Author Archive | Jan N.

Image by Peter Alfred Hess, Flickr

Image by Peter Alfred Hess, Flickr

For the next 8 months, your dorm room becomes your home. Sadly, most schools prohibit painting dorm walls, making it a little more difficult for you to truly make the room yours. However, your uninspired space can be spiced up in ways other than just changing the paint colour. Check out these tips on how to decorate it, without breaking any rules:

  • Posters/artwork: Get posters of your favourite movies and bands to show your personality through your space. Show your artsy side with artwork that speaks to you. Looking for more of a design piece? Choose a theme and get posters of different sizes and complementary colours to create a stunning effect. Instead of just taping them onto your walls, consider putting them into picture frames to add a bit of dimension to the room.
  • Wall decals: If you’re more of a minimalist and cringe at the thought of huge pieces of paper hanging on your wall, wall decals are an excellent alternative. You can get anything from inspiring quotes to unique designs. They’re like tattoos for your wall that can easily be peeled off at the end of the year (or if you regret them after a week).
  • Wall tapestries: If you have a huge blank space that’s just begging for an eye-popping piece, consider wall tapestries. Urban Outfitters sells some excellent tapestries, posters, and decals that are sure to make a statement.
  • Wall collage: Instead of buying something, make it! Take old posters, photographs, postcards, typography, or anything else you have lying around that you think will work well together and layer them on top of each other. This is a great way to bring a piece (or pieces) of home with you to college. Karen Kavett (aka xperpetualmotion on Youtube) has made several hip and trendy wall collages. Check her out to get some inspiration for your next dorm room renovation!
  • Peel and stick chalkboards: Super cool in any space, they’re excellent for the artist inside you – and are great alternatives to writing things down on your hand. Combine several of them to make a chalkboard wall that you and your dorm mates can doodle on. They are easy to remove and won’t harm most surfaces.
  • Washi Tape: Easily described as decorative masking tapes, washi tape comes in different sizes and designs, is extremely versatile and can be used anywhere from adding pop to your door to transforming your plain side table. HGTV came up with 10 amazing ways to use washi tape in your room.
  • Rugs: Don’t forget about your feet! A good rug can make your room a lot cozier and homely. Who can forget what The Dude repeatedly said in The Big Lebowski… “That rug really tied the room together!”

Image by Elvert Barnes, Flickr

Image by Elvert Barnes, Flickr

Friends and family aren’t the only ones checking your social media accounts; many recruiters do research on applicants by searching their names online. If you were a recruiter searching your name, would you like what you see? Several things from your profile picture to the things you post can be huge red flags to your potential employer. Here are some things you can do to prevent putting your career in danger:

Remember the two P’s of posting

No matter what or where you’re posting content, make sure they follow the two P’s of posting: your content is professional and positive. For example, if you want to complain about something, keep it PG and be sure to offer solutions. No one likes a whiner, but everyone appreciates someone who gives good constructive criticism.

Appearance is everything

Your picture tends to be the first thing anyone notices when they look at your profile. Make sure it is appropriate. Check anything else on your profile including text posts, other pictures, links, groups you’re in and things you’ve liked. Ensure that you have nothing on your profile that you would be embarrassed of if a recruiter were to see. This does not only include the stuff that you post. Check to see if your friends have any unsavoury pictures of you posted online.

Privacy settings

Review the privacy settings of your accounts to guarantee that only the people you want can view your profile. However, there are always ways for your potential employer to see your profile. It could be as simple as a shared friend that will give them access, so don’t expect to be safe just because you have all of the security settings up.

Stand out

All of these precautions don’t mean you should stop posting and being an active social media consumer altogether. You should use social media as much as possible to shine in the eyes of the recruiter. Liking Facebook pages or following Twitter accounts of industry experts is a great way to do so. LinkedIn is a wonderful website that helps you get noticed. Make your online presence count by joining LinkedIn groups related to your desired career path and start expanding your network early. If you want to join the public relations field or be a writer, consider starting a blog. Create a website and post your portfolio to let others see your amazing work. Overall, show recruiters that you have a personality and that you are a great fit for their company.

Do a vanity search

Do as the recruiters do and search yourself on the web. Think of yourself as a brand and social media as a marketing tool. Are you marketing yourself well? Not only are you using it carefully, but are you also using it wisely? Most importantly, do you seem valuable enough for your prospective employers to invest in you?

Image by The-Lane-Team, Flickr

Image by The-Lane-Team, Flickr

Having the chance to study abroad is definitely going to be a highlight of your post-secondary life. However, some people end their exchange feeling as if their time was too short to do anything spectacular. Follow these few tips to help maximize your experience while on exchange.

Set goals

Don’t end your exchange feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing. Make a list of everything you want to do. It can be as simple as using the tube in London or as adventurous as bungee jumping in Singapore. You can also challenge yourself to become conversationally fluent in the local language. Be as creative as you want! Don’t expect to complete everything on your list, but you can rest assured knowing that you’ve had plenty of new experiences.

Immerse yourself in the culture

Take a stroll through the city’s old district, learn about the country’s history, visit temples and ancient sites, and order food in the local language. Learn and experience as much as you can in your new surroundings. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (this idiom works even better if you’re actually in Rome)! By the end of your exchange, you should feel like one of the locals.

Make local friends

Speaking to and learning from locals can help you make your stay better. They’ll help you find the best restaurants, bars, places to visit, places to avoid and other important information only locals would know about.

Try the local food

Don’t be tempted to just grab a hamburger at a nearby fast-food restaurant. Make sure you try the local delicacies. If you can’t afford expensive restaurants, street food allows you to taste the local flavours at cheap prices. However, just like street food vendors at home, it’s best to make sure you aren’t purchasing your food from a place that looks unsanitary.

Keep a journal

It will help you reflect on your experiences and make you appreciate your time there a little more. Better yet, start a blog or a vlog. It’s a great way to keep your family and friends overseas updated.

Pace yourself

Don’t get yourself sick because you wanted to try all of Germany’s ales. Getting sick or even injured abroad is really expensive. Take caution when trying new things and make smart decisions.

Be mentally prepared

Being on exchange requires a lot of open-mindedness and independence. Don’t be surprised if you experience some sort of a culture shock. Different cultures have different lifestyles and attitudes. Be sure to read up on social customs beforehand to prepare yourself. Also, being far away from family and friends can make you feel very lonely. Beat the homesickness by getting out of your room and exploring. If you really need to, call mom and dad but try not to dwell too much on how much you miss home. You don’t want to be sad for most of your exchange.

Enjoy the little things

Not everything has to be blood-pumping adventures or fancy excursions. Find the joy from all the little things your host country has to offer. It can be the melodic way in which people speak, the fact that fresh ramen is always available just around the corner or the picturesque view of the sunset from your window. You might even enjoy il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). Cherish every second because these are the things you’re going to miss most!

Image by kthread, Flickr

Image by kthread, Flickr

Preparing to go on exchange isn’t that different from preparing to go on a trip. However, there are a few extra things you need to do before going on exchange. Don’t get caught unprepared in a different country by reviewing this list of exchange essentials: 

3 Months or More Before Leaving:

  • If necessary, apply for your passport and visa(s).
  • Get to know where you’re travelling. Read up on climate, transportation systems and tourist spots in guide books and on websites like Wikivoyage. This can help you figure out what you need and don’t need to pack.
  • Learn some key phrases and words in your host country’s language. Even though a lot of people around the world can understand some English, it never hurts to know how to ask for the nearest bathroom or for directions in local language.
  • Learn the culture’s social customs. Did you know that direct eye contact is considered rude in some Asian cultures? To avoid accidentally offending someone, Culture Crossing is a great website for learning the etiquette, taboos and gestures of different countries.
  • Create a budget. Allocate a specific amount of money to spend each week on food, entertainment, transportation and any other expenses. Use this to estimate how much you plan on spending for your whole term on exchange so you can start saving up now.

1-3 Months Before Leaving:

  • Get any necessary immunizations and prescriptions. If you require some sort of prescription medication, be sure to bring enough to last you for the whole trip. It is important to note that some medication that is available and legal at home may not be in other countries, so check beforehand that you can bring it. Keep a copy of the original prescription and a letter from your doctor describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs with you. If you need to fill a prescription abroad, ask your program coordinator for help finding an English-speaking doctor.
  • Apply for a credit card that works around the world. Find one that has low foreign transaction fees or one that doesn’t have them at all.
  • Find the best way to communicate with others back home. If you need a cellphone, research your current provider’s fees for using your cellphone in a different country. Alternatively, consider getting an international cell phone or international phone card. You can save money by using apps like Skype and Viber to call or text home.

A Few Weeks Before Leaving:

  • Notify your bank that you are leaving. This prevents them from freezing your accounts, especially when you need it most.
  • Introduce yourself to fellow exchange students. Ask your program coordinator if it’s possible to contact your fellow exchange students beforehand. This can help make your first encounter less awkward and you can go straight to having fun and making memories with them.
  • If you’re staying with a host family, contact them before you leave. Get to know them and tell them about yourself. Get them a gift from your home country to thank them for letting you stay with them.
  • Pack light. You can live without all of your shoes and clothing for the next few months. Bring only the essentials. This will also save room in your suitcase for anything you may buy during your exchange. With that being said, make sure to pack any necessities. This includes a power adapter or voltage converter so you can plug in your camera or laptop. If you’re away for more than one season, you may need to bring a jacket and boots but also shorts and flip flops. Don’t forget that you’re there to study! Bring some school supplies so you don’t waste money buying it there.

Image by on Flickr

Image by on Flickr

From textbooks to late night pizza runs, you’re going to make a lot of purchases in university. Since you won’t always have cash on hand, credit cards become very useful. Student credit cards are a great first credit card for students because they are specially designed for students and usually don’t require an income. By getting a credit card early and paying off all of your monthly balances on time, you can establish a good credit score which will help you later in life when you buy a car or a home. Here are just a few credit cards out there, and the benefits they offer:

Annual Fee

Purchase Interest Rate

Extra Perks




  • 1 AIR MILES reward mile for every $20 you spend on the card
  • SPC (Student Price Card Ltd.) discounts of 10% to 15% at hundreds of your favourite stores
  • Earn 1.25x CashBack at Shell locations in Canada
  • Earn 1.5x CashBack and get up to 25% off rentals at National Car Rental & Alamo Rent A Car locations worldwide
  • Limited time offer: 500 Bonus reward miles

BMO SPC CashBack MasterCard



  • Earn 0.5% CashBack on all purchases
  • SPC (Student Price Card Ltd.) discounts of 10% to 15% at hundreds of your favourite stores
  • Earn 1.5% CashBack at Shell locations in Canada
  • Earn 1.5% CashBack and get up to 25% off rentals at National Car Rental & Alamo Rent A Car locations worldwide

L’earn VISA Card



  • Earn up to 1% Moneyback on the purchases you’ve made with your card
  • 20% discount rates at Avis Car Rental

mbna rewards Studentawards credit card



  • Earn 1 mbna rewards point for every qualifying $1 spent on retail transactions
  • 1,000 bonus points after your first qualifying purchase
  • 1,000 bonus points each year on your account anniversary date
  • Redeem points for cash back, travel, brand-name merchandise, gift cards from top retailers and charitable donations
  • Show school pride with a specially designed card for your university/college

RBC CashBack MasterCard



  • Earn 2% cash back credits on grocery store purchases
  • Earn up to 1% cash back credits on all other purchases




  • Earn 5 SCENE points for every $1 spent at participating Cineplex theaters, or online at
  • Earn 1 SCENE point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Limited time offer: 4000 bonus SCENE points with first purchase (enough for 4 free movies)

Once you’ve chosen your card, be sure to use it responsibly. Check out our article on avoiding credit card mistakes to learn how!

Image by Philip Taylor PT on Flickr

Image by Philip Taylor PT on Flickr

Credit cards are a great way to make purchases, if you’re careful. Some credit cards offer reward points, cashback, discounts, extended warranties and other perks to help make the most out of your money. However, there are also risks associated with using these cards. From identity theft to an unpaid balance, credit cards can put you in a lot of trouble. Here are some tips on how to steer clear of common credit card mistakes:

  • Spend what you can afford. This may be a no-brainer but some people tend to forget how much money they actually have when their credit limit is really high. If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it!
  • Keep track of all of your spending. Not only will it help you make smarter purchase decisions and cut down on excessive spending but it will also help you when you’re a victim of identity theft.
  • Keep your card safe. Identity theft is a huge issue and if you’re not careful, it can cost you greatly. Avoid suspicious websites and giving your credit card information to others.
  • Avoid annual fees. Don’t be blinded by promises of reward points and cashback when they also have a hefty annual fee. The price of the annual fee might end up cancelling out the price of all the rewards you’ve earned. There are plenty of other cards that offer these rewards with no additional annual fee.
  • Avoid making interest payments. In other words, pay off your balance in full each month. Paying the minimum each month may be enough to satisfy the credit card company, but it will also prolong and increase your debt. Especially since interest rates are really high on student credit cards (approximately 19%-20%), this can make it even harder to pay off that debt.
  • Don’t get one if you don’t think you’re ready. The whole purpose of getting a credit card as a student is to establish good credit history. If you are unable to pay your balance, this is going to hinder your ability to meet future financial goals. You need good credit to help make purchases like a car or a home in the future so be careful with your card!
  • Choose wisely. Don’t apply for the first credit card you see. Research different credit cards before choosing one. Check out our article comparing different student credit cards for help.

Check out this video on some more common credit card mistakes and how you can avoid them:

Image by clpo13, Flickr

Image by clpo13, Flickr


1. Eat well

Being a victim of the Freshman 15 is never good. Since you don’t have a schedule that starts and ends at the same time like high school, you may end up skipping meals or eating at abnormal times. If you don’t watch what you eat, you’ll end up a few pounds heavier. Not only will it make it more difficult to fit into your favourite pair of pants, but it will also have detrimental effects on your health. You’ll become lethargic and irritable, making it more difficult to concentrate on your studies.

2. Exercise

In university, you’re always going to feel tired. This will make it really difficult for you to muster up the energy to go and exercise. Force yourself to find the time to exercise every week. It can be a 30 minute jog or a full workout session in the gym every few days. Students who exercise do better on tests and exams than inactive students. Combined with a good diet, it can help keep the lethargy away and keep you motivated to study.

3. Relax

You’re not in high school anymore. University is extremely stressful. When you feel like you’re being suffocated by all the work, take a moment to breathe. Grades and staying on top of your work are important, but keeping your mental sanity is even more so. When studying, take a 10 minute break every hour. It helps keep you from stressing out too much and also helps you retain information. If you feel too stressed, take the day off or seek professional help. This is only your first year of university. Enjoy it!


4. Introduce yourself to the person sitting beside you in class.

Not knowing anyone else in class is not fun, especially when your prof decides to give you a group project. Before class, introduce yourself and chat with the person sitting beside you. Follow up by meeting up after class for a cup of coffee. Having a friend in each class is really important in case you miss a class or need help on an assignment. Outside of class, you’ll always have somebody to grab a bite to eat or drink with. Everyone is different and it may be more difficult for some people to warm up to you. You will meet people who don’t like interacting with others at all. If someone is not agreeable, sit somewhere else in class and introduce yourself to someone new.

5. Join in

There is a club for everything in university. Sign up for clubs that interest you and you can meet plenty of new friends who have the same interests. Attend events around school like football games, concerts and film festivals. Not only will you meet new people, but it might also peak your interest in something new.


6. Get to know your professor

Your professor is going to be one of the most important people you know. You can ask them questions and get feedback so you can do better in their class. If you maintain a good relationship with them after the course is over, they’ll also help you get a job by giving you letters of recommendation, or even notifying you of opportunities.

7. Make use of your school’s resources

Your school offers plenty of free resources like career centres, counselling and workshops. Make use of these to help you get a job or improve your essay writing skills. It’s always good to find ways to improve yourself.

8. Take interesting electives

Don’t take a course just because it’s an “easy A.” Your GPA may be spectacular, but you wasted thousands on a useless course. Take courses that really interest you. Unless you’re actually interested in the “history of meteorology” or “contemporary gemology,” take an elective that you like. If it’s something you really enjoy, the assignments will be a breeze and good grades will follow suit.


9. Budget your money

Tuition is expensive. Transportation is expensive. University food is expensive. Everything is really expensive. A lot of students are thousands of dollars in debt after university and spend several years trying to pay it off. Don’t be one of these unlucky folks – start budgeting so you can more easily manage any debt you may accumulate. That doesn’t mean you should stop having fun altogether, but learn to be smart with your money.

10. Work hard AND play hard

The biggest regret of someone who partied too hard in university is that they didn’t study enough. Someone who studied too much wishes they would’ve partied more. Learn from their mistakes and find a good equilibrium. Enjoy your youth but also prepare yourself for the future. Good luck and have fun during your next few years of school!


Image by John Loo, Flickr

Image by John Loo, Flickr

The first day of school is uncomfortable for everybody. It will be even more uncomfortable if you don’t learn to embrace the discomfort. Use the first day of school to step out of your comfort zone because it will help make your transition into post-secondary life easier. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your first day:

  1. Don’t get lost on campus. Before classes start, map out where your classes are and attempt to walk from classroom to classroom. If you need to, print out a map of campus so you don’t get lost in the crowd on the first day.
  2. Get lost on campus. Only do this if you’re done classes or have some time before your next class. You’ll have a lot of fun discovering all of the buildings, restaurants and facilities in your school. It will also help you familiarize yourself with the campus.
  3. Talk to strangers. Talk to the person beside you in class, on the bus and in line at the coffee shop. You’ll meet new people and you’ll also have someone to talk to in class or on the bus in the future. Soon, they won’t be strangers anymore, and instead, your best friends.
  4. Attend Frosh/back to school events. A great way to meet new people and have a lot of fun at the same time. Frosh events are specially tailored to help first years get to know each other. Don’t miss out because you only get to go to frosh once.
  5. Approach club booths. A lot of clubs start advertising and allowing members to join early in the school year. Start getting to know what kinds of clubs are in your school. Sign up for any that seem interesting to you.
  6. Introduce yourself to your professors. It can be a simple “Hello, my name is ___. I look forward to your class this term.” at the end of class. It will make a good impression and help spark a relationship that will be extremely important in the middle of the school year when you’re struggling on an assignment.
  7. Pack light. Some paper, a pen and some food is enough for your first day. You won’t have any books because your reading list hasn’t been given to you yet and professors usually spend the first day reading the course syllabus. You don’t want to break your back carrying a laptop and other paraphernalia you don’t need.
  8. Make mistakes. The first day of school may seem like a big deal, but it really isn’t. It’s just another day out of the many that you spend in school. You’re going to forget most of what you did on the first day anyways, so don’t worry if you accidentally walk into the wrong classroom! Good luck!

Image by jessiejacobson, Flickr

Image by jessiejacobson, Flickr

With all the costs of post-secondary education, it can become very difficult to find the money to pay for it. Luckily, with student loans, students can more easily pay for university/college. There are two forms of student loans: government loans and private loans (i.e. personal loans and student lines of credit). Depending on eligibility, students have the option to receive either. So, how do you choose which loan is best for you? Here are a few factors that can help you differentiate and choose between the two:

Government Loans

Private Loans

Interest rate Fixed interest rate and often lower than private loans. Variable interest rate that can substantially increase your debt if rates increase.
Loan repayment Repayment starts six months after graduation. Repayment assistance programs are made available for students who may need it. Monthly interest payments while in school and regular repayment (principal and interest) starts a few months after graduation. Repayment assistance is dependent on the institution.
Reapplying for loans Must reapply every year and takes approximately four to six weeks for applications to be assessed. Usually, half the loan is given during the first term and the other half is given during the second. No need to reapply each year. Typically, only Proof of Enrollment is necessary and funds will be available shortly afterwards.
Parental involvement Your parents’ incomes will affect the amount of your loan. The higher their income, the less financial aid you receive and vice versa. Usually need a parent to be a cosigner/supporting borrower.
Extra Perks You will be automatically assessed for Canada Student Grants when you apply for a Canada Student Loan. Also, government loans differ province to province and territory to territory. Some offer both federal and provincial/territorial loans, while others only offer one or the other. More information and applications to each province/territory’s respective financial aid websites can be found below.

Depending on the institution, a lot of aid can be made available to students; much more than that offered by government loans. Here are some options available for Canadian students:

Here are some options for American students:

Final Thoughts

With all the perks of a government loan, why doesn’t everyone just apply for them as opposed to private loans? Simply, it is because not everyone qualifies for these loans or receives enough from them. Government loans are given on a financial need basis and have a limit. Use the Student Financial Assistance Estimator to see how much money you can receive from the Canada Student Loans Program. In the end, those who do not qualify and those who do not receive enough sign up for private loans.

With that being said, student loans are a great resource for your education, but try not to rely too heavily on them. Depending on how much you borrowed and the interest rate, it can take several years to completely pay off the debt. This can make it very difficult for you to achieve other financial goals.  Remember to be smart with your money and good luck!

Image by photosteve101 on Flickr

Image by photosteve101 on Flickr

With tuition, transportation and housing costs increasing each year, now, more than ever, is budgeting important. The Canadian Federation of Students estimates that a recent graduate can expect to be $27,000 in debt after graduating. Whether you’re in first or fourth year, it never hurts to be smart with your money. These skills will be extremely important in the future. Here is a template to help get you started on a more financially sound future:

Step 1: Calculate Your Income


Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)
Student Loans
Family Contributions
Total yearly income

Step 2: Calculate Your Expenses


Amount per year

School Fees Not Included in Tuition (i.e. athletics, library, counselling)
Textbooks and Course Materials
Other Educational Expenses (i.e. supplies, associated course fees)

Amount per month

Amount per year

Other Housing Costs (i.e. property taxes, property insurance, maintenance costs, condo fees)
Utilities (hydro, gas, electricity)

Amount per month

Amount per year

Meal Plan

Amount per month

Amount per year

Public Transit
Car Payments

Amount per month

Amount per year

Shopping (i.e. laptop, clothes, gifts)
Other (i.e. grooming, dry cleaning)

Amount per month

Amount per year

Health/Dental Insurance (if not already covered by parents or included in tuition)
Uninsured health services (i.e. prescriptions, medical/dental procedures)

Amount per month

Amount per year

Private loan monthly interest  payment
Total yearly expense

Step 3: Calculate Difference

Total yearly income – Total yearly expenses = Cash Flow

If you have a positive number: Congratulations! You’re off to a great start to a debt-free future. However, be careful if a lot of your income comes from loans. You will have to pay these off after graduation, so try to keep how much you borrow to a minimum.

If you have a negative number: Don’t worry. This happens to everybody! Find ways to cut spending on unnecessary expenses. Look for cheap alternatives on everyday expenses to save money. Browse for articles on how to find scholarships, how to entertain yourself on a budget and many more money saving tips.

Download our Student Budget Calculator so you can keep it on hand to fill out!

Also, be sure to check out other templates online such as the ones made by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada or RBC that helped inspire this one. Good luck!