important skills, such as time management and computer skills
• Help you choose a major
• Inspire a career choice
• Connect you with experienced people who can mentor you

How to Get Started
By putting some thought into your search and using the resources that are available to you, you can find an internship that will offer you great opportunities.

Think About Your Goals
To begin the process of finding the right internship for you, think about fields you want to explore or skills you want to learn. Do you love photography? Do you want to know what scientific research is like or what a lawyer does all day? Do you want to learn how to build a website?

Having clear goals in mind makes it more likely that you’ll find an internship you can get excited about.

Use the Internet
Once you have goals in mind, you can begin looking for an internship online. Start by searching for local businesses and organizations in your areas of interest and see if they offer internship programs. You can also check out these resources: lets you search by employer, field, date and location. shows opportunities in different countries.
Idealist allows you to search for internships at nonprofits.

Take Advantage of Other Resources
Using personal contacts and local resources are also great ways to find an internship. Try these methods for finding opportunities:
• Ask your high school counselor and teachers for help.
• Check with your coaches and club advisers.
• Find out if family and friends know someone in a field that interests you.
• If there’s a specific company or organization you’d like to work for, don’t be afraid to contact someone there.
• Look for recent internship guidebooks at the library.

Real Student Stories
Sufiyan wanted to earn a little money during the summer after his sophomore year. His school counselor suggested trying out a paid internship doing office work at a local environmental organization.

What Sufiyan valued most about the experience was learning new skills that he feels will help in college classes and job interviews. He says, “My supervisors taught me how to behave in an office, how to be organized and how to speak in a professional manner.”

Kristen liked writing for the school newspaper when she was a high school student, so she took an internship at the local newspaper to learn more about journalism.

Her job was to help out in the office, but she also convinced the editor to let her do some reporting. Kristen ended up covering everything from rodeos to a local burglary, and the experience helped her decide to major in journalism in college.



Deferred Interest Deals – Understanding the Pitfalls

No-interest or deferred-interest deals you see at retailers sound fantastic when you need to get a new TV or dishwasher or piece of furniture. You get to save money and make small, manageable monthly payments. But with every good deal, there is a catch, and these come with expensive traps if you do not understand how they work.

About one in five people who sign up for no-interest deals on big-ticket items actually wind up owing finance charges, usually hundreds of dollars, because of tripwires in the terms of the credit cards that are used to finance them. “No interest if paid in full” the ads shout in large type. The small type tells a different story.

First, you will notice that the deferred interest actually starts to build up on your store card the day that you buy the item. The interest rates can vary from 20% to 25%, which are different from the normal rate tied to the card you are using.

Avoiding the finance charges is not a sure thing. If you fail to pay off the purchase by the deadline or make one late payment, the card issuer will dump months of back interest on your balance. But what really gets people is they fail to understand that if you buy other items with the card, you’ll have to track those balances separately from what you owe on the no-interest deal.

If have a balance on your card or if you buy items on your card while you have the deferred interest, these do not get combined. If you make the suggested minimum payment each month, part of the payment gets applied to the no-interest loan and part of it gets applied to the carry over balance. This means, if you only make the minimum payment you will not pay off the interest free loan and you will end up paying all of the deferred interest.

Here are some ways to avoid the common mistakes people make with deferred-interest deals on store cards:

• Divide the amount owed for your purchase by the number of months in the interest-free period to see if you can afford the payments.
• One late payment will invalidate the deferred interest deal, so make these payments a priority. If you are sending a check, make sure you mail it 12 days before the due date. If you are paying online, make the payment date three days before the due date.
• Remember that the minimum payment noted on your statement will not be enough to avoid deferred interest charges. The store will never set up the payments to make sure you pay it off in time. You have to do that calculation then pay more than the minimum amount due.
• Double-check the end date of the deferral period, and give yourself plenty of time to meet the deadline. Best practice is to make your first payment right away so you are really a month ahead.
• Keep an eye on statements to make sure that fees, such as for payment protection premiums, are not throwing off your calculations. In fact, you should always refuse those offers of “protection.” These are unnecessary add-ons that rip you off.
• Avoid using the card for other items. This makes it easier to track the deferred interest balance. The only balance you should carry is the one for your big ticket purchase. Before you use the store card for a deferred interest item, pay off any existing balances. Then put the card away in a locked drawer and never use it again until the deferred interest item is paid off.

Finally, remember to pay attention to the details. It is your responsibility as a consumer to read and understand the terms and conditions of any deferred interest deal. When you sign something you are agreeing to these terms and it is up to you to understand them. The store is under no obligation to help you understand the terms.

In reality, everything is there in the fine print. Not reading it because the print is small is not a defense. New rules and regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to make the language clearer and easier to read will likely be coming soon, but you are still responsible for understanding all contracts you sign.

The bottom line..these are great deals and can save you lots of money if you are smart and careful. They can cost you hundreds of additional dollars if you fail to pay attention. Feel free me anytime with questions or to share your experiences, 713-341-6184.

Avoid 4 Common Scams Aimed at Students

By Scholarship America

As a newly independent young adult attending and paying for college, you’ll experience many new and exciting things. But there’s one thing we hope you’ll never experience: being targeted by con artists looking to take advantage of inexperienced college students who are struggling to support themselves.

International students are especially vulnerable to scholarship scams, as they must juggle starting college with becoming familiar with a new country and culture.

Here are some tips and resources to help students avoid falling for some of the most common scams:

1. Don’t fall victim to telephone or Internet scams: If you are an international student in the U.S., you could be seen as an easy target for scammers.

In spring 2013, Cornell University alerted international students to a scam in which someone claiming to be an immigration officer called students and told them they had not completed their paperwork correctly. These students were asked to send money via Western Union to purchase a temporary visa in order to stay in the country. In some cases, students were told there were criminal cases pending against them for visa violations as a way to scare them into sending money.

Stanford University alerted their international students to the same type of scam, as did the University of Massachusetts and Purdue.

Remember to never share personal information over the telephone, especially your Social Security or passport number. Government officials will never call and ask for money over the phone, so if this happens to you, make sure you report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Don’t pay to apply for scholarships: When it comes to financial aid, be wary of scholarship programs that require an application fee or sound too good to be true. Legitimate scholarship programs will include selection parameters, which might include a high GPA, participation in clubs and activities or volunteer experience.

If a scholarship claims to be guaranteed to all applicants or does not require an essay or application asking for information about your education or experiences, it might be fraudulent.

Do some research to make sure the sponsor of any scholarship you apply for is legitimate. If you are unsure about the sponsor of a scholarship program, you can contact the Better Business Bureau in the city where the scholarship service is located, or the FTC.

3. Be suspicious of banks that charge large upfront fees in exchange for low interest rate loans: Besides scholarships, other forms of financial aid generally come from the government in the form of grants or loans you receive in your financial aid package after filling out the FAFSA.

If you plan to take out private bank loans, make sure you deal with a trusted bank and understand any fees and interest charges you will incur. If you are asked to pay a large fee upfront in exchange for a very low interest rate or are asked to abide by an extensive list of regulations, you are right to be suspicious. There are trustworthy sources of funding for college, but student loans from U.S. banks can be difficult for international students to obtain.

Most legitimate and reputable banks won’t ask you to pay large fees to get a loan. Always remember — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Don’t send a deposit for an apartment before visiting in person: If you’re not planning to live in your college’s dorms, it can be a challenge to arrange housing for school — even more so when you live in a different state or country. Many international and out-of-state students will search for apartments online and might be tempted to send a deposit without actually seeing the place firsthand, especially if it seems to be an amazing deal.

But students must beware of a common housing scam. Not wanting to miss out on a great price, students might reply to an advertisement and wire a housing deposit, only to arrive in the U.S. and discover the apartment was fake and their money is gone.

If you’re not living in your school’s residence halls, avoid making a payment on a rental property until you know it’s the real deal. It might be worth your time to stay in a hotel for a few days and finish your apartment hunting after your arrival. You can also have a trusted friend visit the space for you to verify that everything checks out.

If you think you might be caught in a scam, your state department of consumer protection and state attorney general’s office are trusted institutions you can turn to. The National Consumer League’s Fraud Center will also investigate and advocate on your behalf.

If you receive a strange email or phone call, write down the contact information of the organization contacting you and talk to an adviser at your school before you give out any financial or personal information.

Don’t be afraid to report a scam if you think you might have been victimized. You might be able to help other students avoid falling into the same situation.

Angela Frisk holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and is a former scholarship recipient. She joined Scholarship America in 2012.