Before the Next Big Step: What to Do After Graduation

It may seem like everyone else has it all figured out, and you are undoubtedly tired of the question “What will you do after graduation?” But, if your plans are not yet set as the big ceremony approaches, be assured you are not the first or last to be in this situation.

Whether you’re a new high school grad who isn’t sure about college or you’ve finished a college degree but haven’t been able to land the job you want, here are some suggestions for what to do until you’re able to take the next big step:

Keep Working Toward Your Goals
Don’t let inertia or rejection take over your attitude. Continue working on ways to improve your chances of getting the job you want or being admitted to your desired college.

  • Continue to send out resumes or explore education options.
  • Work on your soft skills, like communication techniques, teamwork, initiative and creative thinking.
  • Review your resume and practice interviews with a professional.
  • Clean up social media accounts.

Volunteer
Opportunities abound to provide service to those who need it. Check out volunteer options that help you expand your horizons and suit your interests. Many volunteer opportunity and matching sites are available online, including:

  • Createthegood.org
  • Dosomething.org
  • Unitedway.org
  • Volunteer.gov
  • Volunteermatch.org

Work
You may have student loans to repay or other expenses, so consider working even if you haven’t found an ideal job. You can:

  • Work one or more part-time jobs that provide skills related to your career choice.
  • Try out a type of career you haven’t previously considered.
  • Provide freelance or consulting services in a field you have knowledge in.
  • Start your own company.
  • Teach something you have a passion for, such as yoga, skiing or beginning coding.

Take a Short-Term Position
Although many opportunities are designed strictly for current college students, you may be able to find paid or unpaid positions.

  • Find an internship related to your degree or in a completely different field you’d like to try out.
  • Apprenticeships may be available to recent college graduates and can offer a good chance to break into a specific job market.
  • Research assistantships are available in both scientific and non-scientific fields.

Travel
This may be your best opportunity to explore the country and the world, before you are committed to a full-time job, settle down with a partner and children, and have social and financial obligations that would prevent it.

  • Work abroad as a nanny, an English teacher or in another capacity.
  • Get a job on a cruise ship or train as an airline attendant.
  • Join a program like Peace Corps, Americorps, GoAbroad or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
  • Become a tourist or adventure guide.

Get a Degree
Even if you’ve already earned a college degree, you may want to continue your education if you have the funds and time.

  • Retrain in a different major or field.
  • Take continuing education classes.
  • Go back to school to get an advanced degree.

Have an Adventure
Like travel, an adventure may be best experienced while you don’t have too many other obligations. Options are limited only by your imagination and come with varying levels of risk and financial commitment.

  • Fix up a house.
  • Audition for a reality show.
  • Take a commercial fishing job.
  • Become a roadie for a band on tour.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Iowa Families Can Win Cash for Educational Expenses – Register by May 11

Iowa high school students and their families can enter weekly drawings for two $250 awards, and Iowa high school seniors can enter a grand prize drawing for two $1,500 awards by completing a free online tool that helps them estimate the total cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Learn more and enter the giveaway today!

Iowa high school students, and their parents or guardians, can enter their information for the drawings after completing the College Funding Forecaster until May 11. The free online tool provided by Iowa Student Loan uses information from students’ freshman year financial aid award packets, as well as outside scholarships and grants and family savings and earnings, to project estimated costs, funding gaps and potential student loan debt over four years.

“We want to help families make the connection between first-year costs and the total financial investment in a college education,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “This tool helps them see how their costs might increase, what happens when one-year scholarship awards are exhausted, and how the family and student contributions can play a role in reducing overall costs.”

The tool allows families to customize both expenses and available funding to adjust results for changes in students’ situations over the four years. The results show yearly and total estimated costs of attendance, available funding and projected funding gaps. The tool also provides informational tips on how to reduce costs and potential debt.

After viewing their results, users have the opportunity to enter the drawings. Two names will be drawn each week to receive $250 awards for educational expenses. In a grand prize drawing, two names will also be drawn to each receive $1,500 for the students’ college expenses in fall 2017. The grand prizes will be paid directly to the students’ colleges.

For details and complete rules for the giveaway, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Giveaway. Or, to begin the College Funding Forecaster and enter the giveaway, go to www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.

By: Iowa Student Loan

The Graduation Checklist for Parents

This milestone for your student can mean a lot of work for you. Use this checklist to bring some order to the chaos.

□ Work with your student to be sure they’ve completed the administrative steps to officially graduate.

  • Remind your student to follow through on these tips for college students and high school graduates.
  • Your student should receive information on how and where to obtain a cap and gown—along with any special stoles, pins, tassels or regalia—for the ceremony.

□ Consider mementos of the occasion.

  • Your student will have the opportunity to order class rings, yearbooks and other products to mark this important milestone. Check for deadlines.
  • Graduation is also a good opportunity for family and individual photos. Many photographers specialize in senior portraits.

□ Make any reservations required.

  • If you will be traveling to a college graduation, you may find that hotel rooms and transportation options are booked quickly and up to a year in advance.
  • Graduation party venues may also become scarce depending on location and number of other graduates on your desired date.
  • If you will order baked goods, catering, tents or other services, be sure to start that process early.

□ Invite friends and family to the party.

  • Work with your student to plan a celebration everyone will enjoy.
  • If guests ask what they can gift to your high school graduate, consider suggesting contributions to a college saving account or a gift card that can be used for textbooks and materials.
  • Don’t forget to have thank-you cards on hand for your student to send shortly after the celebration.

□ Start planning the move.

  • Whether your college student is moving to a new job or returning home for a while, he or she may need assistance. See our moving checklist for college graduates.
  • As your high school graduate prepares to move to campus, keep a copy of the college’s suggested packing list handy. Also see some items you may want to take care of before fall term begins.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Thirty Students Receive $2,000 College Scholarship

High school seniors earned the scholarship after demonstrating financial know-how.

High school seniors from across the state of Iowa earned $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills through the 2017–2018 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship sponsored by Iowa Student Loan.

“The financial tips I learned through this process will help me throughout my college years and into my future career.” ―Sadie Brockett, a senior at Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

More than 4,000 Iowa high school seniors registered for the scholarship between October 2017 and February 2018. Of those, nearly 2,000 completed two online financial literacy tools and a related assessment to qualify for one of 30 college scholarships. More than 70 students tied for a top score on the assessment. The 30 recipients were those who received the highest scores on an independently judged essay on what “responsible borrowing” meant to them.

Christine Hensley, Iowa Student Loan board chair, said that the Student Loan Game Plansm and ROCI Reality Check tools, which participants are required to experience to qualify for the scholarship are designed to help students and families avoid the pitfalls of heavy student loan debt.

“Student loan debt must be carefully considered to be manageable later in life,” said Hensley. “The components to qualify for this scholarship help our state’s students understand the impact that student loan debt can have, and we’re pleased that so many high school seniors are exposed to these important lessons through the scholarship process.”

“The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge allowed me to expand upon what my high school has already taught me about college spending. I now understand specifically my college expenses and career outlook.” ―Regan Sylvester, a senior at Sioux Central High School.

Each recipient’s high school will also receive a $500 award to improve or implement financial literacy and scholarship programs.

Details are not yet finalized for the 2018–2019 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship. Interested families should watch for information about the program at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

Scholarship Recipients
The following students each earned a $2,000 scholarship. Iowa Student Loan will send scholarship funds directly to recipients’ colleges.

Student Name Student High School Student Name Student High School
Ote Albrecht Le Mars Timber Kent Clarke
Sydney Alt Lone Tree Ashley Koos Marquette Catholic
Heather Baier Southeast Polk Carrington Kuehl Indianola
Ryan Bonthius Regina Grant Meiners Carroll
Sadie Brockett Gladbrook-Reinbeck Jeffrey Morische Osage
Zachary Calvert Dowling Catholic Josh Pulse Pleasantville
Emma Carlson Des Moines Christian Megan Rex Oelwein
Matthew Current Clinton Elly Schuemann Linn-Mar
Jacee De Vries West Lyon Rebecca Sharpe Norwalk
Katelyn Finnegan St. Edmond Robyn Stillmunkes Bellevue
Morgan Fritz Lake Mills Regan Sylvester Sioux Central
Maci Gambell Pekin Shawn Thacker West (Iowa City)
Megan Grimm Prairie Luke Thompson Okoboji
Kayla Hospodarsky Alburnett Ethan Trepka West (Iowa City)
Alyssa Jaeger Springville Allison Zelle Linn-Mar

By: Iowa Student Loan

Student Loan Pro Tip: First Year Salary (Video)

Borrowing more than you can comfortably afford to pay back is setting yourself up for a difficult financial future. A simple rule to follow is not to borrow more to pay for college than your expected first year salary.

To learn more about student loans and avoiding debt, check out our Smart Borrowing resources: http://www.iowastudentloan.org/smartborrowing.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Checklist for College Prep

With your student’s final year of high school winding down, the list of things to do may seem limitless. One way to help manage the stress and emotions of the final months before your child goes off to college is to make an organized checklist.

Here are some items to include for each month between now and the start of freshman year of college:

March

□ If your student hasn’t made a final college decision, visit or revisit those that have offered acceptance and your student is still considering.

  • Use these trips to help your student envision what it would be like to attend each school and decide if it’s a good fit.
  • You may wish to help your student set up visits to specific departments or programs or to sit in classes.

□ Compare financial aid offers from the schools that remain on the list. Your student can contact a school’s financial aid office with any questions about the aid offered.

April

□ Work with your student to make a final college selection by the end of the month, as many colleges require a commitment by May 1.

  • Your student should notify the chosen school and make any required deposits.
  • Check for specific forms or actions that need to be completed, and add deadlines to your calendar.
  • Your student should also notify other schools that he or she will not attend and send a thank-you for any special assistance or offers.

□ Help your student understand the full cost of attending college.

  • Have a family conversation about what you will and won’t help with financially.
  • Encourage your student to continue looking for scholarships that can help defray the cost of attendance. You may wish to investigate how the college will apply any outside scholarships to aid already awarded, such as whether outside scholarships would replace institutional scholarships from the college or offset student loans.

□ Help your student set reminders for requesting final transcripts.

  • The high school counseling office may have required forms or processes for this.
  • Check on whether the student needs to make a separate request for transcripts for any college courses already completed, such as dual enrollment classes.

□ Check personal IDs and documents.

  • Have your student renew his or her driver’s license or passport if necessary before going to college.
  • Consider TSA Precheck and Global Entry if your student will be flying frequently or expects to travel internationally.

□ Help your student finish strong.

  • Advanced Placement exams occur at the beginning of May. If your student is enrolled in AP classes, be sure to help them understand if a particular score is needed to obtain credit for courses at the selected college.
  • Encourage your student to try to achieve the best grades possible for second semester of senior year. Disciplinary or academic issues could result in a college rescinding acceptance or scholarships.

May

□ Review the college’s timeline for completing actions and submitting forms and deposits.

  • Your student may need to sign up for orientation to enroll in classes, select a residence hall or roommates, opt in or out of college-sponsored health insurance and take other action.
  • Work with your student to set up access to a student or parent portal offered by the college.
  • Determine whether the college requires a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) agreement to provide parents with information about a student.

□ Make a four-year plan for coursework.

  • If your student has decided on a major, look for an existing flowchart or plan of required and elective classes available from the school. If none is available, look at the requirements for the major and start to plan out possibilities based on class offerings from previous years’ course catalogs.
  • Even if your student is undecided, you can look together for interesting entry-level classes, prerequisites for a particular academic college and graduation requirements to create a one- to two-year plan.

□ Plan needed transportation and accommodations.

  • Many college towns have limited hotel availability, especially on popular weekends for move-in, parent weekends, breaks and move-out.
  • Watch for deals on airfare, hotels and other accommodations and venues.

June

□ Work on life skills with your student.

  • Ensure your student can carry out the functions of everyday college life, such as waking up on time for early classes, doing laundry, arranging transportation, making appointments and preparing simple meals.
  • Discuss how your student will obtain money, such as from a job or from you, and access it for transactions. Many students use combinations of a credit or debit card, payment apps like Venmo or PayPay, cash withdrawals, and other forms of payment.

□ Encourage contact with future roommates.

  • Whether your student selected or was assigned a roommate, it can be helpful for people who will be sharing a small space for an extended time to have some preliminary conversations about preferences, habits, who is bringing what and any special needs.
  • You may want to encourage a meeting before move-in if the roommate lives nearby or can arrange to attend the same orientation session as your student.

□ Develop a network.

  • The college your child will attend may have parent associations, alumni groups or other organizations you can join.
  • Look for groups on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. These groups can be a forum for information and support now and throughout college.

July

□ Start exploring the college community with your student.

  • You may wish to find activities to participate in for future visits.
  • Your student may want to investigate student organizations, community service opportunities, events and activities as well.

□ Shop for books and supplies.

  • As soon as the class schedule is finalized, your student can start looking for assigned books. Encourage comparison shopping between the college bookstore, other bookstores and online sites. Also compare rentals to used and new purchases, and compare downloads and ebooks to printed materials.
  • Be aware that many college courses also require an electronic access code, which may not be included with used, rented or electronic versions.
  • Determine what dorm furnishings and supplies are needed and start shopping for those.

□ Talk to your student about common college student issues and how to get help.

  • You may wish to talk about drug and alcohol use, as well as other behaviors.
  • College students often face academic issues when entering college, even if they were excellent high school students. Discuss the advantages and availability of professor office hours, study groups, teaching assistants, help centers, tutoring and other resources.
  • Mental health can often be a concern for college students as well. Most campuses offer counseling and other services; encourage your student to be aware of how to reach out.
  • Your student may have specific physical, dietary, emotional or other needs. If you are unsure about the help available, contact student services or admissions for direction.

□ Consider dorm or renters insurance for lost, damaged or stolen valuable items like laptops, cell phones, bikes and other assets. Homeowners insurance may cover some losses for your student, but an inexpensive dorm policy from a specialized provider may be an option if you have a high deductible.

August

□ Make a communication plan.

  • Sometimes it’s helpful for the parents and the student to know when they will next speak to each other after the move.
  • You may want to set up a regular time and day for a video or phone chat.

□ Get ready for the big move. Be prepared for emotions to run high as your student faces a new situation and leaving behind familiar friends and family.

By: Iowa Student Loan

PLUS Loan Basics: What You Need to Know

The federal Direct PLUS Loan for parents is a common option for families who need more money to pay the full cost of college. It’s often included in colleges’ financial aid award packets to make up the difference between other types of aid and the cost of attendance but, like student loans, you are not required to accept a PLUS Loan.

Before taking out a PLUS Loan, carefully consider its features, benefits and drawbacks.

Features

  • Availability: The PLUS Loan is available to biological and adoptive parents, and in some cases stepparents, who do not have adverse credit history.
  • Limits: A parent can borrow up to the cost of attendance amount determined by the student’s school minus other financial assistance received by the student.
  • Interest Rate: The PLUS Loan has a fixed interest rate, currently at 7.00% for the 2017–2018 school year. The rate for the 2018–2019 year will be set on July 1.
  • Fees: An additional loan fee is calculated as a percentage of the loan amount (currently 4.264% for disbursements on or before Sept. 30, 2018) and is deducted from each disbursement.
  • Repayment: Borrowers may choose from federal repayment plans to repay the loan over 10 to 25 years. Repayment generally begins as soon as the loan is disbursed, but you may defer the payments while the student is enrolled at least half time plus an additional six months.

Benefits

  • Cash flow: Obtaining a PLUS Loan before a college bill is due allows some parents to pay for the entire term without financing fees or late penalties and then make payments on the loan as cash becomes available during the term.
  • Pre- and overpayment: Some parents choose to make extra payments without penalty to pay down PLUS Loans more quickly and to lessen the impact of interest.
  • Federal repayment options: You may choose from among federal repayment plans (not all are available for PLUS Loans). PLUS Loan servicers also offer deferment and forbearance options if you have difficulty making payments, but be aware that interest continues to accrue daily even when payments are not required and unpaid, accumulated interest will be capitalized, or added to the loan balance at the end of the deferment or forbearance period.
  • Death and disability: The loan can be discharged if the parent borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled. In addition, the loan can be discharged if the student dies.
  • Cancellation: If already taken out, you can cancel all or part of the amount before the loan is disbursed. After disbursement you have a little time to cancel all or part by contacting the school financial aid office.

Drawbacks

  • Discharge: Federal PLUS Loans are rarely discharged for financial difficulties resulting from unemployment, age-related or other illnesses and injuries, or bankruptcy.
  • Nontransferable: You cannot transfer the PLUS Loan to your student to repay after your student finishes school. You and your student may be able to work together to refinance the loan in the student’s name through a private lender; doing so will result in the loss of federal repayment options.
  • Timing: Many parents face repayment of heavy loan debt burdens at a time of life when earning power generally decreases and limited income is needed for living or medical expenses. Default on a PLUS Loan can lead to the garnishment of Social Security benefits, tax refunds and wages.

Other Considerations
The following items could be considered a drawback or a benefit, depending on personal and other circumstances.

  • Qualification: Approval for a PLUS Loan does not take into consideration income, other outstanding debt, assets, income or years to retirement, so consider carefully how much you will realistically be able to repay.
  • Interest: The fixed interest rate will not increase during the life of the loan, but you won’t be able to take advantage of lower market rates in the future.

Before taking on a PLUS Loan, you should also compare it to other options, such as our College Family Loan.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Iowa Families Can Win Cash for Educational Expenses

Iowa high school students and their families can enter weekly drawings for two $250 awards, and Iowa high school seniors can enter a grand prize drawing for two $1,500 awards by completing a free online tool that helps them estimate the total cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Learn more and enter the giveaway today!

Iowa high school students, and their parents or guardians, can enter their information for the drawings after completing the College Funding Forecaster until May 11. The free online tool provided by Iowa Student Loan uses information from students’ freshman year financial aid award packets, as well as outside scholarships and grants and family savings and earnings, to project estimated costs, funding gaps and potential student loan debt over four years.

“We want to help families make the connection between first-year costs and the total financial investment in a college education,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “This tool helps them see how their costs might increase, what happens when one-year scholarship awards are exhausted, and how the family and student contributions can play a role in reducing overall costs.”

The tool allows families to customize both expenses and available funding to adjust results for changes in students’ situations over the four years. The results show yearly and total estimated costs of attendance, available funding and projected funding gaps. The tool also provides informational tips on how to reduce costs and potential debt.

After viewing their results, users have the opportunity to enter the drawings. Two names will be drawn each week to receive $250 awards for educational expenses. In a grand prize drawing, two names will also be drawn to each receive $1,500 for the students’ college expenses in fall 2017. The grand prizes will be paid directly to the students’ colleges.

For details and complete rules for the giveaway, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Giveaway. Or, to begin the College Funding Forecaster and enter the giveaway, go to www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.

By: Iowa Student Loan

10 Budget Tips for Spring Break (Infographic)

Download Infographic as a PDF.

Spring break can mean fun, sun and no worries, unless you blow your budget. Use these tips to help you stay on track during break and save your money for your education.

1. Plan ahead.

Start scouting for sales and less-expensive options early. Check out flights, hotels, destinations and activities so you don’t pay more for last-minute decisions. Read reviews of the activities or venues you want to include to see if they’re worth the cost. Also, pack everything you’re likely to need to avoid tourist prices on sunscreen, sunglasses, raingear, chargers and attire.

2. Take a cheaper flight.

Airfare is expensive, especially during high traffic times like spring break. But you can save some money by flying discount airlines, at off-peak times and days, non-direct and through alternate airports. In addition, check to see whether you can save by sitting separately from your companions and avoiding baggage fees.

3. Drive or ride instead of flying.

Buses and trains may get you where you want to go at a big savings. Or, get together with friends to share a road trip to your destination. These may take longer than flying but can be as much fun as the destination.

4. Take the road less traveled.

The beaches of the eastern seaboard are often less crowded than those of Florida, Mexico or Texas during spring break and can offer savings. Maybe this is the ideal time for you to explore the mountains or the desert and avoid the party scene.

5. Stay for less.

Apps and sites like Airbnb, VRBO and hostels.com can point you to less expensive lodging wherever you decide to go. Consider camping if you’re driving—government-owned sites are often least expensive, and you can even rent camping gear. To spend even less, stay with someone you know. Check out options for your final destination and lodging along the way.

6. Save on activities.

Look for discounts before you go through memberships like Costco and AAA, as well as apps like RoadTrippers, Groupon and Living Social. Also, an Internet search may turn up promotional codes you can use when you book. Once you arrive, some places may offer a discount if you show your student ID, and look for coupon books in the lobbies of hotels.

7. Save on food.

Depending on how you’re traveling, it may make sense to stock up on food for meals and snacks as well as beverages before you leave. If you’re flying, look for discount chains once you arrive. Preparing your own food will save on high restaurant and venue costs. See more tips for budget dining on spring break. <link to other post>

8. Avoid impulse buying.

It’s tempting to pick up a memento of your trip or to indulge yourself. Think about whether that coconut mug or t-shirt will get any use when you get back, or if the signature drink is worth the cost. Set a budget for each day and stick to it. You could even only bring the amount of cash you want to spend with you, leaving your credit card and extra cash in the hotel safe.

9. Use your legs.

Instead of renting a car, taking cabs or using Uber, consider renting a bike or simply walking where you need to go at your destination.

10. Stay out of trouble.

Avoid large fines and penalties by knowing and abiding by the laws at your destination, including those for driving, consuming alcoholic beverages and noise.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Minimize Your Student Loan Debt: Declining Awarded Student Loans

Colleges sometimes include the maximum available federal student and parent loans on financial aid award letters to bring the amount of awarded financial aid closer to the total cost of attendance. It’s not always clear that students don’t need to accept the full amount of all loans.

Reducing expenses or increasing earnings to offset awarded loans will mean less debt after graduation. Not only would the amount of the student loans need to be repaid, but so will interest that accrues daily on those loans. And, it won’t matter if college doesn’t result in graduation, a job or the anticipated earnings. Once the loan has been accepted, the student (or parents in the case of a federal PLUS Loan for parents) is responsible for repaying it.

If the awarded loan amount seems like more than the student will really need, it’s important to decide exactly how much to borrow.

Need some, but not all, of the awarded federal student loan amount? Students can always accept only the loan amount they need. To take a partial loan amount:

  • Fill in the desired loan amount on the document to be returned to the financial aid office if a paper copy needs to be signed and returned.
  • Choose the electronic option for accepting or declining each applicable loan, or for taking out a partial loan amount, when accepting financial aid online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to accept a partial award.

Can all loans be declined? Many students have the goal to attend college loan-free. Even if some loans will eventually be needed, declining all loans for one semester will save capitalized interest later on. To decline the offered loans:

  • Cross out the loan amount or select the “decline” option on the document to be returned to the financial aid office.
  • Choose the electronic option for declining each applicable loan if financial aid is accepted online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to decline loans.

Considering PLUS Loans? Although PLUS Loans may appear to be part of the awarded financial aid, they are not automatically paid to the student or institution. Parents need to request these loans. Your family may wish to compare the terms and benefits of a PLUS Loan with those, like our College Family Loan, offered by private lenders. These loans may have different fees or interest rates. Be sure to discuss repayment expectations as a family if parents will be responsible for repaying the PLUS or other loan debt.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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