3 Tips for Reviewing Your Online Presence Before Applying for College


It shouldn’t be a big surprise to you to learn that some college and university officials will review your social media history or online presence before deciding if you should be offered a spot in an incoming class. Taking some time to review and possibly edit your online presence can pay off before you apply to college.

Start with a Regular Web Search
Go to Google, Bing and other major search engines and enter your name to see what results are returned. You may also want to do a search of your email address or your name in combination with your hometown or identifying criteria.

If you find anything questionable about you, figure out the source and see if you can have that information removed. Don’t limit your review to social media posts; check out dating sites, blogs and message boards for potentially inappropriate content you may have shared in the past.

If you have a common name:

  • You may need to dig through some clutter, but it is good to know what is out there under your name even if it’s not you.
  • It may be worth purchasing a custom Web domain with your name from a provider and setting up a basic website to point officials and others to your correct Web presence. You will want to provide that URL on applications so that officials can find the correct information about you.

Do a Clean Up of Your Social Media History
There is a good chance you’ve liked or shared at least one questionable post or image. Now is an ideal time to trim your social media history and delete posts and comments that could reflect negatively on you. A good starting point is anything that reflects poorly on your attitude toward school or work.

Go through your posts and edit out anything someone might find inappropriate or offensive. To do that, think about discussing the post with your grandma. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, it probably should be deleted. Then, check to see what others have posted to your profile or tagged you in. Could those be an issue? If so, either delete or ask your friends to untag you in those posts. Don’t forget to check for apps you use or things you have liked or followed. Also, remember that even if you delete some things now, it may take some time for them to truly disappear from the Internet.

Check Your Privacy Settings
If you leave your social media profiles open to the public, you are giving anyone access to see information about you. Consider make your profile private so that only those you give permission to can see what you post. Friends may still tag you in posts, though, so keep a close watch on those or change your settings to require your permission before the posts are visible on your profile. The more restricted your privacy settings, the less likely anyone is to come across information about you on the Internet.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Simplify the College Application Process

The time has come to apply to college. But which college? How many colleges? What is helping you narrow down your list? What’s your essay about? Who’s writing your letters of recommendation?


Deciding which colleges to apply to can be overwhelming; it’s the first round of real cuts to your list of prospective colleges and you’re really starting to make some decisions about your future.

Here are some things to consider to make the process a little easier.

Be prepared.
The most important thing is to have a solid story to tell to your admission application reviewers. This includes a history of good grades, challenging classes and involvement in a variety of activities. Find a way to work your volunteer and leadership experiences and your achievements into your application and your essay.

Understand the process.
Each school will have their own process. Some schools will require essays and letters of recommendation and others won’t. Review the process detail by detail for each school BEFORE you begin the application. Get everything each school requires together and then work your way through the application process. Having a check list for each school will ensure that you don’t make any mistakes or miss a section of the application — this can be especially helpful when applying to multiple schools. Organization and a checklist are the key here.

Write an original essay.
Your essay, if required, is the window into who you are and what you have to offer. Even if the school provides the topic for the essay, make sure what you write is completely original to you. You want your essay to be creative and well-thought-out. Consider outlining your topic and major talking points before writing. And edit, always review and edit. The admission essay is not the place to turn in a first draft. Once you’ve gone over your essay have someone review it for you. An outside opinion can go a long way to help you reach the thought or angle you were searching for.

Letters of recommendation.
Ask a variety of adults to provide letters of recommendation such as teachers, counselors, coaches, and community members. When you ask someone to write you a letter, be sure to give them some parameters on the letter and some background, such as your activity resume. This enables them to write about you from multiple angles, not just the one area they are familiar.

Be enthusiastic.
As the prospective student, when you talk to anyone from the college you should be the one doing most of the talking. Don’t let mom and dad do all the talking or it may seem like they are more interested in the school than you are. Put forth the effort to show you really want to attend and you are really interested in the campus life. This kind of effort is one of the factors that can move an applicant from ‘potential’ to an ‘admitted’ status.

The Interview.
Not all schools will require an interview, but some might. The same advice holds true for an interview as it does for the essay. Be yourself, be enthusiastic, and make sure they remember you. Make a good impression with the admissions team. Dress nicely, sit up and have good posture, make eye contact with everyone while you’re answering questions and give a good, firm handshake when you arrive and when you leave. All of these personal communication skills are part of making a good impression. If you feel you struggle or get nervous at the thought of an interview, practice, practice, and practice. Get in front of a mirror, practice with family members or do a mock interview at school with your counselor.

The application process can be intimidating, but it becomes less so the more prepared you are. Do your research and take your time through each school’s process. Before you know it you’ll be reading acceptance letters.

If you have any doubts or troubles along the way visit www.ICANsucceed.org for additional tips on college planning.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

They’re Accepted. Now What?


After students make their final college choice, parents’ emotions often fluctuate widely and frequently. There may be sadness that their child will soon leave, pride over the child’s growth and independence, worry over his or her ability to act responsibly, anxiety about completing the required enrollment steps and excitement over the freedom the parents themselves will experience.

However you feel about your student’s imminent college enrollment, you can be his or her biggest support system.

Make sure your student knows what to do when and how.
Your student will need to return his or her acceptance of admission and possibly acceptance of financial aid, sign up for orientation, submit deposits for tuition and housing, and submit transcripts and other documents. More and more, students are able to create an online account on the school’s website and do this electronically.

You can help by keeping dates from the admissions or acceptance packet where they can be easily seen and referenced by you both, whether that is on the refrigerator, a family calendar or bulletin board, an electronic calendar or over the bathroom mirror.

Be ready to validate the decision.
Your student may suddenly question whether he or she made the right choice. Be prepared to provide reminders about why he or she chose the school as well as your faith in his or her ability to thrive at this school. Ask your student to keep an open mind; sometimes the very thing he or she is most worried about — roommates, difficult classes, distance from home — turn out to be either no big deal or the best thing about college. Sometimes it may also help to remind your child that if the school just doesn’t work out after a semester or a year, transferring is very common and easy to do.

Have “the” talk (about finances).
Now that the final decision has been made and you know the first year’s cost and financial aid your student has been awarded, map out finances for the rest of your student’s college career. Expect tuition and fees to increase each year. Consider which scholarships and grants will be renewed and which will only be renewed based on certain conditions, such as a minimum GPA. Think about whether your own income and ability to contribute will increase over that time. Help your student understand the total financial commitment and the options for reducing and repaying debt.

Get your own access.
Once your student has an online account set up, there may be an option to for him or her to designate you to view bills and payments, receive notifications and perform other limited functions. Maintaining your own account allows you to handle common transactions while leaving the responsibility of checking college mail, accessing class notes and information, and monitoring grades with your student.

Build your own support group.
Many schools offer parent and alumni organizations, which often have their own websites, social media groups, newsletters, events and programs. Look for these groups and sign up. This is your chance to get other parents’ perspective and connect with others who are facing the same experience.

Encourage independence.
Your child will soon be doing laundry, making big and small financial decisions, responsible for class attendance and studying, making doctor’s appointments and filling prescriptions, and a host of other tasks independently. Make a list of common activities and help your student check each off between now and the day he or she leaves for college.

Help, but don’t do.
Just as you could only help your child learn to ride a bike, not do it for him or her, now is a time to provide assistance without actually performing tasks for your student. Be the guiding hand as your student finds balance and begins to gain momentum on his or her own.

By: Iowa Student Loan

How to Handle Multiple Acceptance Letters

Sometimes the most nerve-wracking part of the entire college admissions process is making the final decision. If you received admission or acceptance offers from more than one of your top choices, these tips can help you choose.

MultipleAcceptLetters_infographicDownload a PDF of this infographic.

  1. Be sure you know how soon you need to make a commitment by comparing dates provided in your admissions packet. (Most colleges and universities give you until May 1 to respond.) If you were admitted and met entrance requirements, you may have some time yet to consider your final choice before you miss the first deadline.
  1. Rank your options. Order your choices based on how well each school fits your needs.
  1. Get student perspectives. If you haven’t already, revisit campus and talk to students. Online resources — like social media, blog entries and comments, and reviews — are also great resources. You can learn a lot of helpful information from those who have been there.
  1. Delve into the nitty-gritty. Look up student retention rates to see if a high proportion of freshmen don’t stay in school; graduation rates for four, five and six years; and job placement rates after graduation. Freshmen do or don’t stay for myriad reasons, but an unusual proportion may indicate an issue you would also face.
  1. Look at your major specifically. How many students are in your major? Do they have trouble getting into the classes they need? Check out the list of required classes for your major and compare that to the number of sections available each semester in the school’s course catalog. Don’t forget to search for online reviews or comments specific to your intended major.
  1. Look at your bottom line. Your total cost to get through all your undergraduate years should be a major consideration. A good financial aid package may move your second or third choice up to the top spot. If a lack of financial aid is keeping you from choosing your favorite school, consider contacting the admissions office to let them know money is preventing you from accepting. If you’re a desirable candidate, they may be able to help with a little more financial aid, depending on their budget.
  1. Commit to one school. You should not agree to attend more than one school. Not only are you likely to lose at least one deposit, a school may rescind its offer if it finds out you are accepting additional offers. The only exception to this is if you are wait-listed at your No. 1 choice; in that case, you may decide to accept your second choice while you wait to hear. Just be sure you notify the second school immediately if you get in at your first choice.

By: Iowa Student Loan

4 Reasons to Apply to Multiple Colleges


Once you’ve visited colleges and narrowed down the list of schools you’re interesting in attending, it’s time to consider where you will apply. There is no right number when it comes to how many applications to complete — whether that be as few as three or as many as eight — but applying to multiple colleges is universally recommended for many reasons.

1. Applying for college has become much more competitive in the past two decades. Just because you meet a school’s minimum entrance criteria does not guarantee you an acceptance letter. Applying to multiple schools increases your chances of acceptance and good financial aid packages.

2. You should apply to the colleges you really want to attend as well as at least one safety school. Most experts recommend you apply to a couple of reach schools, several schools you feel are a great match for you academically and otherwise and a couple of safety schools.

Reach colleges are ones you may barely meet the minimum entrance criteria for or that are considered elite. Getting accepted at one of these colleges would be a stretch.
Match schools are ones where you solidly meet the entrance requirements and you feel you would fit in well. You may or may not get accepted at a match college based on the other students trying to earn a spot.
Safety colleges are those where you feel you definitely would be accepted based on their academic criteria and your test scores. There is nothing wrong with safety schools and, in fact, they may offer you a great financial aid package to get you to attend there.

3. It may make sense to apply to a number of colleges instead of just two or three. If you apply to the school of your dreams and one safety school that you’re not thrilled about, and you are not accepted in your first-choice college, what are you going to do? Attend the safety college that was just a backup in your mind? If you’re not sure where you stand academically (maybe you earn good grades but attend a large high school where it’s difficult to figure out where you truly rank), applying to six or seven colleges with varying entrance criteria and different student body numbers may give you multiple options to determine best fit, which may even surprise you. But, also keep in mind that most college applications come with fees. Applying to schools you know you don’t meet basic entrance criteria can cost you unnecessary cash. Save that money and put it toward costs at a college where you can get accepted.

4. Costs may play a big role in your final choice. If you apply only to schools you think you can afford based on the “sticker price,” you may miss out on colleges that offer great financial aid packages. Be sure to review the overall costs and factor in financial aid packages and scholarship options. You can use tools like a net price calculator online to figure your actual costs.

By: Iowa Student Loan

9 Things to Do After You Apply to College

The college applications are in. Now what? While you wait to hear if you’ve been accepted, try out these tips.


Check for questions and information. Once you submit your application, the school will use the information you provided to get in touch with you. If you set up an online account, log in at least a few times a week. You may want to check your email and voicemail every day.

Be a friend. Like, friend or follow the college on social media, websites and blogs to receive updates and further determine if it’s the right fit. Don’t forget about pages or sites for the admissions office, particular departments or majors you’re considering, and parent and family groups.

Send updates as needed. If anything has changed since you submitted your application, make sure the schools receive updated documentation of new grades, college entrance test scores, honors or special achievements.

Revisit campuses. Going back for a second visit now lets you avoid the crowd of other seniors who wait to receive acceptance letters before visiting. It may also help you realize whether or not you really want to attend a particular school.

Perform a gut-check. Remind yourself why you like each of the schools you applied to so you’ll be ready to make an informed decision when you receive acceptance letters.

Work ahead. Start filling out any scholarship and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications so you’ll be ready as soon as you know which colleges accepted you and which one you’ll attend.

Say “thank you.” Thank everyone who took the time to write a recommendation or helped you complete the application process in some way. A personal note is best in most cases.

Remain calm. If you receive notice that you’ve been wait-listed for one of your top choices, don’t panic. First, decide if you want to stay on the waitlist. If you do, return confirmation as soon as you possibly can. Find out what your odds are of being accepted from the admissions office, if they’ll tell you. You may have to accept another school, and then plan to change or transfer later.

Enjoy your senior year. Immerse yourself in the experience of your last year of high school. For better or worse, your connections to your friends, teachers, high school and community will change soon. Now that you’ve taken care of a lot of your college planning, you can relax and enjoy this year.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Six Things to Know Before You Apply to College

Once you have decided on your top college choices, it’s time to start the application process. Here’s what to know:


1. Know the types of applications and the deadlines for each
Many colleges and universities allow you to apply early, either with or without a commitment on your end. Know if the school offers early action, early decision, rolling admission or other types of applications and what you need to complete when.

2. Allow enough time
Will you need to complete a personal essay as part of the application process? Does the college require an admissions interview? Plan to complete each step in plenty of time to meet deadlines.

3. Understand yourself
Be prepared to explain your previous activities and academic achievements, as well as your goals and your motivations. Articulate what makes you different than everyone else, and make sure you focus on that uniqueness in essays or interviews. Also think about why each of the colleges on your list is a good fit for you.

4. Consider your online activity.
Some colleges may look up your social media profiles and pages. Make sure they don’t have a reason to discount your application because of what you’ve posted online. If your personal email address isn’t professional, create a new one that is.

5. Complete essays ahead of time
If you need to submit an essay online, have it written and saved beforehand, so you can copy and paste it into the application. This way, you won’t need to begin again if you experience technical problems, and you have a backup copy if needed.

6. Stay in touch
You should receive some confirmation that the college has received your application. If you don’t, reach out to the admissions office. Admissions representatives are also available if you have questions or need help completing the application process. Just make sure you contact the school; don’t ask your parents to do it on your behalf.

By: Iowa Student Loan

7 Tips for a Strong Admissions Essay

Standard college applications, SAT or ACT tests and your current transcripts are straightforward ways college admissions officers judge if you would fit in well on campus and whether or not to offer you a spot.


The other element is your admission essay, if the colleges you are applying to require one. With it, you have a chance to show these officers that you are more than your grades and test scores. Make your essay shine with these tips.

1. Choose a topic you’re passionate about. Whether you’re asked to answer a question, focus on a specific topic or allowed to write anything you want, if your essay is about something important to you, your writing is likely to be better than if you don’t care about the subject. Try to find a way to make the essay about your life’s passions, and bring that topic to life.

2. Start strong. You want to engage the person reading your essay as quickly as possible because he or she probably has hundreds more to read. Begin with an amusing or vivid anecdote that fits your essay or focus on a compelling introduction to capture the reader’s attention.

3. Stay focused. Spend time brainstorming what you want to say before you start writing and determine the main message you want to convey. Once you’ve written your essay, review it several times and look for places where you might have strayed from your message. If you have time, don’t look at your essay for several days so that you can take a fresh look to find ways to improve and keep the message on track.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. Overcoming challenges or weaknesses in life is a wonderful thing, but more than likely the college admission officers have read plenty of essays like that. Plus, you don’t want to draw attention to anything that may diminish you in their eyes.

5. Try to look at your essay from the college’s point of view. After you’ve written your essay, try to look at it from a different perspective. Imagine that you’re an admissions officer and ask yourself what you think of the essay. Is it unique, engaging and error-free?

6. Skip the big words. It’s a smart thing to use adjectives to help your essay come to life, but you don’t want it to be obvious that you went for the $25 word in the thesaurus. When it comes to verbs; choose ones with meaning. “I picked the crimson rose blooming in the garden” provides depth without being both vague and fussy, unlike “I got the rubicund rose from the garden.”

7. Give yourself plenty of time. It’s best to avoid rushing through the essay process. Brainstorm a lot (over a couple of days up to a week or more) before starting to write, be sure to review several times and leave plenty of time for a parent or other adult to review your final piece for any typos or other errors.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Beyond the Basics

When choosing a college or university, you may benefit from asking more than the standard questions. Since you and your family will be paying for you to attend college, asking in-depth questions now can help you make a good investment in your future.


Your success in — and after — college depends a lot on your commitment to your education and to graduating. A college that is invested in your success will offer you the support you need.

Seek Out Specifics

Most colleges offer information upfront about their:

  • Overall graduation rate.
  • Post-education job placement rate.
  • Students’ average debt upon graduating.

This information provides a good overview, but once a college makes your short list, you can seek out more specific details. Ask about students who are similar to you (e.g., you sex, race, choice of major and if you are a first-generation college student.) when it comes to these rates and numbers. You might want to ask about the school’s retention rate, or even better, your chosen department’s retention rate.

Your choice of major and the type of school you plan to earn that degree from are also important factors. Are you planning to major in a liberal arts field at a university? What would be different if you attended a liberal arts college instead of a university? What if you’re hoping to earn an engineering degree at a private college? Will your opportunities be the same there as they would be at a large university?

If you know what you plan to major in or have a general idea of what you’d like to study, find out more about that academic department and its class offerings.

  • Research other schools with strong reputations in your major to see how they stack up with the colleges you’re looking at.
  • Find out how many faculty members have advanced degrees or relevant experience in your major and how many undergraduate classes they teach each semester. Do an online search for articles and research that individual professors have published.
  • Check out the course catalog to see how many classes are offered for your major, if the options wide-ranging and whether you pick out both comprehensive classes and more in-depth classes that focus on a specific topic.

Check Out Career Services Offerings and Internship Opportunities

A college that is really invested in your success will have integrated internship opportunities and career services offerings.

At the career services office:

  • Is there more than simply job posting and resume writing assistance?
  • Does the staff work with you to ensure your classes are also benefiting your future job prospects?
  • Do you see opportunities for part-time work during the school year or during summer breaks that will help you build a strong resume for your future career, not simply pay your bills?

When it comes to internships:

  • Does the career services office have information about a variety of internships and the process for obtaining an internship?
  • Does your major department offer internships or work with businesses to find internships for students?
  • Does the college put a significant emphasis on students taking on internships or is the general message more hands off?

By: Iowa Student Loan