All posts in University Tips

  • 10 Tips to Decorate Your Dorm Room

    dorm room

    Need to spruce up your dorm room? Maybe everything is looking a bit flat! Here are 10 tips to help you decorate your room.

     

     

    1. Plants

    plants

     

     

    Small indoor plants can bring your room to life! If you don’t like maintenance try some hard wearing indoor plants or get a cactus. They are a pretty, healthy way of brightening up your room.

     

     

    2. Removable wallpaper

    wallpaper

     

     

    Get some awesome patterns on your wall with removable wallpaper sheets from Chasing Paper. You can even wallpaper your nightstand drawers with floral papers or patterns which can quickly transform tired or boring furniture.

     

     

    3. Rug

    rug and dog

     

     

    Soft furnishings like rugs are a great way to add some comfort and personality to your room. Your school may have rules about dimensions so check first but a nice rug can really pull a room together! Buy a slipmat for underneath.

     

     

    4. Photo/wall Mural

    photo mural

     

     

    Create a personalized photo or wall mural as a quick way to brighten up the walls!

     

     

    5. A nice headboard

    headboard

     

     

    Find a nice headboard to make your bed a bit more plush and attractive. You can use a bold headboard to make a statement and offset it with some fresh white linens.

     

     

    6. Picture/Photo Collage

    photo collage

     

     

    One of the best things about university is making friends! A photo collage is a great way to have your friends and family with you right in your dorm room and can be a warm colorful way to brighten up the place!

     

     

    7. Lighting

    lighting

     

     

    Decorate your room with some string lights or some fun lamps. Be careful to always switch them off at night.

     

     

    8. Shelving

    washi tape

    Decorate your shelves with Washi tape on the edging. If you get bored you can just get new tape. Add custom bookends to keep your books in order.

     

     

    9. Mirror, Mirror

    mirror

     

     

    Get a nice mirror! Buy a full length mirror to create the illusion of space or a small mirror you can decorate with lights. You can always decorate or paint the border if it needs sprucing up!

     

     

    10. Cushions and pillows

    cushions and pillows

     

     

    Find some fun cushions or throw pillows to add some color or to soften up the room.

  • 8 Tips For Studying Abroad When You Don’t Know Anyone

    studying abroad

    Heading away to study abroad but worried you don’t know anyone in your new country? Just follow these 8 steps and you’ll be  just fine!

     

    Step 1.  Do your research

    Prepare before you go! Use everything at your disposal; Google, friends and family who have visited, etc. Try to understand what is the lifestyle there. One of the biggest challenges is also the most exciting prospect; a new culture!

    This will also help you understand how to greet people and will ease up the transition and make you feel more at home.

     

    Step 2.  Try new things

    Once you arrive, go out and try the local cuisine – the restaurants, bars and don’t forget the nightlife! Join societies or clubs at  your new university or school because this is one of the best ways to meet new people! Get a part-time job! You’ll earn some extra cash and meet new people. And if you’re learning a new language, this is one of the best ways to learn.

    Make sure you attend orientation meetings and gatherings so you can meet like-minded people. Experiencing these things will make you adapt faster to the new atmosphere and will enable you to make new friendships.

    iomages

    Step 3. Sights and trips

    Take the time to visit the museums, local stores and famous landmarks. This is a unique opportunity for you to see things that most people can’t!

     

    Step 4.  Be very friendly and talkative

    At first it might be difficult to make new friends but don’t shy away. Join things and approach people. There will be plenty of other students from abroad in the same boat. Don’t be shy and talk to them!

     

    Step 5. Be prepared for differences

    It’s a new place, with new people and possibly a completely different culture, so it’s normal for some things to be different. Expect that people will not think like you do and will not have the same moral values like yours. It’s normal!

    Their lifestyle and nation is different than yours. Be open-minded, so you can experience new things along the way.

     

    Step 6. Study!

    Don’t forget to pay attention to your studies! You are there mainly to study and learn, not on a vacation or a trip. Stay focused and do not overlook your grades.

     

    Step 7. Contact your family and friends

    Don’t forget to keep in touch with friends and family.  Use everything available to you including Skype, WhatsApp and email. They will want to know how well you are doing.

     

    Step 8. Have fun!

    This is the most important thing. Don’t get too homesick and use the time wisely because it will be over before you know it! Until then – have a great time during your stay and make the most out of it!

    And don’t forget to read our guide to working and studying in the US here.

  • Tax Rules for International Students in the US

    tax tips for students

    The tax you pay in the US is determined by your status as a resident for tax purposes.

    What is a Non-Resident Alien?

    Typically, a non-resident alien is someone who is legally present in the US but doesn’t have a green card. Non-resident aliens (NRAs) must pay income tax on income earned from a US source. If you are a non-resident alien, you must keep records of all sources of income so the IRS can see proof of what should be taxed and what should be exempt.

     

    Students in F-1 and J-1 status are typically considered NRAs for the first 5 years in student status, including the tax year (January 1 – December 31). In the 6th year, you become a resident for tax purposes.

    Scholars in J-1 status are considered NRAs for the first 2 years so scholars who arrived in 2015 or later are non-residents for the 2016 tax year.

    Other non-immigrant statuses: Dependent on the substantial presence test

     

    FORM 8843

    Required of all Fs and Js—even without any income

    All non-immigrants in F or J status that are deemed “non-residents for tax purposes” must mail a form 8843  if they were in the U.S. for any part of the tax year, January 1 to December 31.

    If you didn’t have any income, you can mail this form alone. If you did have income, the 8843 form is to be included with other forms in your non-resident tax return.

     

    What is a tax return and what’s the deadline?

    Your tax return reports your income and taxes withheld, if any, during the tax year (January 1 – December 31). If you’ve overpaid taxes, you’ll get a refund and if there’s a shortfall, you’ll owe money. If you work in the U.S. or have other U.S. sourced income, you may have taxes withheld.

    April 18, 2016 is the deadline for your 2015 tax return.

    Every year, you have to file an income tax return with the federal tax authorities. Each state has its own tax regulations so you also may need to file a state tax return.

    Sprintax can help you prepare both your federal and state tax returns.

    Sources of income include:

    • On-campus and off-campus employment
    • Scholarship/fellowship grants/stipends
    • Graduate or teaching assistantships
    • Salary for a teaching or research appointment

    Tax Treaties

    You may be also eligible for a tax treaty that may limit your taxable income. Sprintax can check for this when you fill in your details.

     

    Documents you’ll need:

    tax documents

    • Passport
    • Visa/Immigration info-including Form DS-2019 or Form I-20
    • Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (if any)
    • U.S. entry and exit dates for all visits
    • Tax-related forms

     

    Tax forms

    You may receive one or more of the following—or none— depending on your circumstances!

     

    W-2:

    W-2 form reports your wages from each employer.

    1042-S:

    1)  Reports scholarships, fellowships, grants, awards and any other payment made to you by a U.S. source that was NOT compensation for services, i.e. for which you did NOT work. If your scholarship or fellowship provided tuition exemption or reduction, but no stipend, you will not receive a 1042-S form since you didn’t receive a payment that is considered income.

    2) Also reports earned income that is exempt from tax because of a tax treaty between your country of residence and the U.S.

    1099:

    Bank interest, stocks, funds

     

    Preparing your tax return

    You can use Sprintax to prepare your non-resident tax return.

    Sprintax will also:

    • Determine your tax residency status
    • Identify what forms you need to file
    • Apply any tax treaty benefits
    • Complete and generate the forms you need, along with mailing instructions
    • 24/7 Live Chat help

     

    Sprintax can also:

    • Prepare state tax returns (for a fee)
    • Generate form 843 to request a refund of Social Security / FIC payments if withheld in error (for a fee).

     

    Create a Sprintax Account

    1. To get started, click here to create an account
  • Your Free Guide to Studying in the US

    Check out how Sprintax works

    Considering embarking on an academic course in the US?

    Being an international student in the US can be a hugely rewarding experience. If you’re wondering how to go about it or just looking for tips, then you should download our free PDF guide straight to your PC or smartphone.

    Topics include:

    • How to get a scholarship
    • Getting your visa
    • Where to go
    • Accommodation in the US
    • Eating on a Budget
    • US Tax Tips
    • Getting a Job
    • Student Life
    • And much more!

    Simply fill in the form below to get your free guide!

  • CV Vs Resume-What’s the Difference?

    cv vs resume

    What’s the difference between a CV and a resume?

    Here is what you should know!

     

    CV

    A CV is a detailed document with information on your achievements, experience and any other accomplishments like awards, qualifications and personal achievements. Depending on where you’re applying for a position, it’s either a short summary (UK, Ireland, most commonwealth countries) or a long detailed document with a picture and details of salary. In the US, a CV is mostly used in academic circles and the medical profession with details on education and publications. It contains much more detail than the shorter resume which is usually used for job applications.

     

    Resume

    A resume is a short summary of your professional experience and education and in the US it is substantially shorter than a CV.  For most jobs in the US, you need to apply with a resume, which employers will use to screen candidates and invite successful applicants for interview. This document highlights your professional life and should be around one page in length.  US employers often get a lot of job applicants and don’t want to spend a huge amount of time reading these so it is important to keep it succinct.

     

    Some tips for your US resume:

     

    1. Personal/Contact details

    Put these at the top in the header of the page. Remember to use up as much space as possible on the page-you need to keep it to just one page if possible!

     

    2. Education

    Next section is your education. A reverse chronological order is usually recommended so you can start with the most recent.

    Lay it out in this format:

    Name of University – Location of University – Dates of enrolment

    For example: Columbia University – New York – 2003-2006

     

    3. Experience

    Next up is your employment experience. Unless you have large, unexplained gaps in your career, use the reverse chronological order.

    Use this format:

    Company Name – Location – Date

    For example: Sunshine Communications – Boston, MA- 2006-2010

    Give a brief synopsis of your greatest achievements.  Did you win a great scholarship at university for your hard work? Received an award at work? Write it down, it will help you stand out!

    Good luck!

  • Food on a Budget

    With the rising cost of books and accommodation, being a student can be a costly affair. One of the best ways to stick to your budget is to save money on food.

     

    1. Keep it simple

    Keep your meals simple. Instead of buying processed foods, ditch the pot-noodles and buy basic staples such as rice, beans, and pasta. They’re cheaper, will last longer, and are healthier for you!

    Shop in cheap chain supermarkets such as Wegmans, Trader-Jos, and Walmart, and try your local fruit and vegetable markets and stores for fresh, cheap produce.

     

    2. Eat Healthy

    Eat three square meals a day, including a healthy breakfast to keep you from pining after that croissant. Cook your meals from scratch instead of buying expensive ready-meals and try to incorporate at least one fresh vegetable or fruit into each meal.

     

    3. Shop smart

    Don’t shop when you’re hungry! Shop at times when prices will be reduced and look out for deals.

    • Do your shopping in the evenings for reduced prices
    • Look for items like baked goods that are reduced to clear
    • Buy store-branded products
    • Get fruit and vegetables in-season
    • Keep one day to do your weekly shop

     

    4. Go Vegetarian

    Meat is expensive, so going on a vegetarian diet, even for just a few days a week, will save you money. Meat-free Monday is fast becoming a trend! If you want to buy meat, shop at the local butchers or meat market to find deals.

     

    5. Learn to cook

    Make your own juices, sandwiches, and coffee. This will save you from wasting money in the canteen and you can make your own meals in a matter of minutes.

     

    6. Look for deals

    Feel like eating out? Try the daily deal sites for discounts or go to the restaurant early to catch the early bird. Tipping is mandatory in the US so don’t forget to budget for at least a 15% tip. Also, be aware some restaurants will add a sales tax at the till!

     

    Bon apetit!

  • Getting a Job in the US

    Every student comes to the US with dreams and ambitions. Here are some tips to turn your dream job into a career:

     

    Plan your Career

    Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day! Get networking–it will help you gain useful contacts. Most importantly, do what you love– choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!

     

    Start Your Search

    Focus on what you want to get from your career. Set goals and patiently execute them one by one and aim high. Search for jobs in the newspapers, employment centres, and on websites such as college.monster.com, specifically for recent graduates.

     

    Resume Vs CV

    A US CV is usually called a ‘resume’, and is different to the CV that you’re used to.

    Here’s why:

    A CV showcases your experience and is a ‘story’ about your academic and professional life, while a resume is a much shorter document with highlights of your academic life and career.

    Resumes should be one page long, and include a short, chronological list of previous experience and education. Get some good references from within the US if you can.

     

    Going for an interview

    Once you get the interview, remember these tips:

    • Don’t be late!
    • Research the company thoroughly
    • Practice your answers
    • Ask some questions
    • Look clean and professional

     

    And lastly, don’t forget to show your enthusiasm and let them know you really want the job!

     

     

     

  • Getting a Scholarship for the US

    Getting a scholarship to the US can make a fairy-tale come true. Here are some tips on getting one:

    Research

    Apply for as many scholarships as you can! Start researching early and meet deadlines. Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend, use the public library or research online. Double check everything and make sure the offers you receive are legitimate.

    Keep a record

    Retain all your documents. This is very important and can be applied to all paperwork involved with becoming an international student in the US.  Make a photocopy of your application before mailing it and send the application by certified mail.

    Meet the terms and conditions

    Usually you can’t apply for a scholarship until you’ve been accepted on a course. You can pay your tuition fees and travel expenses without a scholarship first. That way, if you win a grant, you can pay back your bank loan or have a bit of extra spending money.

    Be yourself

    Personalize your essay or letters to the principal – don’t let someone else write them. Don’t rush yourself, just take your time, and be positive and clear. Don’t forget to list all your awards, community work, and career experience.

    Your online profile

    Use a professional email address (for example firstname.lastname@gmail.com). And don’t forget to clean up the contents of your online accounts, removing any inappropriate or immature material.

    Have a back-up plan

    The scholarship amount will not cover all your expenses. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a full scholarship, you’ll still have a lot of expenses (food, travel, books, etc).

    Don’t forget to apply for as many scholarships as you’re eligible for and provide as much relevant detail as possible.

    Good luck!