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Life after BU

Classes prepare students for the inevitable: adulthood

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While grad student Mandy Patrick credits her parents with teaching her life skills such as time management and financial management, cooking was not on their agenda.

Patrick (SAR’11,’13) recalls the first Thanksgiving dinner she hosted for friends, when she opted to make a squash cranberry dish she found on a popular cooking website. “It was simple, maybe one star of difficulty,” she says. “I totally bombed it. I burned it; I couldn’t figure out how to peel the squash. It was a nightmare.”

Aware that fellow students were struggling with similar conundrums, Patrick decided to help them out with a free seven-week intensive course designed to teach life skills to help in the transition to adult life. The course, Life after BU: Living Life to Its Fullest, concludes tonight.

Patrick created the class as part of an independent study under the supervision of occupational therapist Karen Jacobs (SAR’79), a Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences clinical professor. The program is run in conjunction with the Office of Residence Life and is held at StuVi II.

“This class is so important because it tries to teach skills that are overlooked, but that students need,” Jacobs says. “The world is complex, and there are lots of challenges, so we hope this course serves as a booster shot so that students can leave here with confidence in different areas.”

The one-hour classes have explored money management, stress relief, sleeping tips, and cooking. Patrick sometimes leads an informal discussion and subsequent activities, and she also brings in experts for the classes on financial management and the job search. The classes are intensive and usually attract 10 to 15 students per class.

One recent Tuesday night, a handful of young women gather in a StuVi II classroom for a crash course in financial management. The evening’s guest speaker is Brian Troy, a branch manager at Citibank, who starts off with some big questions.

“Figure out what’s important to you first,” he says. “Is it important to be secure? Happy in regard to your quality of life? It’s a little tricky where you are right now in life, and figuring out your priorities.”

From there he launches into a crash course on things ranging from ATM fees (avoid them at all costs) to setting up a practical budget that you can stick to.

“It’s OK to buy a cup of Starbucks every day if you budget for it,” he tells the class. “But if you don’t have a budget for the month based on what you make and bills you must pay, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

He urges students to sign up for their employer’s matching 401K, to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26, and to pay off two bills a month with a credit card to build a credit score, which can one day help them buy a car or a house.

“Tonight was useful because financial management is one of my biggest concerns after graduation,” says Jenny Pianucci (SAR’13), who appreciated tips on credit card debt. “In college your parents back you up, but it’s a big step to be on your own. Leaving the BU bubble is intimidating, but I found this class eases the transition and braces me a bit.”

As this year’s class comes to an end, Jacobs says, she will encourage another student to take it on next year as an independent study. Patrick promises to make her materials available to the Office of Residence Life.

“I’m very proud of Mandy for setting this all up,” says Jacobs. “She took the initiative to plan this whole thing, and she’ll make a fantastic occupational therapist one day. I hope she continues this program wherever she goes next.”

After all, one day everyone must leave the world of BU dorms and late night Easy Mac, and join the world of 40-hour workweeks. Fortunately, Easy Mac can stay.

Life after BU will be taught tonight, March 20, at 8 p.m. in StuVi II Room 101. The class will focus on the job hunt, with individual résumé critiques and mock interviews. Students should bring their résumés. More information can be found here.

Looking for more life tips? Check out BU’s Financial Assistance Office Smart Money 101 initiative, which offers workshops and seminars, and the Center for Career Development’s website.

5 Comments
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

5 Comments on Life after BU

  • Anne DiNoto on 03.20.2012 at 9:46 am

    I strongly disagree with the advice “to pay off two bills a month with a credit card to build a credit score which can one day help them buy a car or a house”. Students, please think twice about about this advice. You can just as easily fall into credit card trouble by this method if you’re not careful. There are other safer ways to build credit. For example, something simple like making sure your student loans are current; or just paying any credit cards you do have on time and in full each month.

  • Agree on 03.20.2012 at 11:57 am

    I agree with you. I was just doing my own budget and realized that I pay $600 per month of routine bills with my credit card (monthly transportation, groceries and laundry/dry cleaning services) because I don’t want to use a debit card for security reasons. If you don’t pay it off in full every month, those balances can easily build up, particularly on top of other cc purchases. If using their credit card for routine purchases, people need to be disciplined to budget for those purchases so that the balance can be paid off in full each month or you’ll always be swimming upstream like salmon.

  • Ryan on 03.20.2012 at 2:01 pm

    Obviously having a credit card requires resistant and responsible usage. But you can’t just decide to not use a credit card because of the potential of running up debt if you have goals of making purchase in the future that take into consideration your credit score, like a house or car. If your goal is to build your credit score you need to have revolving debt that you can show you pay off in a timing manner or in full each month. You can’t build a credit score by having only Student Loans. Because a credit score largely for younger people without a credit history takes into consideration your oldest credit card as well as a debt to credit line ratio on revolving credit lines. What I believe he was trying to say is by only putting two bills on your card (maybe utilities), you stop your self from using it as a card to use when your bank account is empty. Rather than for discretionary income, by paying only two bills you know its going to get paid off every month in full and thus have no fees or interest. And the credit card works for you rather than it turning into the card you use as for bar tab.

  • Anne DiNoto on 03.22.2012 at 9:57 am

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has good information about credit. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/gettingcredit/yourcredit.html
    Here they suggest other ways to establish a good credit history, that I believe are better than using your card to pay utilities: Apply for a credit card through a local store. Local stores are more likely to extend credit to people without an established credit history. Apply for a secured credit card. By borrowing against your own money, creditors find this to be far less risky. Ask someone with a good credit history to co-sign on a loan or a credit card application. By co-signing, the person is agreeing to pay back the loan if you don’t.
    However, I would use the last suggestion, ask someone to co-sign a loan as a last resort.

  • Brian Troy on 03.26.2012 at 11:26 am

    This is Brian Troy and I spoke at the seminar. Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend a ton of time on credit, just a few minutes. I enjoyed reading the posts and I think all the posts make great points. Including the first two posts about the dangers of credit cards. I really liked Anne’s last post. Credit Cards can be a great way to build your credit score, but talk to your friends and most have horror stories of falling into a debt trap when they are not managed responsibly. That trap can impact your budget negatively for years to come. Credit card mistakes can happen to adults who manage a budget, let alone a student without income and might have as much background in credit. The Secured Card is a great option, and can be established for as little as $250, which is held in a CD, but still helps build your credit score. Another great way to build your credit without risk is to ask your parents to be an authorized user on one of their credit cards. They can attach your SSN to the card and you can reap the benefits of their payment history without actually having a card. Good Luck everyone!

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