Making Your First Loan Payment

Yep. It’s actually time to make your first loan payment. Don’t worry, if you plan ahead, you can avoid feeling like this:


With that in mind, I want to share our old friend Derrick’s cautionary tale from 2013 about first loan payments, as well as offer some helpful tips for getting it right from the start.

As an added bonus, since this is a stressful time in your life, mark your first payment with a UVM Alumni Association bottle opener. Just click below, complete short form, and you can get one. We only have 100 to giveaway, so request yours early.


Now, take it away Derrick!

“I was on an 8-hour drive for my job (not fun) and in the middle of the 5th radio appearance of Pharrell William’s “Happy”  I realized my first loan payment was due that day. I pulled out my crappy, quasi-smart phone and tried to make my payment on the side of the road.

After navigating the worst website in history, I managed to click the payment button before my browser crashed — did I make my payment? Only the internet gods knew for sure.

When I finally got home and logged on from my laptop, it hit me. I had already signed up for automatic loan payments and my side-of-the-road payment also went through.

I made a double payment — not because of my financial acumen — but because of my disorganization. 

I ate lots of Ramen that month. This is definitely not an experience to emulate and I’m going to try and make up for it by giving you really solid advice”.

Don’t be like Derrick. Here are 5 essential things you should do before making your first payment:

  1. Read this article to get started understanding your loans.
  2. Get Organized. Figure out if you have federal loans or private loans (or both) and how many. It’s probably easiest to ask your parents, look at old mail, or check your email — you loan provider has almost certainly tried to contact you by now.
  3. Pick a repayment plan. There are several types and many loans have an option for income-based repayment.  Also, if you are in grad school, make sure to defer your loans.
  4. Don’t make your payment late. They are already going to get enough of your money. Don’t give them any extra.
  5. Get Your Free UVM Alumni Association Bottle Opener. This is our way of easing the pain of that first payment. Open your favorite Vermont beverage with it, sink into your couch, and start a Netflix binge. You earned it .

DIY UVM Halloween Treats!


My favorite thing about any holiday is the food, and Halloween is no exception.

So, in honor of the spookiest holiday of the year, I present you with two UVM-themed Halloween treats. They’re simple, easy and perfect to bring to a Halloween party with UVM friends.

First up, Catamount Crispies. This twist on the traditional rice krispie treat is so easy, you don’t even need an oven. Check out the video below to see how I whipped these up in the office kitchen with just a microwave.

Catamount Cripies
I adapted the recipe right off the back of a box of Rice Krispies.

You’ll need:

  • 6 cups Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® cereal
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package (10 oz) of marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • Green food dye
  • Frosting for decorating

Here’s how you do it:

Stove top directions:
1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add 10-15 drops of green food coloring.

2. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

Microwave Directions:
In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.


No dessert is complete without an accompanying beverage.

Enter my Ghost of Ira Allen Punch. It glows green and plays well with other spirits, if you know what I mean…

Ghost of Ira Allen Punch
Recipe borrowed from Pillsbury.

You’ll need:

  • 1 quart lime sherbet, slightly softened
  • 1 container (12 oz) frozen limeade, thawed
  • 1 bottle (1 liter) ginger ale
  • Gummy worm candies
  • Lime slices (or lemon for that Green & Gold flair)

Here’s how to do it:

1. In punch bowl or pitcher, mix sherbet, limeade and ginger ale.

2. Pour into glasses. Garnish each glass with candy and lime slices. Serve immediately.


— Ryan

Money Talks: 6 Personal Finance Tips


One of the challenges of the proverbial “real world” is learning how to manage your money. Expenses mount, loan payments loom, and you’re just trying to get by without doing any major damage. I get it. I’ve been there — heck I am there.

So I put together a few basic personal finance tips from around the internet for you. Most of these are common sense but they’re worth repeating because they work.

Obviously, I’m not a financial adviser and everyone’s situation is different so take this list for what it is — a friendly reminder to look at your own habits and figure what works for you. If these articles and pieces of advice can help you get there, all the better.


1. Set up a budget and track it — Knowing where your money is going is crucial in plugging holes and maximizing spending/savings. is a great way to create and track a budget. They walk you through the set up process and do all of the tracking for you — piece of cake!

2. Prep for paying loans — Thinking about student loans can be intimidating, but a little prep can go a long way. Knowing how much you owe, understanding your payment schedule, budgeting for your monthly payment, and making early payments when possible, will make your life much easier and get you out of debt faster.

3. Sign up for a retirement plan  — if you landed a job and haven’t signed up for the 401(k), 403(b), or retirement savings plan offered, hustle down to HR right now to find out how. This article explains how a 401(k) works, why it’s important to think about retirement now, and how you can benefit from your company’s match. (If you’re not working or your company’s plan isn’t right for you,opening your own Roth IRA may be a great option.)

4. Build your own credit — You hear warnings about “bad credit”, but what you may not know is that sometimes having no credit can be just as challenging. Start building your credit now. Opening a credit card (and paying it off in full each month), paying your student loans on time and having your name on other bills (electric, water, cable), are all ways to build credit.

5. Start a rainy day fund — We covered retirement savings in #3, but you also want to build a fund for emergencies like unexpected medical expenses, a layoff, car repairs, etc… Your savings account can also be used to save for big purchases like a vacation, attending and giving gifts at weddings, a new car, etc… This article gives you 9 easy steps for building up your savings account like setting a goal, automating deposits to your savings account, and making worthy sacrifices.

6. Pack your own lunch — This is my personal addition to the list. One way I’ve saved money since graduating is packing my lunch each day. Going out to lunch and/or buying your coffee instead of making it at home adds up quickly — five days a week times $10-15 per day totals to $200-300 dollars in a month. Bringing my own costs less and, as an added bonus, forces me to make healthier choices. It also makes going out to lunch a fun break from the norm instead of business as usual.

So there you have it, a few tips for getting your personal finances in tip-top shape.

Farewell, Derrick! (and 3 Tips for leaving a job)

As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end.

My Afterword partner, Derrick Dubois, is leaving the UVM Foundation to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.

He’s off to the Aviation Technology Program at Vermont Technical College which, in partnership with the Vermont Flight Academy, offers the only pilot certification/licensure program in the state of Vermont.

I’ll miss my partner here on the ol’ blog, but I’m really happy for Derrick. He’s making his dream a reality — which is not always an easy thing to do. To send him off, we made one last overly dramatized Afterword video for you:

And in true Afterword form, Derrick and I put together some tips and lessons learned from his experience to share with you.

3 Tips for Transitioning out of a Job

1. Give appropriate notice – once you’ve accepted a new job, a grad program, or whatever your next step may be, be sure to give your current employer notice of your departure. Work with your direct supervisor to decide on an end date and communicate that date with the rest of your organization.

2. Wrap it up – take stock of the projects and programs you work on. Set ‘hand-over’ meetings with those who will take over (whether permanently or temporarily) for you. Make sure important files are saved on shared drives so they can be accessed by your successor and share any instructions and log in information that needs to be passed on before you leave.

3. Keep in touch – leave the lines of communication open when you leave. Be available to answer questions or help locate a file or contact for your old colleagues and the person who takes your place. You never know when you’ll need your old colleagues.

Farewell, Derrick. Don’t be a stranger…

— Ryan

Get off the Pile: Cover Letters

Get off the pile image

This week on Get off the Pile, we consulted our favorite HR expert, Andrew Flewelling. Andrew has a graduate degree from UVM and he is the Senior Director of Human Resources here at the UVM Foundation. (2015-ers, you might remember Andrew from last year). Today, Andrew is talking about how to write stand-out cover letters.

Andrew Pic

Cover Letter Basics

When it comes to cover letters, the most common mistake I see is that the applicant merely restates what their resume says. I CAN read, so there is no need to make a sentence out of a bullet that is listed on the next page.

Instead, a good cover letter is one that does my work for me. It clearly articulates why the position is of interest; and illuminates the skills and abilities that make the applicant special.

It’s great to talk about a few (2-3 max) examples of success. Bonus points if the applicant can quantify the success (% increase, overall sales, maximized efficiency by x measure, etc…).

What Makes a Cover Letter Stand Out?

The letters that really stand out are the ones in which the applicant takes their experiences, skills, and successes, and synthesizes them for me, highlighting their direct and/or transferable nature for the position they seek. The best letters demonstrate that the writer knows enough about the position to be able to overlay their own skills on what we are looking for.

Tips for Writing a Stand-out Cover Letter

1. Keep it to one page. And be aware of the formatting — dense, long paragraphs in eight point type is not the way to go.

2. State the important. In the opening paragraph mention the position applied for and where the listing was posted. In the rest of the letter discuss what the position requires (skills, characteristics, temperament, values, etc.) and demonstrate/prove that you possess those requirements.

3. Mix it up. Use a good mixture of short declarative statements and longer, multi clause sentences to make sure the letter flows.

4. Be Yourself. Don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personal passion. Depending on the position, it may be appropriate to articulate your understanding of the importance of the position to the company, industry, society overall. You should also be able to articulate why the position is important to you.

5. Read it out loud. Hearing what you’ve written aloud and having others hear too will help you catch mistakes or missed references.

6. Proofread to perfection. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are non-negotiable deal breakers.