The anatomy of a comeback

3.27.2015 healthyU basketball

The NCAA’s annual March basketball tournament brings talk of unlikely stories—Cinderella teams, inspiring individuals, people who used a bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and several unlikely comebacks to get to where they are now.

On the scholastic side of college, stories like this are being written every day. Students who take an extended time off school during their push to a degree due to illness, personal matters, a desire to focus on careers, or just a natural need for a break are constantly returning to the classroom to finish what they started.

And similar to how the basketball teams of spring can follow a game plan to success, students can also follow a formula to not only return to the classroom, but succeed while there.

The assessment

Before you get back into the classroom, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself—why are you going back, how will you get it done, and do you even have the time or resources. While this step may yield the least physical results, taking the time to slow down and truly think yourself, talk to your loved ones, and clear your mind will end up being the foundation for your daily school life, keeping you motivated and providing answers to any mid-studying crises of “why am I even back in school?”

The planning

The best first step to take when returning to anything is to see where you stand in terms of how much progress you already have under your belt. When it comes to returning school, check in with an advisor to see how many units are still “alive” in your path to a degree, and leave no stone unturned as units from other schools, other majors, and even other life experience may contribute towards credits.

The execution

After you’ve mapped out your next few years, all that’s left to do is, well, the work. But fear not, schools these days have several built-in pressure relievers that every student, not just those returning from a hiatus, should take advantage of. Low-pressure refresher courses, for example can help ease students back into subjects, while part-time or night classes can ease time constraints. On the homefront, talk to family about your impending study sessions and set up an area meant exclusively for your studies. Be realistic, but be relentless and learn something new every day.

The follow-through 

Like many of life’s biggest challenges, returning to school is a long and hard road. Pace, collectedness, and efficiency will all become keys in one day reaching the goals you set today, but so will the support system you develop along the way. Check in with counselors like the specialists here at ACI, as well as those at your school, to vent any of your financial or stress concerns. For veterans, veteran specialists can be a huge help in helping you instill structure in a muddled routine and ultimately, taking care of yourself and maintaining your relationships will be the keys to long-term success.

Photo credit: Daniel Hoyos /

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Spring cleaning college style: four tasks that can make you a better student

Today marks the first day of spring, which for many students means the beginning of the home stretch of the school year. What it also means, though, is by this point many of the small projects–the organizing, the here-and-there cleanup tasks you said you’d do—are starting to pile up.

urlEnter spring cleaning, where just one day of some workspace cleansing can not only help you see your floor, but help you be productive in that final press of the year.

Here are four easy ways to get started.

Lose the e-clutter 

If you’re a student these days, chances are much of the clutter holding you back isn’t necessarily in your backpack or your living space, but on your laptop, tablet, and phone. Clear out unnecessary apps, sort through the trash bin of your email inbox, and even sift through your connections on social media. You’ll find that getting rid of unnecessary material can speed up your devices and make files easier to locate.

Sell your textbooks

Textbooks are often the bane of students’ existence: they cost a fortune up front, your bookstore buys them back for a fraction of the price, and it can be hard to even make time to find the best buyback value as buyback season overlaps with you already needing to think about next semester’s books. This can change. With sites like, you can quickly find where the best offers for your books are and, with prepaid shipping labels, get your money without ever stepping foot in a bookstore.

Rearrange your room or office

Spring is the time of renewal, and when it comes to such, few other changes can inspire more a bit of simple furniture rearranging. Even if you have no bones with how your current room setup is, trying something new can stimulate our minds entirely and help us remember it’s a new season with new goals. Try moving your bed to where the added sunlight hits you just right in the morning, or your desk to where your view is no longer a blank wall, but a window.

Donate electronics/clothes

Have you ever been late for class and remembered at the last minute you need your calculator, or a certain pencil, or a sweater, only to be at a loss for how you could possibly not find that item a 10 foot by 10 foot room? If so, it’s probably time to get rid of some stuff. College students are always on the move, and hoarding too many items that you use maybe once a year will at some point come back to bite you. Cash in on these items by getting a tax return from Goodwill and reap the benefits of a cleaner, more navigable workspace.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at@ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email

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Give me a break: Non-traditional vacation ideas that won’t mean going spring broke

Spring break, Memorial Day, summer vacation. All are synonymous with traditional college activities. “Traditional,” however, might not always necessarily mean “best option.”

camping-near-the-lake-background-wallpaperFor millions of students this spring, the warming months won’t mean a trip to Cancun or a cruise around the Bahamas. Instead, it will mean working hard, catching up on paperwork, and trying to squeeze in quick and affordable fun. And that might not be a bad thing.

Here are five ways students might spend their time off this vacation season that give a traditional ease of mind without the traditional price tag.

Become a local tourist

Live in a city long enough, and you’re bound to fall into the line of thinking where local attractions become “things out-of-towners come here to do” rather than “things I can take advantage of.” This spring, change that. Make use of the popular attractions in your area and take solace in knowing you don’t have to spend a fortune on travel or hotels while still reaping the benefits of your local zoo, bike tours, or popular restaurants.


After weeks of fluorescent lights, textbooks, and air-conditioning, one of the most refreshing ways to unwind can be to get back in touch with the natural world. Camping is a cheap alternative for students looking to get away, and gives you the effect better than any hotel-room, foreign city, or airplane can. Check for campsites in America’s extensive national park systems that are close to you.

Tommy-Bahama-striped-beach-coolerTake the cooler approach

The cooler approach, we think, is the best of all the lesser-done vacation options. And that’s because it can be done any day, any where. Load up a cooler with your favorite foods, drinks, and desserts and spend a day at your favorite getaway spot—the beach, a lake, a park, or, since it is spring, a baseball game. Going back to the basics of food and drink is also one of the best ways to bring people together.


What better way to have a fulfilling day than to help out someone else’s. While volunteering may not be at the top of every college student’s list, consider that many volunteer opportunities not only help improve communities around you, they provide you with valuable experience, specifics for resumes and applications, as well as relationships with other like-minded students and hirers.

Get techy

If you still find yourself itching for a last-minute trip, forget hotels, flights, and taxi cabs. Apps like Airbnb can find you cheap room and board in the most desirable locations of virtually any city. The service, which matches travelers with hosts in various places who put up rooms of their own for visitors, is perfect for students. Along with apps like Uber and Lyft, you can get to a city, explore it, and have it all done on a budget within days—right from your phone.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more advice? ACI is on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefitsor on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email

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How to follow up after an interview

follow-upThere’s always talk about following up after life’s most important meetings–holidays, gift exchanges, family visits–and it’s usually a pretty simple task. But when it comes to job interviews, there seems to be a fine line between the right way to follow up and the wrong way.

And as it turns out that, unlike a simple thank you note where the message is straightforward, there are many ways to do go about writing your job interview follow-up depending on the circumstances surrounding it. Here are a few of those right ways to follow up a job interview, as well as some of the things students should avoid.


Personalize it Your follow-up letter should be more than just a “thank you” email. In fact, many believe it shouldn’t be an email at all. I personally once talked to a hiring manager who had recently hired a student for an internship simply because his handwritten thank-you letter set him apart from other applicants. While it might not always be your style to send in a handwritten note, remember that the more personal your follow up–the more you reference your interview or show how your aspirations/morals align with the company–the better.

Request a rough timeline Following up doesn’t have to come in letter form the first time. When your job interview is finishing up, it can be a good idea to use the time at the end of it to ask for a timeline for when you might hear back. Doing this is a way to show excitement for a position, but also allows you to get something out it, too, as it opens the door up for a lengthier follow up.

Abide by the three-strike rule No matter who you are or how strong your resume is, job searching is a humbling experience. If you follow up three times and don’t hear back, call it a day and move on. As important as it is to follow up to show your interest, don’t let the stress of wanting to hear back interfere with your other responsibilities like your studies, your personal interests, or even other job opportunities,


All-out avoid following up It’s easy to psych yourself out when it comes to following up. Many think it can make you look needy, or that it’s unnecessary, or that it even annoys employers. On the contrary, though, following up shows your commitment and is sometimes even looked for by employers who purposefully wait to hear back from you before they reach back out.

Go there There isn’t much that constitutes going too far in following up, but showing up at the business after your interview usually is a unnecessary step unless you’re invited. Doing this can put unwanted pressure on hiring managers as well as make for an awkward conversation.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email

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How to get on your professor’s good side

Building-Professor-Rapport-1Let’s face it, some professors are intimidating. And when you’re in a big class among dozens of other students, it can sometimes feel like you’re just another face in the crowd to your educational counterparts.

But you can stand out. Despite the factors that seem to make bonding with your professor an impossible task, it is possible. And it’s actually fairly simple. Start today by taking these five basic steps to getting on your professor’s good side.

Show up Don’t want your next one-on-one with your professor to be awkward? Start by showing up to class regularly prepared and ready to go. Usually, all it takes for your professor to remember exactly who you are is one instance where you contribute something original to the class discussion, or ask a few questions that show you’re engaged.

Treat them as a colleague: While it’s always a good idea to address your professor by their correct title, acknowledging their title doesn’t mean you have to be your professor’s subordinate. In fact, most professors enjoy having an open dialogue with students who are interested in the research they are doing or the subject they specialize in. Treating your professors like a coworker also helps you prepare for corporate culture.

Always be honest: This is the golden rule of professor relations. Aside from being an ethical obligation, being honest when you talk to your professor protects you from hurting your own reputation. Being up front and honest helps build the trust of professors and means they’ll be more likely to give you a good recommendation if you ever need a reference. Not to mention, professors do talk, and you don’t want your standing among them to be worsened.

Be concise Most professors have been around the block. That being so, they’ll probably know the point you’re trying to get across before you’ve even made it. Keep things short and sweet when it comes to talking to professors and for the most part let them do the talking; their job, after all, is to communicate with students. Professors will not only appreciate the brevity, but be more likely to give you a few minutes of their time before or after class if they know you’ll be concise.

Ask for advice No matter what the class, every professor you will ever have can give you advice on something in life. If the questions you ask are truly engaging, chances are they’ll enjoy it giving you advice, too. Make it a point to ask every professor how they thing their class might apply to your field of study, your career path, or even the modern world. Doing this can not only open your eyes to jobs or ideas you’d never previously thought of, but it’s a great way to show your dedication to professors.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Need more advice? ACI is on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email

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5 tax-filing tips for college students 

taxaccountantHolding a part-time or full-time job as you complete your degree doesn’t just mean more work on a day-to-day basis. It also means that come tax season there’s one more thing to worry about.

You shouldn’t be discouraged, though. Filing taxes as a college student doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.

There are several ways that you can stay on top of your filings and even get the most back possible with the right combination of research, effort and time. Here’s how:

Start early

Even though you may not have your W-2 quite yet, There are several reasons why you should start looking at your taxes as early as possible. For one, taxes are one of those things that always requires double checking before you send them out. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll likely have a few mistakes in your work. Moreover, if you’re in the market for free aid or advising, the longer you wait, the longer the wait will be for those services.


Often times it’s as simple as that. Though HR Block’s recent “Get Your Billions Back” ads may seem like they’re only directed at those with careers or high-cost investments, the truth is you have nothing to lose by filing for a tax return and everything to gain. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you haven’t made enough to get a return, or that your return will be so small that it’s not worth filing for.

Leverage your status

There are several ways that students can receive breaks from the government for their higher education aspirations. Three of those to check out are 1) the Hope Scholarship Credit, which can give you up to $1,500 in tax relief during your first two years of college 2) the Higher education expenses deduction, which reduces the amount of income that is taxed and 3) the Lifetime Learning Credit, another credit that reduces your tax load, this time up to 20% of your tuition and $5,000 total.

Talk to your family

It’s important to understand your family’s financial situation before diving into filing your taxes, as this can often be the most convoluted part. Be sure to sit down with your family prior to filling out your taxes and ask questions such as 1) am I still a dependent? 2) Do I plan on using a tax credit? and 3) who would benefit more from a credit or deduction?

Remember that the value of a deduction (for example, one of those mentioned above) increases with your tax load. This can make it much more valuable to someone in the 35 percent bracket (like your parents) than someone in the 15 percent bracket (like a student), so it’s important to really talk out this decision.

Don’t do it alone

As we said in the intro, filing taxes on top of school and work can be overwhelming–especially when it’s your first time, and even moreso when you have to go at it alone. And with so many different routes one can take regarding credits and deductions, it’s hard to know which way is up. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your school’s financial resources or ACI Specialty Benefits’ student experts for advice or additional resources regarding your finances.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more help deciding on a career path? Just ask. ACI is on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email

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What’s love got to do with it? What you can learn from last year’s ‘happiest’ jobs

77513Love is in the air, and it’s not just because it’s the middle of February. Students everywhere, are learning to fall in love with their career paths by gauging them similarly to how one might assess a first date–is it exciting? Do your values line up? Are you kept engaged?

These questions, it turns out, are exactly the right ones students should be asking. Check below to see why ranked these jobs as some of the happiest in America, and learn how you can end up choosing a career that you can love doing for the rest of your life.

IT consultant

Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to IT consulting. Employees set their own hours, choose which projects they want to work on, and, most of all, have reported having some of the best relationships with their bosses and colleagues of any job on the list. The takeaway? Some of the happiest employees are those whose day-to-day tasks include plenty of personal freedom and little to no micromanaging.


Relationships with clients can be a huge factor in loving your job. After all, every job is about pleasing a consumer base and arguably no job allows you to do this in a more hands-on fashion than a realtor. The 4.029 happiness score of realtors–good for third-highest on the list–is a reflection of just how big of an impact positive, open and face-to-face relationships can have on your occupational happiness.

Software engineer

One of the most in-demand careers, the fact that software engineering is also one of the happiest careers shows the benefit of getting a job that combines individual creativity and team-oriented collaboration in today’s market. If you’re somebody who has passions in several different fields, consider pursuing a job that mirrors your polytechnic skills so that you never have to feel the grass is greener on the other side.

Teaching assistant

Many students find that they can’t get enough of the learning environment. Part of this reason is that the jobs that make us the happiest are those that keep us engaged and constantly learning. If you’re soured by the thought of a repetitive job where you’re forced to learn the old fashioned way, consider a job where you interact with others as a teacher or mentor. Teaching/research assistants were ranked highest on the list for 2014 happiness in part because every day they go into work in an environment they love.

Team leader

One of the biggest reasons students end up backtracking on their career choices is that the culture and values of their industry just don’t end up lining up with their own. If you’re someone who weighs heavily the ethics and culture of your job, consider stepping into a leadership role where you help set the culture. HR employees and project coordinators are examples of team leader roles that rank highest in happiness quotients.


HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more help deciding on a career path? Just ask. ACI is on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook,Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or email

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