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Education Loans

Friday, November 21, 2014

Education loans are meant for people whose income is not high enough to attend school. With high education costs high and the availability of education loans, many people are opting for these loans.

Educational loans are of many kinds: according to the sponsor (federal or private), according to the beneficiary (undergraduate, continuing education, insurance loans, parent loans, payment loans), according to the course: law school, medical school, dental school, MBA, general graduate, or post graduate. There are also career loans for people who are pursuing graduate or postgraduate education on a part to full-time basis.

These days, getting an educational loan has become very easy. There are online application as well as telephone applications. The requirements are often simple-- social security number, date of birth, employer's name, phone number, years of employment, gross annual income (adjusted gross income for self employed individuals) and monthly rent or mortgage payment. There are many loan options to choose from. Repayment options are also sundry. They include standard repayment, graduate repayment, income-sensitive repayment, consolidation, and pre-payment.

Loans from the government have lower interest rates. These include the poplular Stafford loans. Stafford loans are of two kinds: subsidized and unsubsidized. These loans are insured by the government. The government pays the interest for subsidized loans while the recipient is in school at least half-time. These are for people who have low financial status. The rate of interest for the federal Stafford loan is 4.70% during in-school period and 5.30% during the repayment period. There is also the parent loan for undergraduate students (PLUS) that allows parents to borrow any amount up to the cost of education. These are for parents who have dependent undergraduate students. Other loans for parents are: the college loan for parents or sponsors, and independent school loans for K-12. The federal PLUS loan has an interest rate of 6.10%. Other loan rates range from 6 to 10%.

Private loans are useful when government loans are not sufficient in meeting educational needs. These are not guaranteed by the federal government. Certain credit guidelines are applicable for issuing these loans. These are mostly provided by private trusts. Some are offered by the school or universities.

Educational loans can also be applied for online. There are easy loan calculators and online forms for applying for these loans. More information can be obtained from the school or the university's scholarship office.

5 Simple Steps to Get Started in Social Media, That Won't Cost a Dime!

I recently re-read for the first time the wonderful little book, "Who moved my Cheese" by Dr. Spencer Johnson. I say re-read for the first time because I had read it a few years ago and dismissed it. I was absolutely sure that I knew exactly where "my cheese" was.

In fact I did know where my cheese was, what I didn't know at the time was that overnight my cheese would get hijacked and I would be left with no cheese and not a lot of ideas where to find any.

Like Hem and Haw in the book I was convinced that my cheese was in the same place it had always been, but every time I went looking for it, NOTHING!

Eventually, I was starving and I realized I had to become more like Sniff and Scurry and find my new cheese before my 401k funds ran out.

Which brings us to this Free Report.

I decided my new cheese was to be found in learning social media and social networking well enough to start developing my own suspects/prospects/clients and then "paying forward" to help my Real Estate business partners who were struggling to find "their cheese".

I'm not here to sell you anything, but rather to share my experiences and hope they help you in your search for "your cheese".

There are hundreds of "experts" and honestly they know a lot more about this than I do. In fact I've paid money to most of them, as I'm sure many of you have. What I didn't know when I was shelling out all this money, was that there were things I had to do to establish an identity for my business before I would get the value the experts promised.

If you find value in this Free Report, feel free to share it with your colleagues. Just give them the email address from where you received your copy or have them call me.

Thanks and I hope it helps your business.

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

Step 1

Don't try to eat the elephant in one bite!

The world is divided into two groups of people:

Group 1 is those people who already, know, like and trust you.

Group 2 is those people who don't

Brilliant, right?

I like to think so, but the first step in social media is recognizing you need a different marketing message for Group 1 than Group 2.

Unless you're already a rock start in your market, chances are your Group 2 is significantly larger than your Group 1.

Think about using social media as a tool to move more people from Group 2 to Group 1 by growing the number of people who "know, like and trust" you.

Which brings us to the elephant. If you noticed the picture on the title page, you can see that the world of social networking is very convoluted and can lead you in so many directions you're likely to end up where you started.

Rule #1 Start Simple

There are literally hundreds of "tools" in social media to help you grow your online reputation and business and most of them don't have practical business applications (yet!)

The world of social media and social networking can be overwhelming, when viewed as a whole but there are certain threads that run through each social platform. One of those threads is that social networking is about meeting and engaging people, not trying to sell them.

You've heard the "cocktail party" metaphor. Social networking is like a cocktail party, you meet people and engage them looking for commonalities and a potential basis for developing a conversation (relationship). You're not trying to marry the people you meet online, but rather to see if there is enough interest for a follow up "cup of coffee" so you can talk some more.

If you give the "Are you or anyone you know interested in buying or selling real estate?" at the on-line cocktail party, people will shut you out and ignore you very quickly.

Why, because they can and it's their cocktail party!

Social media and networking are not designed to replace your off line marketing strategies either. In fact they are the perfect complement to them. The more prospects you can engage on line and work them through your "marketing funnel" until you get the opportunity to meet them face-to-face the more prosperous your business will be.

To start you only need to focus on three platforms:

1. The search engines - Google, Yahoo and Bing, you have to make yourself visible to the search engines or you'll never get found by the people that don't already know you and even they might not have the patience to look too hard. Think page 1 "above the fold".

2. Facebook - You have to be where your customers are and 450 MILLION people can't be wrong.

3. LinkedIn - This is the social networking site of choice for professionals. According to a recent study the average income of LinkedIn users is $109,000/year. Don't know about you, but I need to know more of those kind of prospects.

If you're interested in referrals from other agents, they are most likely to come from here. This is your on-line resume and networking here is likely to provide quicker results. If being an REO agent is in your future it's very likely the asset managers will start their search on LinkedIn to select qualified agents.

Step 2

It's not about you!

This is the most difficult step for most veteran Realtors®.

Think of the internet and social media/networking as part of the largest real estate shopping mall in the history of mankind. Everyday millions of shoppers head to this mall to search for some sort of information about real estate. Unfortunately there are millions of choices for them, fortunately they have a directory to help them find the store they are looking for. That directory is the search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing and now even Facebook.

So, how do you get to be the one these shoppers find?

Since day one in the business you've been told about growing your brand. Traditional marketing channels like newspapers, homes magazines, marketing flyers were always about YOU!

The evolution of on-line marketing has changed that.

Since the day the first Realtor gave internet access to the MLS, the consumer had the "keys to the kingdom". The consumer is control and they like it that way. They can get the information with or without you.

It's how you add value that will determine your success.

I've posed this dilemma to a number of local Realtors® and have gotten the same response most of the time: "They don't need us anymore"

Absolutely incorrect!

They still need you, but not to search for houses. They can do that while watching "Dancing with the Stars" or on their wireless devices while driving through neighborhoods actually looking at their future dream home.

They need you to be the "resident genius"

They need you to tell them what's going on in the market.

They need you to tell them what's going on in the community.

They need you to tell them why particular subdivisions or neighborhoods are great places to live.

They need you to share with them the "insider secrets" to a successful real estate transaction.

In short, they need your expertise!

The consumer has the keys to the MLS kingdom and they're not giving them up, so you have to find a way to bring value to this budding relationship that is not entirely real estate related.

If you were having a conversation with someone you hadn't previously known, and they asked "Why should I do business with you?"

How would you respond?

You might say because "I'm a market expert", or "I'm the top producer in my office", or "Because I provide outstanding service and I put my client's interest first."

Those are all very good reasons, but that's what every Realtor® says.(It's called me-too marketing)

If everyone is saying the same thing how is the consumer going to hear YOU above all the noise?

You have to have a "WHY ME?" that will separate elevate you above the competition.

Your WHY ME? has to bring value to this relationship.

Never forget Rule #1 of relationships

The person that brings the most value to the relationship will control the relationship!

In the internet world consumers want to be educated (explains why there are millions of blogs) and entertained (YouTube!). They want to receive value.

They want you to give it to them!

Your WHY ME? has to be more than words, you have to show the skeptical consumer that you're different

better than your competition.

Think of yourself as the Mayor of your City/Neighborhood or the President of the local Chamber of Commerce, who happens to sell real estate.

The more time you spend promoting your city, community, or neighborhood. The more trusting consumers will be of you. Then, your real estate job gets a whole lot easier!

Step 3

You need the keys, to get the engine running!

For consumers that don't already know you, they have to be able to find you through the search engines.

How will they do that? They will "Google" what interests them.

Getting found on the internet, whether it be your web page or Facebook business page or even your Google local business listing revolves around keywords, so even if you already have a well established brand using your name, start thinking like your prospects and build your business around your "keywords".

Google Keyword Tool - you will need a Gmail account to access

Here's a exercise

Using the Google keyword tool, enter (your city) real estate or homes for sale in (your city), the keyword tool will give you the number of searches over the past month along with variations of those terms. You can also use the tool to measure how much competition you will have.

Now search by your name with Realtor or real estate agent and compare the number of searches.

If you want to fish...fish where the fish are!

The more proficient you are with keywords, the greater the chance that someone searching for real estate in your local market will find you.

You should strive for a first page ranking on all the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) for the target markets you have selected. The chances of being found drop dramatically once you get off the first page.

So, who are your target markets?

If you said, "anyone looking to buy or sell a home", you have almost NO chance of being found.

Why? Because that's the playground where the big kids play and it's very, very expensive to play there, you're competing with Realtor.com, Homes.com, Zillow, Trulia, Movoto and all the other national listing websites. If you have enough money to compete with them, you probably don't need this information.

If you said, "first time home buyers looking to buy in (your city)" or "homeowners looking to stop foreclosure in (your farm area)" your chances of being found have increased dramatically.

Why? These are searches in your local market (hyper-local) and you will find a better quality lead. Research has shown that the closer a consumer gets to their buying decision, the more "granular" their searches get. They may start off searching by "homes for sale", but as they begin to focus on a particular city or neighborhood they're going to search for "(your city) homes for sale" or "(your city) real estate". Then as they identify particular neighborhoods, their searches might be "Paseo del Sol homes" or "Greer Ranch homes for sale".

The interesting part of this search process is that Google has a memory, and as they recognize an individual's searching patterns with particular keywords, they will try to match those searches with relevant content and those pages will rank higher for that consumer.

You can also try "Wonder Wheel"- Watch Wonder Wheel video - which simplifies the keyword search process by giving you the ability to branch off in a number of directions in your search and perhaps find other niche markets.

Step 4

Write a killer profile

"A Google Profile is simply how you represent yourself on Google products - it lets you tell others a bit more about who you are and what you're all about. You control what goes into your Google Profile, sharing as much (or as little) as you'd like."

Even if you don't have a website or a Facebook business page, or a LinkedIn account, you can still be found on the internet by consumers who don't know you, by writing a "killer profile".

A killer profile is one that sounds more like a press release than a bio. Strategic use of keywords in your profile(s) enables consumers to find you based on their searches (Step 3). When you write your profile try to be as keyword rich as possible.

Back to the Google keyword tool and look for more keyword terms that are easily included in your profile.

As much as possible (don't make it weird) refer to yourself in the third person because there will be people who know you or are checking up on you and you want to make sure they can find you as well.

A great source of ideas for a "killer profile" is ActiveRain. Search Realtors in your local area and check out their profiles. You will soon see the difference between a "killer profile" and a "me too" profile.

You only have to write one profile. Create a word or Google document, then just copy and paste to your selected sites.

As you search for other niche markets, update your profile with keywords related to that market.

Your profile only has one purpose! Help people find you!

Just like your profile might be for an on-line dating service, your business profile's purpose is to generate enough interest to have a first date, then you can let the relationship grow from there,

How will you know if it works?

Upload your profiles to each of the search engines, to your Facebook business page, and to LinkedIn .

Give it a couple days, then Google your name. You should see dramatic improvement.

Maintaining your search engine ranking is not a "set it and forget it" strategy. Too many agents have spent a lot of time building their ranking only to lose it 30 days later because they didn't keep the contact fresh.

Your online visibility all starts with your keyword rich profile. Take the time to write a "killer profile" and you should see improvement quickly.

Step 5

Do it!

The only bad on-line strategy is the one you don't do!

Remember, you have competition out there and it's not limited to just your MLS board. Think about how many Realtors in Southern California have access to your MLS listings. That is how much competition you have.

To beat your competition you will have to be:

1) Creative- Take a look at what your competition is doing and do something different. Just because they're doing it doesn't mean it's working. Think like your prospects, how can you educate, entertain, or enrich?

2) Patient - Like all relationships, on-line relationships take a while to develop. Don't expect immediate results. Treat your on-line platforms with the same diligence you use for your off-line marketing. Be consistent. If you feel a relationship is getting stale, get creative and try something new, if that doesn't work try something else.

The only thing constant in internet marketing is change. The technology is changing at a dramatic pace and in a year even these suggestions may be out of date.

You have to be committed to invest the time and effort to develop your on-line reputation.

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to you is you find a qualified prospect and when they go on-line to "check you out" (and they will!) they can't find you, but instead find another agent who has taken the time to build an "on-line brand".


A Review on Afghanistan Media Assessment: Opportunities and Challenges for Peacebuilding

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In the very vivid media sphere of Afghanistan, there is no depth. Recently, before finishing my book on Afghanistan, I tried to interview some people inside and outside the country. Every time I contacted people in the media sector, they asked which TV or radio station I did represent. The main and effective media in Afghanistan are extraordinarily oral. By "extraordinarily," however, I am admitting the same condition for other nations, but pose much higher level of being oral for Afghanistan media and culture.

In this context, there are so many articles and programs about Afghanistan media. Yet, few proceed to conduct an academic, extensive and impartial study to give a clear picture of what is going on inside the media sector of Afghanistan. Therefore, the Afghanistan Media Assessment report could be the most reliable study on the Afghanistan media, since publication of the Seraj al Akhbar, a hundred years ago. I can even think that sometimes Afghan authorities refer to this report when they make any decision on domestic media.

The study has been carried out in 2009 and 2010. The first author Eran Fraenkel is an expert and instructor in metrics and evaluation. The report claims he has done numerous works on broadcast media. His first co-author is Emrys Shoemaker who is a strategic and development communications specialist. He has worked with various government and United Nations agencies, as well as with international and local nongovernmental organizations, throughout the Middle East. And, finally, the third author is Sheldon Himelfarb who is an associate vice president at USIP and executive director of the Center of Innovation for Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding. Though the report says that they are very experienced in their works, unfortunately, their profiles on the Internet are poor and their contacts are hardly found on the Internet. With some existing contact details, I tried to come in contact with them but either the contacts were not valid or they didn't respond to me. I also left voice message for the authors in Center of Innovation for Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, but got no response.

The reason for contacting authors and sponsor was that I wanted to get more details on how that work was carried out as it presently has some methodological problems and ambiguities, which I am going to describe.

The first problem for this study is sampling. The sampling is important, indeed, and when it comes to do research in Afghanistan, it even becomes even more important for any researcher to design a well-structured sampling strategy. This study does not provide any table of details on respondents. In a society like Afghanistan, different samples in different districts of a same city will answer differently and sometimes opposite. Presently and without these details, it is hard to review the methodology of the report.

Second problem is regarding the methodology for analyzing raw data, here, in-depth interviews. Did you just categorize them? Or you tried to design a frame within which the pieces come together to contribute in making the big picture? Here again, any judgment is almost impossible.

Third problem is regarding the local colleagues. In Afghanistan, there is a fragile agreement among ethnicities not to provoke each other. Yet, in this rivalry, few dare to stay impartial. People may be academicians, but at the same time, they are discursive soldiers of their ethnic of origin. In this sphere, foreign researchers will be seduced frequently by local colleague in order to benefit a certain group. When the foreign researchers are Westerners, it becomes even more important for local colleagues to win their hearts and minds. They know how texts are important in the West and how reports may affect policies which directly and indirectly affect ethnicities in Afghanistan. So, a small change in the team of fieldworkers, will culminate in totally different results.

The fourth problem also concerns local colleagues. The huge amount of work on this report was mainly carried out by Afghan colleagues. Where are their names? Ethically, all researchers' names should appear in the report. Yes, they have already been paid well, but, that is not enough.

The fifth problem with this work is lack of enough contextual knowledge regarding the object being studied: Afghanistan culture and media. There are many instances. I am bringing this one for your review:

Many respondents, both in and outside the media sector, indicated their own and wider public perception of Iran's negative impact on the Afghan media landscape. Iran's influence was said to range from financially supporting sympathetic Afghan media (described as "Shi'a" media), to opening cultural centers that distribute videos and other pro-Iranian materials, to sending Iranian broadcast and print materials to Afghans living in border zones (page 11).

Here the authors are unable to realize that most of the Iranian cultural influence in Afghanistan is not political. Historically, Iranians and Afghans share many cultural traits and as cultures have geographical continuity, with the help of new communication technologies, the exchanges have become accelerated. Another reason for zeal to Iranian cultural products is their value. With no doubt, Iranian cultural products are much closer to what is known as "high art," in comparison to Indian and Pakistani cultural products. So, the discipline defines how it receives in Afghanistan and by whom. The final reason for Iranian cultural influence in Afghanistan is Persian language. This is the main language of people in Afghanistan and people enjoy more from the programs which are produced with their language. Also, Persian language is very reach as it is the language of many elegant writers and poets.

Based on my experience, Iranian political system has a very ineffective presence in Afghanistan cultural sphere. When I was in Afghanistan, I could not find anyone who could tell me he had referred to Iranian cultural representation once.

Let us see another example for poor knowledge of social context:

Respondents remarked that educated Afghans, particularly those returning from voluntary or involuntary time abroad, often face hostility as purveyors of foreign ideas. Rather than being welcomed back to their communities with their educational accomplishments applauded, returnees often bear the label khariji (foreigner) (page 14).

Practically, Hazaras more than any other ethnic group in the society experience such discrimination. For other ethnicities, the situation is much better. As an example, Kabul University accepts many faculty members who spent most of their lives abroad, but in most of the cases rejects Hazaras.

The sixth problem is the value of the findings. Yes, a huge work was done. But, if an Afghan communication and media scholar was asked by the same question, he or she would have provide the same answers without any need to spend tens of thousands of dollars!

And finally, despite many shortcomings and problems, most of the claims and findings of the report are true, based on my knowledge of Afghanistan media and people. Authors should again thank their Afghan colleagues for doing such a good job. And Afghanistan should thank the author for doing such an extensive historical work. I hope the same study will be replicated soon, considering my points.


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