Do’s and Don’ts when Contacting Employers

The way we represent ourselves in online correspondences can say a lot about the people and employees we are or may be in the future. It’s often easier to convey certain messages by communicating in person, but mastering how to communicate electronically is critical in the professional world. Whether you are contacting a potential or current employer, DO follow these three main guidelines:


  • Use a formal tone
  • Format with an introduction, body, and conclusion
  • Represent yourself well


Using a formal tone is crucial in showcasing your professionalism. Contact with an employer is of a business nature and should be treated as so. It is always best to err on the side of formality than to set a poor first impression by being too casual. To begin, your subject line should convey the main idea of your message. Two to six words are recommended, as one-word explanations are not descriptive. You want to grab the recipient’s attention to ensure they will read your message. Next, use a formal greeting, such as “Dear,” using the employers last name and proper prefix, such as “Dr. Brown” or “Mrs. Smith.” After your initial email, follow the lead of the employer in their response. If they addressed you with “Hi _____” and signed their message with “Kevin,” then your next greeting should be “Hi Kevin.”

One significant factor to consider when it comes to tone is the syntax you use. According to Career Cast, nearly 50 percent of all emails imply an unintended tone. Communication online can be easily misunderstood, so diction is incredibly important to focus on. To avoid misinterpretation, use words and phrases that are easily understood. For example, instead of  writing “Be ready for Thursday,” you can use “Please bring the sales report to Thursday’s meeting.” Specificity is key! You do not want to leave anything up for interpretation. Also, do not use language that is only common to your way of speaking such as college slang. Finally, avoid long and complex wording, as this gives the reader a higher chance of misunderstanding.

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Examples of different greetings to use. Graphic provided by The Balance Careers

With the help of a beginning, middle, and end format, your emails will have the structure needed to inform and connect with your recipient. Your introduction should include a quick greeting, showing you are personable. “I hope your job search is going well!” is an example of a great preface for a friendly conversation. Although it seems excessive, it really does make a difference in their view of you. “It was great meeting you at Business Horizons” is also an example of a charismatic statement, which simultaneously reminds the reader of who you are. Another introduction often used is a statement about why you are reaching out, such as “I am contacting you about your job application.” Regardless, your introduction sets the premise for the entire string of communication. You want to show you are both affable and proactive in your professional career!

The body of your correspondence contains the most important content. Here, you want to give your reader the information they will need to complete the task you are asking of them, an explanation of what you are informing them of, or any other data needed to accomplish the goal of your message. It is important to avoid rambling, while also ensuring all of the content needed for the email is present.  You do not want the reader to wonder what the purpose of your email is, but you do not want them to stop reading halfway through your message simply because it’s too long. Include only what is necessary!

To conclude, provide action steps, a salutation, and your full name. Actions steps can include a date and time to meet, a statement of your excitement to hear back from your reader, a proposition, or anything else to advance towards the goal of your correspondence. Examples of a salutation are “Best regards,” “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or any other polite closing. Follow the salutation with your full name, avoiding any nicknames. You also want to include an electronic signature with your contact information. Remember, your conclusion is the last opportunity to show the recipient of your efforts!

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Seven pointers to remember. Graphic provided by Cupcakes and Cashmere.

Representing yourself well may seem like a simple task, but individual details can make a big difference. Re-read your email multiple times before sending it off. You can even have a friend or colleague edit it for safety measures. Also, make sure to fact check all of your information to make sure everything is accurate. Are names spelled right? Are dates correct? A great tool to use for proofreading is Grammarly! It is an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform. You can download the software onto your computer in just a few minutes! A misspelling, grammatical error, or improper punctuation can be the reason another candidate was hired or promoted over you. Show the workplace what you are capable of! Electronic communication is also an opportunity to give the recipient a glimpse into your writing skills. Employers are impressed with those who are effective in their writing, while also being concise and to-the-point. Whether you are writing an email to an employer, colleague, or a client, knowing how to compose messages is a crucial business skill. It’s a component of your professionalism.

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An important overview of email guidelines. Graphic provided by The Balance Careers.

Regardless of the reasoning behind sending an email to an employer, use it as an opportunity to convey your determination in relation to your career. Use these guidelines to protect yourself from making simple mistakes when it comes to electronic communication. CWIB believes in all of you to communicate effectively and professionally with your employers, potential or current, and leave a lasting impression on them!


By: Allison Wood 




Asking Questions in an Interview

While an interview is a chance for a company to get to know you and your skills, it is also an opportunity for you to learn more about the company and the role you’re interviewing for. After all, you want to work at a company that is a good fit for your personality, career goals, and work style, right?  In addition to finding out if this company is the right place for you, asking questions shows that you came prepared and are actually interested in working there. This article from The Muse cites recruiter Angela Smith explaining, “If an applicant doesn’t have any questions for me, that’s a red flag. I’m thinking that they either don’t care or can’t be bothered to do research about my company.” Therefore, make sure to do your pre-interview research!

During the interview, more questions will likely pop into your head, but it’s a good idea to have a few prepared. That being said, make sure you’re not too focused on forming questions during an interview that you stop paying attention to what the interviewer is saying; they might answer some of your questions along the way! Also, you don’t want to stump your interviewer with difficult or confusing questions. Keep your questions specific, but open-ended (avoid yes or no questions). This will give the interviewer a chance to dive deeper with their answers!

An interview is a chance for you and the interviewer to learn more about each other! Photo credit: Collegiate Women in Business

I’ve broken down the types of questions to ask in an interview into four sections: about the company, role-specific, interviewer’s personal experiences, and next steps. These are by no means the only questions you can ask during an interview; they are just a few ideas to get you started!

About the Company

Team culture, work-life balance, and diversity of a company are all important aspects to consider when deciding which company to work for. You are going to be spending a good chunk of your week there, so you need to ensure that you’re going to like where you are! While there are a plethora of questions you can ask about the company, here are a few ideas.

  • How would you describe the culture of (insert company name)?
  • What values are most important to the company?
  • What are the company’s long-term goals and plans to achieve those goals? (Tailor this one based on the company: Are they developing new products, expanding into new markets, growing specific teams/departments within their company, etc.)
  • What are the company’s current goals and how does the team support those goals?
  • Would you describe the work environment as more collaborative or independent?
  • Does the company have any diversity and inclusion initiatives or networks?
  • Do employees participate in any team events outside of work?
Company culture is an important factor to consider when interviewing! CWIB visited Custom Ink on the D.C. Trek, a company that’s known to have a great culture. Photo credit: Collegiate Women in Business


It may seem obvious to many of you, but you want to ask questions about the specific role you applied for in an interview. Many interviewers give a rundown of the role at the beginning of an interview so some of your questions might get answered. Here are a few questions to ask if you find yourself wanting more information about the work you’ll be doing

  • What kinds of projects would I be working on?
  • What projects have interns/associates worked on in the past?
  • What would the training process be like?
  • What are the main technologies/software/platforms I would be working with?
  • What skills do I need to excel in this role?
  • What would a typical day in this role look like?


Interviewer’s Experience

The interviewer’s own experiences can be a great wealth of information to tap into during an interview. They are a professional in an industry you aspire to work in, so they have some nuggets of wisdom to share. Asking your interviewer questions about their experiences will also build rapport and show that you value their perspective. Here are a few questions you could ask your interviewer about their career.

  • How long have you been with (insert company name)?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face as an (insert specific role) in the (insert industry)?
  • Has your role changed since you’ve been with the company?
  • What is your favorite part about working at the company?
  • What advice would you give to someone aspiring to work in this industry/role?
Don’t be afraid to pick your interviewer’s brain! Learning about their career journey and experience with the company can give you a lot of insight. Photo credit: Collegiate Women in Business

Next Steps

If the interviewer doesn’t explicitly explain, you might want to ask about the next steps in the interview process. Asking questions like these will show that you’re still interested in the internship or job after the conversation you just had.

  • What are the next steps in the interview process?
  • Will there be another round of interviews?
  • What is the timeline for the selection process?
  • Do you have any concerns about my background being a good fit for the role? (This might be a scary one to ask, but it gives you the chance to put the interviewer’s concerns at ease and gives you valuable feedback for the future.)


Hopefully, these interview questions were helpful in offering some ideas on how to get the most out of your interviews. Some questions cannot be answered on the internet, so don’t be shy to ask the genuine questions you want to be answered about the company! Good luck interviewing this spring!


By: Allison DeSantis

How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

       Introducing yourself to company representatives for the first time can be scary, especially if you’ve never been to an event like Business Horizons before. A key thing that you should bring with you to professional events like these is an elevator pitch. If you take the time to prepare and practice one, you will feel much more confident in making those first introductions!

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What is it?

        If you haven’t heard of an elevator pitch before, it is basically a sales pitch for yourself that would last about the same amount of time as going up an elevator. It is a great way for a company representative or recruiter to gain insight into your experience and determine why they should hire you. Using an elevator pitch is an important tool to have at the career fair because it allows you to showcase your strengths and abilities. Remember that it won’t make or break your conversation with the representative, but it can help things run more smoothly.

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How to prepare for it

The first step you should take to create an elevator pitch is to make a list of your experiences that you would want to tell a company employee or recruiter about. Try to narrow it down to a few of your favorite ones that are relevant to the work that the company you are interested in does. The goal is to share the experiences that would show that you are qualified to work for them.

Don’t forget to tie in your interests. Doing so will prove to the recruiter that you would be passionate in that role you are after. For example, if you’re talking to a technology company, you can talk about your appreciation for project management, familiarity with certain coding languages, or support for future innovative technology tools that are being implemented in that industry. Plus, when you talk about things that bring excitement to you, you will give off great energy, which is what you want to have during this first impression!

Next, make sure to do your research. If there are specific companies you want to talk to at Business Horizons, it’s a good idea to do some research about them so you can include aspects about you that best align with their mission. Recruiters will be impressed that you took the time to learn more about them because it showcases your interest in them. Also, it leads to better flow in conversation. It’ll be easier for you to ask meaningful questions and give exceptional answers.

Once you have finished compiling and organizing the important details of your pitch, start piecing it all together. Tell them your name, year and major at the beginning. Then, transition to the meat of the pitch. Whether you decide to talk about your experiences or interests first does not really matter as long as you touch on both and connect them appropriately. Lastly, end with expressing your interest in the positions that are open at that company.

Remember to keep it clear and concise. Since it’s supposed to be an introduction, there’s no need to go into details or explanations unless a recruiter wants to expand on something you’ve said. According to Deloitte’s Elevator Speech 101 Article, “the clearer and more articulate you are in delivering who you are and why you want a certain position, may result in your name being placed at the top of the call back list for a second or third interview.

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Once you have everything you want in your elevator pitch, practice in front of a mirror or a friend. Practicing will help you be more confident when the time comes to deliver! The way you deliver your pitch is just as important as the content discussed previously.

First, make sure you talk at a steady speed. Quickly reciting your pitch may make it hard to hear or understand certain things you say. Taking a deep breath before starting will calm your nerves and prepare you to deliver a great pitch. Second, make eye contact with the person you are speaking with because it allows he/she to stay focused on you. Plus, it is just professional. Lastly, avoid fidgeting with your hands or hair. Besides from being distracting, it also shows the recruiter that you are nervous. Practicing your pitch several times will allow you to build the confidence needed to say that pitch at the career fair!

Engage the recruiters with your elevator pitch tomorrow! Photo source: VT Career and Professional Development

There you have it! An elevator pitch shouldn’t be something to stress about as long as you take the time to think about and practice what you want to portray to the representative or recruiter. It’s important to keep in mind that this is most likely going to be the given company’s first impression of you. Present yourself professionally, recite your pitch with confidence and energy, and emphasize that you are a perfect candidate for the job. You have a short time frame, so fill it wisely!


Good luck tomorrow at Business Horizon, everyone!


By: Abby Perkins



How to Be Successful at Business Horizons

Business Horizons can seem intimidating at first, as hundreds of companies are in attendance, but it is nothing to stress about. These companies are coming to Virginia Tech because they want to hire Hokies like you! With a few tips and tricks from this article, you should be ready to fully conquer Business Horizons on February 6th!

Perfect Your Resume:

One of the most crucial components of a successful job, internship, or externship search is a resume that will catch someone’s eye. According to Forbes, a recruiter spends an average of 6.25 seconds looking at a candidate’s resume before deciding whether he or she is fit for the job. Your resume should contain a proper heading, your education information, job experience, activities or clubs, and accomplishments. It is essential that there are no irrelevant details, as the longer it takes for a recruiter to read it, the smaller your chances become of landing an interview. When attending Business Horizons, you should bring about 20 copies of your resume, give or take a few depending on how many companies you plan to approach. In order to look professional to the recruiters, it is also best to place them in a padfolio or neutral-colored folder. Companies want to hire organized, prepared employees!  

For an in-depth guide on what each of the resume categories entails, watch this Virtual Resume Workshop video provided by Pamplin Career Services. In addition, the Virginia Tech Career and Professional Development office offers free resume reviews. Learn more about it here.

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As you can see, hundreds of people attend Business Horizons, which is why it is important to stand out! Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Daily.


Make a Good First Impression:

Your first impression to a recruiter can be a make or break opportunity. You will be thankful you took the time to make yourself look presentable before heading to Business Horizons! First, your attire should be business professional. This means you may wear dress pants or a skirt and pair that with a dress shirt or blouse, and a blazer. You can also opt to wear a dress as well. No matter what outfit you choose, complete it with closed-toed heels or flats. Remember, everything must be modest! Heels should be 2.5 inches or less. Dresses and skirts should come to around the knee, and nothing should be too tight. Also, it is preferable to keep patterns and colors to a minimum. It is also best to keep hair, makeup, and jewelry simple. You do not want to distract the recruiter in a negative way. Finally, make sure you greet the employer with a smile, eye contact, a personable “Hello, my name is ____,” and a firm handshake. Acting and looking professional can go a long way! It will help give you the confidence you need to make a great first impression on employers.

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Members of the New York City trek pose in perfect examples of business professional attire. Photo by of Gigi Jones


Prepare For the Big Day:

In order to prepare for Business Horizons, view the different companies registered to attend right here! What companies do you want to prioritize? Where is their booth? How many companies do you want to see? These are all important questions to ask yourself to ensure you are prepared to walk through the doors of the career fair. One of the most impressive characteristics of a potential employee or intern is that they are knowledgeable about a recruiter’s company in advance. Know your information about the companies you are targeting! This information could include the history of the company, the culture in their office, popular projects the company has undertaken, or important business deals. It is also essential to know the current situation of companies you are interested in, such as expansions to the company. Additionally, have questions ready to ask certain companies. That is a great way to show how you are prepared. Remember, you should want to learn about this company if you strive to work there!

Business Horizons Career Fair
A Virginia Tech student chats with a GE job recruiter at a previous Business Horizons fair. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Tech Daily.


Practice Beforehand:

A great way to prep for the business fair is to start networking early by attending the company day on Tuesday, February 5th, from 10 am to 2 pm in the Pamplin Atrium. Hajoca, Select Group, nCino, Future Housing Leaders, IBM, CIA, and Accenture will all be there! Even if you are not interested in these specific companies, it is still a great opportunity to practice networking before Business Horizons. It will also benefit you to practice what you will say to the recruiters with a friend, teacher, or fellow CWIB member. This will help release nerves! Practice using the information you have researched while incorporating different components about yourself. This is also a great opportunity to practice your handshake, tone of voice, and eye contact. Rather than spending time worrying about what to say to recruiters during the careers fair, you will be relieved and confident that you practiced ahead of time!


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Any member of the CWIB leadership team pictured above would gladly help you prepare before Business Horizons! Photo courtesy of Collegiate Women in Business


Follow up:

During your time at Business Horizons, ask for business cards. It is important to have an email, address, or the phone number of the company or recruiter to ensure that you can follow up with them after meeting. As stated before, there are hundreds of people who attend the career fair. Therefore, recruiters may unintentionally forget your name or what you discussed. In order for the company or recruiter to remember who you are, you should follow up with them within 24 to 72 hours. It is best to email or send a thank you card, but if neither of those are possibilities, you can call them on the phone. Thank them for their time and consideration of your resume, reiterate your goal, remind them why you are qualified, and highlight that you would love to work for their company. These follow-ups should not be excessive in length or time. Also, make sure to be polite, rather than forceful, when you are contacting the recruiter.

Following-up reminders! Photo Courtesy of The Balance Careers


Good luck at Business Horizons, everyone! You all are well-qualified individuals and with the right preparation, you will do fantastic on Wednesday. If you need any help with resumes or need any further assistance with preparing for the career fair, feel free to reach out to a CWIB leader!


By: Allison Wood 

Back to School: Spring Semester Edition

Starting a new semester can be hard, especially after a long, break. Whether you’ve been working, traveling, relaxing, or doing a combination of these activities, it’s time to get back into the mode of busy, school schedules. By returning to the right mindset and taking steps to prepare, you can go from falling into that Spring semester slump to feeling motivated and ready to take on another semester! Here are some pieces of advice I have to start the semester off right:

  1. Get comfortable with your class schedule – Make sure your class schedule is all set for the Spring semester. I’ve definitely been in the position of constantly checking add/drop during the first week of classes to see if a spot has opened up in a class, so I could take it with a different professor or at a different time! Of course, it’s not always possible to do this, but it’s worth a shot! Talking to friends who have taken the classes you’re about to take can also be very beneficial. They will have an opinion about the professor they took the class with and may offer some tips for success. In addition, going to class the first day and getting a feel for the professor’s lecture style and course policies is necessary to solidify your opinion about a class when there’s still time to add/drop. Another tip to think about is, if you want to make a good first impression in a class, go up and introduce yourself to the professor or stop by their office hours to talk about the course and your goals. This is a fantastic way to start building a good relationship with your professors when you still have some free time the first week of classes.
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    PScheduler is a schedule builder created by a VT student!
  2. Start planning – The new year is a great time to revamp your planning system. Planning or journaling is a great way to organize your schoolwork, club obligations, internship tasks, or work schedule as well as lifestyle things, like meal or workout ideas, books you want to read, friends you want to spend more time with etc. Bullet journaling is a great outlet if you’re looking for freedom and customizability. It’s like brain-dumping your life into a journal! This Medium article offers helpful tips about bullet journaling if you’re interested in learning more about how to start one for yourself! It also explains how writing by hand engages multiple senses (visual, kinesthetic, and tactical) which helps to better commit tasks and goals to memory and signals to your brain that they are important. Personally, pairing my calendar on my laptop/phone with a traditional planner has helped me a lot with the organization in college!

    Planning will help you organize your school, work, and social activities! Look out for all of our exciting CWIB events this semester! Photo credit: CWIB
  3. Be open to new opportunities – The Fall semester isn’t the only time to get more involved in campus organizations, try something you’ve always been interested in, or land a summer internship! Many student organizations and local companies put out applications during the Spring semester in preparation for the next year, like the CWIB leadership application that is out now (APPLY NOW!) or the Student Success Center that accepts applications for course tutors in February to build their staff for the following year. During the Spring semester, there is also still time to find summer job opportunities With Spring Business Horizons scheduled for February 6th, you can network with company representatives looking to hire interns, externs, and full-time employees. Leveraging your own connections with friends, family, and past co-workers is also a tried and true way to land a summer internship in the Spring. Just don’t give up on the search!
    We know you are going to be a total boss this semester! Photo credit: The Aggie


We know all of you will get back in the swing of things and have a phenomenal Spring semester. With bi-weekly articles, The CWIB Chronicles is a fantastic resource for you throughout the semester, so remember to keep up regularly!


By: Allison DeSantis


Cover Letters Uncovered

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Not all job applications require cover letters, but knowing how to write one is still a useful skill to have just in case you need to in the future.. What is a cover letter exactly? A cover letter is used by employers to gain more insight about your resume, personality and why you would be a good fit for the job. In this LinkedIn article, Jeff Lareau defines a cover letter as, “an introduction that complements your resume, shows a bit of your personality, and addresses issues that might otherwise go unaddressed on your resume alone.” To write a strong cover letter, it’s important to address a specific person, include examples of how you would succeed at the job you’re applying for, and make yourself stand out from other applicants.

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Before starting your cover letter, make sure you research the company you are applying to. According to a Glassdoor article, it’s important to “write like yourself, but also pick the appropriate voice and tone for the company you’re applying to. Researching the company will help dictate the tone you want to use, which may differ greatly, depending on where you apply.” In addition to researching, another thing you should do before starting this document is map out your ideas and make an outline. Writing down certain details you want to include and having a rough draft ready can ensure you don’t forget anything.

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After writing your outline and researching the company, find out who will be reading your cover letter so you can address them by name instead of saying “To Whom It May Concern.” You may need to make the effort to send an email or make a call to find out, but it will be worth it as it shows your employer that you are willing to take the extra mile. Think about it, the greeting is the first thing that the reader sees, so make a good first impression by making it personalized, rather than generalized!

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Now you can start writing the body of your letter. Be sure to start off with a strong introduction paragraph, including what position you are interested in, how you heard about it, and a short thesis statement as to why you think you are qualified for the job. In your body paragraphs, you can expand on experiences you included in your resume and talk about how you can apply what you learned from them to the job you are applying for. It is not necessary to list out every single job experience you have. Try focusing on elaborating on 2-3 roles that you believe will showcase that you have the prior experience needed to get this next job. The goal of this section is to highlight the important parts of your resume! This would also be a great time to talk about your Top 5 Clifton Strengths and how you have used them in other experiences. These body paragraphs are an opportunity to showcase your personality and differentiate yourself from other applicants. Even though this is the body of the letter, try to keep these paragraphs concise and to the point. The cover letter shouldn’t take too long to read!

For your conclusion, sum up why you are interested in the job and what you hope to add to the company. In the same article by Career Advice from Glassdoor, they recommend leaving your reader with a strong “call to action [and a] reason for them to contact you.”

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You’re done with your cover letter! Before you submit, be sure to proofread for irrelevant information, typos and repetition. Don’t forget to include contact information in your letter, such as your email and phone number.


College Budgeting 101

     As college students with many financial obligations, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of our money.  It only takes a few purchases and the next thing you know, you can find yourself behind on rent, short on cash, and maybe even calling home for some extra help. Luckily, all it takes is a few minutes to budget and your money will be well-managed for that future time period. This article is all about helping CWIB’s members get better at controlling their finances. Once you graduate and enter the real world, you are going to have a lot more expenses to keep track of, so why not start practicing now?

Where To Start

   Sometimes we make purchases without thinking. Start by looking through your bank account and keeping track of what you spend. Whether it’s in an excel spreadsheet or in a physical notebook, writing down your purchases is helpful for looking back and seeing which areas you’re spending too much in. Excel even has multiple templates that will analyze your spending and saving for you. All you have to do is plug in the numbers!

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Getting Down to the Numbers

        In the same notebook or spreadsheet, make a list of your expenses for the month and allot a specific amount of money to cover these expenses. For example: rent-$500, groceries-$45 per week, gas-$80, and entertainment-$60. Don’t forget to set aside money for miscellaneous purchases, such as lunch with a friend, Benny’s on Friday night, or school supplies. If you find that you’re having trouble with spending more than you budgeted for miscellaneous spending, take cash out of your bank account and use that instead. Then once it’s gone, don’t take out more until the next month/week.

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Budgeting With Your Phone

If you want to keep a closer eye on your budget and expenses, using a mobile app is a great way to go! Here is a list of some apps that not only make budgeting even easier, but will also remind you when to pay your bills, calculate your credit score, and more!

  1. Mint: Personal Finance & Money – This app is free and puts all your financial statements in one place, tracks your spending and credit score, and reminds you to pay your
  2. Fuget: Budget Planner Tracker – A free app (that also offers an upgrade for purchase) that keeps budgeting simple and easy. This tool tracks income and expenses and maintains a balance so you know how much you have left to spend.image
  3. Clarity Money Budget Manager – Besides helping you find and cancel unnecessary subscriptions, track expenses and savings goals, and keep tabs on your credit score, this app is completely free!clarity
  4. EveryDollar Easy Budgeting App – With optional in-app purchases available, EveryDollar offers free features of a personal budget planner, expense tracker, connections to savings experts, and more.image (1)


Saving? What is That?

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        Trying to save up for a new laptop or that new outfit you want to buy? Set specific saving goals with a certain item in mind to motivate yourself. Try to put small amounts of money every week or month and save up for it a little at a time. In some mobile banking apps, you can set savings goals within your savings or checking accounts and when you put money into that goal, they’ll keep track of how close you are to reaching it.

If you sit down and spend a few minutes every week or month to dedicate to organizing your spending, budgeting will become a breeze! Keeping track of what you purchase, taking out cash for spending and setting specific saving goals will help you stop stressing about money so you can focus on your classes and preparing for your future!


By: Abby Perkins