Tag Archives: tips

10 Things I Learned in my First Semester at USC

By Esther Cha

Whether you’re here at USC as a freshman or Graduate student, your first year on campus is a time for exponential growth. In my first semester here, I learned a lot in my classes, but the real learning (about life and being on my own) came from outside the classroom. Here are some things I learned in my first semester that I know will help me survive college. Perhaps they can help you too!

  1. Don’t be afraid to say hi

Remember that everyone is in the same boat as you. College can be nerve wracking but a smile and a hello can go a long way. Who knows? The random stranger you say hi to in math class could potentially become your new best friend.

  1. Don’t buy your textbooks full price

Textbooks costs ADD UP. Be smart with textbooks and wait till the first week of classes to make sure you actually need to buy them. (Sometimes professors do not require them even though they are listed in the syllabus). Amazon and Chegg.com offer textbooks at significantly lower prices for rent and will save you a ton of money. Another option is to see if the libraries have the textbooks or required books you need and if they do you can borrow them for an entire semester at no cost!

  1. Be active and take advantage of your gym membership

Don’t forget to take care of your physical health by staying active! Not only will the endorphins make you feel better you will feel healthier and cleaner. Your tuition pays for a gym membership so take advantage of the great gyms we have on campus. The new village gym has great equipment and classes that you don’t wanna miss out on!

  1. Go to more events on campus

Join all of the facebook groups like your class page, USG, USC Events page to keep up to date with all of the exciting and cool events on campus! There are always so many cool speakers and guests on campus that you can meet if you take the initiative. Last semester I got to hear Danny Trejo speak and even see Brittany Snow (from Pitch Perfect) at Bovard for an Acapella concert.

  1. Be aware of the Freshman 15

Two Words: Unlimited Swipes. As a freshman with an unlimited meal plan, it can be very tempting to eat ice cream for dessert after every meal and indulge in the famous EVK chicken tenders. Make sure to keep a balance and eat vegetables and fuel your body with nutritious foods. You are what you eat after all.

  1. Google Calendar is your new best friend

College can get very hectic with so many events, classes, and appointments. Google Calendar helps to keep you organized and sane. Having a planner or calendar in college helps keep you organized and on top of your assignments and meetings. Don’t let that midterm or paper creep up on you; use Google Calendar to plan ahead!

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Five Tips for Filing Your Taxes

By Colette Au

Since taxes aren’t due until April 15th, 2018, filing your 2017 fiscal year taxes might seem a long way away, but I’ve already started preparing for it. I’m in charge of USC Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a student-run club that is part of a nation-wide IRS volunteering program. We provide free tax preparation services to low- and middle-income individuals and families, including international students and residents living in the neighborhood around USC. If you’re like most students, you probably haven’t needed to file your own tax return (or perhaps your parents did it for you). Although I’m not allowed to give tax advice because most advice is very situational, here are a few tips for students doing taxes for the first time:

  1. If you’re working an on-campus job this year, look out for a W-2

Form W-2 is a slip of paper that employers give you that lists your wages and any taxes withheld for the year. You’ll need this information to input on your tax return, so make sure you save it when it comes in the mail (usually in January or February). For students working on campus, you can elect to download a copy from Workday. If you work multiple jobs, you will have multiple W-2s. Note: if you’re self-employed (for example, doing some freelance work on the side), you’re still supposed to report income, even if the transactions are in cash.

  1. Keep track of your educational expenses

Did you know that it’s possible to lower your tax bill by deducting the cost of required textbooks? Make sure you save your receipts from the Bookstore, because you might be able to shave a couple hundred dollars off of your taxes if you owe anything. However, the tuition and fees deduction isn’t available for people that the IRS calls “non-resident aliens” (most international students). There are also education credits for people who are paying tuition out-of-pocket, and USC will send you a form called Form 1098-T so you can report that information on your tax return.

  1. There are different returns for residents and non-residents

If you’re an international student, don’t make the mistake of not checking if you’re a resident or not. Most international students are considered “non-resident aliens” because they are “exempt individuals” (IRS jargon) and have a different set of tax forms. The IRS uses a residency test to determine if you’re a resident for tax purposes, which you can read more about here.

  1. You might not have to file! But you need to check if you do

Generally, if you’re working an on-campus job, you are only required to file if you make more than a few thousand dollars. Even if you don’t need to file, you should consider filing a return in order to get a tax refund. The IRS has an article called Publication 501 about filing requirements here. If your employer deducts more taxes from your paychecks than you owe at the end of the year, you can get your money back!  

  1. Take advantage of USC resources

If you don’t want to put in the time and effort to learn how to do your taxes on your own, save yourself the hassle. If you meet the income limits, you can get your taxes done by free by students! Most students working in the VITA program are accounting majors like me, and some of us actually enjoy learning about the American tax system.

In summary, filing your taxes in the U.S. can be very complicated. There are exceptions to almost every rule so you have to be careful and assess the facts of your own financial situation before you can correctly file your taxes. If you’re feeling lost in the tax system, it’s okay to ask for help. In fact, it’s better that you do because that last thing you want is the IRS coming after you for filing your taxes incorrectly.

Originally from Portland, Oregon, Colette is a junior in the Leventhal School of Accounting and Marshall School of Business. Born to immigrant parents from mainland China and Hong Kong, she is no stranger to bridging lingual and cultural gaps. As her high school offered an international boarding program, she made friends with classmates from all over the world. At USC, Colette participates in several service-oriented clubs on campus, including as president of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and an e-board member of Project 32 Tutoring. Singing, playing piano and guitar, and eating all kinds of foods (especially dessert) are some of her favorite hobbies. In summer 2018, she will be interning in San Jose at Deloitte, a public accounting firm.

A Few Things I learned from Studying Abroad

By Lian Eytinge

When I was a junior at USC, I spent the entire academic year abroad in Tokyo, Japan. I went because I wanted to learn more about what life is like in a different culture, as well as immerse myself in a language other than my own. While abroad, I realized three major ideas that helped me navigate my time in Japan, thus enriching my experiences. Now that I’m back in my home country, I’d like to pass these ideas on to any international student who is studying here at USC and struggling with the language.

1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I know it can be scary to speak in a different language; you don’t want to mess up or look stupid in front of people. I learned that from speaking with lots of different people in Japanese that it is okay to make mistakes and that native speakers won’t think badly of you for messing up. I know it is hard to believe but if you just push forward and try to communicate your idea, you can learn more and develop your speaking skills better than not speaking up at all. To get in the mindset of speaking freely, I thought to myself: “This is a great chance to get to learn a language through talking to native speakers. I won’t get a chance like this for a long time. I have to seize this opportunity!”

2. Do not be afraid to reach out for help. If the native speaker is talking too fast or you cannot understand the words they are saying, try asking them to repeat themselves slowly or ask them to say it in a different way. Native speakers understand you are learning and will try to accommodate you as best they can! After all, it is harder for you to translate what they say and speak your opinion than it is for them as a fluent speaker to repeat their sentence slower. You might initially think it is rude to ask someone to repeat themselves but, I can assure you, it is not. Asking someone to repeat themselves means that you care about what they have to say and that what they are talking about is important for you to fully understand.

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