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Back to School Tips for Black Students

canstockphoto26484013Fall is creeping up on students all over the nation. Fall means returning to the campus or classroom. In 2015, the number of black students entering college or returning for another year is rising again.  Black college enrollment is gradually catching up with whites. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  70.9 percent of black graduating seniors enrolled in college in October 2014 compared to 67.3 percent of whites students.  2014 marked the first time ever that African-Americans enrolled in college at a higher rate than whites.

But there is still a problem. Young black men are not enrolling in college at the same rate as black women. According to Clutchmagonline.com black women are enrolling in college more than any other group. But don’t get it twisted; black men are attending college. Another myth we need address while we’re at it. It is not true that there are more black men in prison than in college. 

But college requires many things in addition to the desire to learn and better one’s self. It requires money. A college education is shamefully expensive. But what is truly heart breaking is the millions of dollars in scholarships and grants for minority students that are unclaimed every year. There is money available for black students. The AACR published this report revealing the scholarships available to minority students.

But college has other hidden expenses  that students and parents need to realize. These include:

  • On campus parking
  • Course materials, text books, lab equipment, technology and assorted supplies.
  • Taking longer to graduate, additional semesters and summer school.
  • Student social activities.
  • Clubs, fraternities and sorrorities fees.
  • Travel expenses for family visits.
  • Sports activities.
  • Dorm expenses, laundry, bedding, toiletries, etc.
  • Dining hall and meal plans, food.

All these expenses add up year after year and they are not normally covered by tuition. Some college tuition include meal plans but not all. Some will cover lab equipment and supplies. But you need to be aware of these costs and calculate them into your overall education budget. You can find ways to beat these costs here.

But before you even get a chance to pay for all those things and tuition you have to get into college. Many under-priviledged students find the cost of testing and admissins fees to be a major roadblack to geting into school. These fees can add up to hundreds of dollars before a student even gets admitted to college. Thankfully there are ways to beat those fees as well. Some states offer the ACT  or the SAT free of charge. Some states and universities don’t require either  for admittance into school. Some students may qualify for fee waivers allowing them to take those tests and possibly qualify for college application fee waivers as well. To check your qualifications for college application fee waivers the National Association of College Admission Counseling offers this formHere are more details on the ACT waiver requirements and the SAT has some info here.

You still have to buy the books. College text books are notoriously expensive. Betwen 2002 and 2013 the price of a text book rose 82 percent. Why?

You can bring down the price of text books.Occupy the Book Storeis a Chrome browser extension that allows you to shop for the same books you find at your college book store at online stores where you may find them cheaper. Other websites that help fight the high cost of textbooks include;

These are just a few websites but you can find many more by doing a simple web search.

Another concern that could be costly is the loss of personal information at school. You have no doubt heard of a data breach. Colleges and universities are not immune to this. As a student you need to protect your personal information at all times because you are a prime target for hackers. Schools can hold enormous amounts of data about students including their social security numbers, financial information of them and their parents, background information, medical data, and God knows what else.  Parents and students need to understand why student data is such a prized target of data gatherers.

So how does the student protect their pers0nal information at school? Here are a few tips.

  • Protect your technology. Never leave your laptop or phone unlocked and unattended. College campuses are often wide open and thieves know it. Whether you’re in the dorm or the library its easy for a thief to grab it and be gone. Don’t advertise the fact you are carrying a laptop. Laptop sleeves or carriers are clues and a target for thieves.
  • Install a tracking app that will help you track down your device in case its lost or stolen. Encrypt your files. This way even if someone gets access to your computer they won’t get your information.
  • Students are prime targets of malware and phishing attacks on their mobile devices. Students can protect themselves by making sure they are using different passwords on different accounts. One password fits all means a hacker gets it all if he can break or hack your password. And use a strong password or consider two factor authentication. If you have trouble keeping all those passwords in your head then use a password manager.
  • Don’t share your password with your dorm or classmates.
  • Be extremely careful with links and attachments in your email and text messages. Make sure to use a good anti-virus/anti-malware. You can find the best free anti-virus here.
  • Install apps only from reputable app stores. Make sure to scan files with an anti-malware product before installing. Remember, campuses are rich environments for computer viruses.
  • Many campuses offer free Wi-Fi. But who else is on that Wi-Fi? Hackers can monitor and collect information from free Wi-Fi and they do.  So be extra careful when using the school or any free public Wi-Fi. Make use of VPN software so that your web use is encrypted and keep hackers from electronically eavesdropping on you.
  • When using a campus or library computer;
    • Don’t log into accounts, especially banks or accounts that store financial information.
    • Don’t shop online because someone might get not only your login credentials but your credit card number.
    • If you do have to use a public computer make sure to change your user name and password for whatever sites you log into once you get back to your own computer.
    • Browse in Privacy Mode if you can’t erase your browser history and all cookies.

Students can be careless. They may feel that their information is not as vaulable as that of more established adults. Students don’t see the value of their information and this leaves them vulnerable because they don’t take information security seriously. But in reality it doesn’t matter how young you are, data and identity are valuable to cybercriminals. Remember AACR Internet Rule #5 “The currency  and commodity of the digital age is called information.”

For a young man or woman just starting out in life correcting the problems caused by loss of identity is a painful uneccessary experience. Protect your data!

It’s back to school time and students face many challenges to getting an education. Parents and students working together can make it to graduation day. Good Luck!

Now you know.

 

 

See and Block Who’s Tracking You Online

canstockphoto19683471Privacy on the Internet is a rare commodity. Currently 85 percent or more of black people are online. Most black people own a smartphone or other mobile device. And most black people have no idea how easy it is to track exactly who you are, where you are, who you call, text or email and pretty much everything else you do online. You are being watched like a prisoner.

Trying to stop this constant tracking is a tough task and the law is no help. Congress and industry have little or no incentive to stop this incessant invasion of privacy. Part of the problem is that consumers have yet to get really angry about this activity.

There are people fighting for your privacy online but its an uphill battle to say the least. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Disconnect, Internet privacy right groups and a group of web companies have lauched a new “Do Not Track” (DNT) standard meant to encourage website owners and advertisers to respect your online privacy. Unfortunately this is a voluntary standard and companies are free to agree, or not to agree, to adhere to the new standard.

Big players like Yahoo! and Microsoft have not come out in favor of the new standard. Microsoft announced in April that it was no longer enabling ‘Do Not Track’ as the default state in Windows Express settings.

A year ago Yahoo! said that ‘Do Not Track’ settings would no longer be enabled on its site saying; “we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.” But Yahoo! has agreed to honor the ‘Do Not Track’ setting on the Firefox browser as part of a search deal. So both companies are openly admitting they are tracking you.

Companies that have agreed to honor the new ‘DNT’ standard include publishing site Medium, analytics service Mixpanel, ad and tracker-blocking extension AdBlock, and privacy search engine DuckDuckGo.

Millions of black people are using social media. And the God of social media is Facebook. But did you know that Facebook is probably the biggest data collector in the history of civilization? Because people are giving it to them.

But who is using Facebook to track your Internet activity? How do you block them?

First of all keep in mind that advertisers may not not know your name and other personal information about you. But that is just a maybe. We don’t know what they know and they ain’t telling. Legally, they don’t have to.

But here are the steps to see and block advertisers that are tracking your Facebook profile from Businessinsider.com.

First go to the settings button on your Facebook page.

Facebook settingsFacebook

Scroll down and click “Settings.”

Facebook settingsFacebook

Inside the settings menu, click on Apps.

Facebook settingsFacebook

This looks like a list of apps that are signed into your account. But pay close attention to the “show all” option at the bottom of the list …

Facebook settingsFacebook

Voila! The list of apps tracking me is so long I have to make this super zoomed-out view to see them all:

Facebook settings

Facebook

On each app, there is an Edit function and a delete “x” mark. Let’s look at what QuizUp, the hot new trivia mobile game app, knows about me.

Facebook settingsSettings

QuizUp knows my email, birthday, and current location. Because it’s a mobile app on my phone, it also knows my phone number. But that’s not all …

Facebook settingsFacebook

Click this little “?” symbol on “basic info” and it turns out that QuizUp is getting a bunch more info about me, too, including a list of all my friends and my profile picture!

Facebook settings

(Source: Businessinsider.com)

You can control this information by clicking on the “x” symbol to delete the app’s access to your Facebook account. That might mean the app won’t work, however.

Review each app to either edit its permissions or delete its access to you on Facebook entirely. It’s a bit time-consuming — but otherwise you’re just giving these people free data.

Another thing black people need to be aware of is that companies are using your email to spy on you. Much of the email you recieve from an advertiser or even a company you do business with is loaded with spying technology.

To see who is tracking your email, or in this case Gmail, you can use a browser extension tool named UglyEmail to see what companies are tracking your Gmail email.

UglyEmail shows you if your email is being tracked. And email being tracked in Gmail will have a tiny eye attached to it. Your inbox will look something like this.

UglyEmail

One of the ways that your email is tracked is a technology known as pixel tracking. Pixel tracking is when a tiny image, about 1 pixel in size, is inserted in an email. The image is invisible to the email recipient but it has a code that tells the server to call the sender when the email is opened.

To block that you can use a browser extension known as PixelBlock. PixelBlock will block that pixel code from transmitting back to the sender. Email with a pixel tracking code have a red eye on them. PixelBlock will also tell you who sent the pixel and how many times they have attempted to track you.

We did mention that Facebook is the greatest collector of data in history didn’t we? Well did you know that Facebook follows you around the Internet even when you are not on the website? How do they do this?

Facebook employs over 200 different trackers that follow your online activity. These trackers come in the shape of cookies, Javascript, 1-pixel beacons, and Iframes. Tracking technologies are used to see what websites you visit, how often you visit them and other interactions with websites.

Not all cookies are used for tracking.  Many Facebook ‘Like’ buttons are used to collect and store information to be used later. Your browser communicates with a server to construct the website you wish to view. This called a request.

But keep in mind that the website you are viewing isn’t the only server your browser is talking to. Trackers from other data collectors, Facebook included, are on the site as well. You have no idea they are tracking you without privacy software. You don’t know they are there and you probably don’t wish to share your personal information with them.

To protect yorself and your information you need to use the do not track function on your browser. It may help but probably won’t competely stop the tracking. You can find a list of the five most secure browsers here.

Choose your privacy setting in the following browsers

Google Chrome

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Apple Safari

We used Facebook as an example of companies that track you online because they are the biggest offender. But undertand this, almost every website has some method of monitoring who visits it. The sometimes sell the information or just hold onto it to better serve you. Just remember AACR Internet rule #8 “There is no privacy on the Internet.”

Now you know.