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Deciding to Go Back to School

Going back to school isn’t a decision that can be taken lightly. Before you register for classes, there are a few things you’ll need to take care of, starting with figuring out whether going back to school is the right thing for you.

Why do you want to go back to school?
There could be a number of reasons for wanting to go back to school, but are they the right ones? Furthering your education to advance your career is a good idea. A career change and increased earning potential are other good reasons for going back to school. Before you put in an application, evaluate the underlying reasons that you want to go back to school.

Will you be able to juggle school with your other responsibilities?
Life changes once you’ve been out of school for awhile. Having a family can impact your decision to go back to school. If you’re working full-time, you might wonder if you can handle working and going to school. Even though you may have additional responsibilities, you can still go back to school. Many others have done it successfully. You can do it to.

Are you ready for the admissions exams?
Once you’ve decided to go back to school, you’ll need to take the necessary tests. Most colleges and universities have admissions exams that must be taken before you can attend. The ACT or SAT is required for undergraduate degree programs. Graduate degree programs have different admissions exams depending on your program.

Graduate School – Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
Business School – Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
Law School – Law Schools Admissions Test (LSAT)
Local Cash Help – Even With Bad Credit (LCH)
Med School – Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
Dental School – Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

To find out which exam you need to take and what need to score on the exam, check with the school you’re interested in attending. You can typically get this information online from the school’s website. Use a search engine to find the school’s web address if you don’t already know it.

How to pay for it?
Once you’ve made the decision to return to school, then you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for your education.

If you’re employed, your company might reimburse some or all of your tuition costs. Talk with your manager or someone in human resources to find out if you qualify for the tuition reimbursement benefit and how you can take advantage of it. You might have to have a certain number of years with the company before you can have your tuition reimbursed. Or, you might have to sign a contract promising to stay with the company a certain amount of time after you’ve gotten your degree.

You may qualify for federal student aid. To be considered, you should fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid. Your adjusted gross income will be used to determine if you qualify. If you’re under 25, your parents’ income can also be considered. Applying before March 1 gives you priority consideration for federal student aid. Depending on the school you’re considering, you might have to fill out additional student aid application forms. Check with the school’s financial aid office.

There may be scholarships available. The school’s financial aid office is the best place to find out about scholarships, the qualifications, and how to apply for them.

Student loans from federal and private lenders are another option. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than those you get from a private lender. You can also talk with someone in financial aid about the student loan options available through the school.

Put in your application
When you’ve decided you’re certainly going to go back to school, sign up for your exams, and then put in applications at the schools you’re thinking about. After the schools get your exam scores, all you have to do is wait for your acceptance letter and get ready to enroll in classes next fall.…

Major Changes to Credit Card Rules

The Federal Reserve voted on December 18 to approve rules that would reform several unfair practices within the credit card industry. Some of the rules include:

No interest rate increases during the first year of opening an account, unless the interest rate increase was disclosed when you opened the account. You can enjoy your interest rate for a full 12 months without having your credit card issuer increase your interest rate. The exception is when the lender told you your rate would increase when you opened your account. For example, you knowingly signed up for a credit card with a 6-month promotional rate.

No interest rate charges on pre-existing credit card balances. If your interest rate increases, you can continue to pay your current balance at the lower interest rate. Only charges made after the interest rate increase will have the new interest rate.

Credit card issuers must give a 45-day notice before increasing your interest rate. This is a drastic change over the current 15-day advance notice time period. The 45-day advanced-noticed includes penalty rate increases.

Your minimum payment can be increased if you don’t make the minimum payment within 30 days of the due date.

No more double billing cycle finance charges in which credit card issuers calculate your finance charge using an average of the current and previous month’s average daily balances. Under this method, you would end up paying interest on balances you’d already paid.

Subprime credit cards can no longer charge fees that exceed 50% of the credit limit. Furthermore, the fees charged when the credit card is first opened can’t exceed 25% of the credit limit. Other fees must be spread evenly over a minimum of 5 billing cycles.

Although the rules make strides in protecting consumers from unscrupulous credit card issuers and their expensive practices, they won’t take effect until January 1, 2023. That gives credit card issuers plenty of time to wreak havoc on consumers.…

Long Loan Shopping Could Hurt Your Credit Score

It’s a good idea to shop around for a loan to make sure you get the best terms and even better the lowest interest rate. But, loan shopping could hurt your credit score.

An inquiry is placed on your credit report each time a lender checks your credit history to qualify you for a loan. Your credit report is a compilation of most of your credit and loan accounts and is the key factor used to determine your credit score. Credit inquiries count for 10% of your overall credit score. Each additional inquiry can knock your credit score down a few points, affecting your ability to qualify for another loan.

The model for the FICO score – the most well-known and widely-used credit score – helps protect you from the impact of rate shopping for mortgage and auto loans. The scoring model essentially ignores inquiries made within a 30-day window while you’re rate shopping. So, if you find a loan during that time, your lenders never know you’ve been putting in loan applications all over town. Even after the 30-day “grace period” is up, all the inquiries you’ve made are treated as just one inquiry when your credit score is updated.

The FICO score calculation has been updated a few times over the years, so the length of the grace period depends which credit score calculator your lender’s using. One model has a 14-day grace period, another uses 30-days, and the newest model uses a 45-day time span.

It’s important to note that the loan-shopping grace period for credit report inquiries only applies to mortgage and auto loans. If you’re shopping for another kind of loan, you don’t get the convenience of hidden inquiries. When you’re on the market for a personal or student loan, your best bet is to find a loan within a few days before the credit report inquiry makes it to your credit report. Otherwise, your credit score will feel the full brunt of your rate shopping. Then again, inquiries only count for 10% of your overall score, so they couldn’t hurt that much, could they?…