Use Your Winter Break to Research and Apply for Summer Internships


During the long break from classes to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year, you’ll probably find you have some serious free time. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. Set aside some time during the break to research internship opportunities and complete or prepare applications.

Research First
The first week or two of break may be filled with catching up on sleep, getting in some good relaxation time in front of the TV and hanging out with friends and family. Once Jan. 1 arrives, though, you may want to start getting back into a routine that will also help when you return to classes.

Think about how much time you would have spent studying during a normal weekday. Start spending that amount of time searching online for internship opportunities, reviewing requirements and learning about companies offering internships. Start by thinking of companies that you would like to work at and searching for internships by key word descriptions to find business you may not have considered at first.

Research the companies you plan to apply with and keep a set of notes for each one. Having a list of things you like or admire about a company, along with a basic understand of what they do and how you might be able to help them, as reference points when you’re working on applications can help you stand out from others.

Schedule Time to Work on Applications
As you find internships that interest you, be sure to keep track of the company, what the application requirements are and what the application deadline is.

List deadlines in your calendar or planner and aim to send in applications early. Try to work backward by planning when you need to have reference letters in hand and your resume and cover letter completed and then block time off to complete those tasks.

Learn More
If businesses you’re interested in interning at are located in your home town or nearby, you may be able to schedule informational interviews or volunteer at one during winter break. Treat the experience purely as a learning opportunity and leave a positive and lasting impression with managers, employees and human resources. If those at the company are impressed with your attitude and abilities, you’ll likely move to the top of the list when it comes time to offer internships for the summer.

By: Iowa Student Loan


Five Advantages to Networking During Break


Use your time over the holiday break to boost your networking connections. Here’s why:

  1. You’ll see a wide variety of people. During the holidays, you’ll likely see relatives, family friends, neighbors, former classmates and previous employers, all of whom have their own circles of connections and acquaintances. Tell as many as you can about your career aspirations — you never know when the opportunity may arise for someone to put in a good word for you.
  1. Organizations have holiday parties too. Check out the websites and calendars for professional organizations in your career field. Many are happy to welcome interested students to their events, which creates a chance for you to meet and impress a large number of potential connections.
  1. You have an extended period of free time. If you’re not working, you may have time to job-shadow for a week or more, or even volunteer to complete a small project for one of the companies you’d eventually like to work for. This offers a potential employer the opportunity to see your skills while you provide a valuable service, and it allows you to make connections with the employer and staff (who may also recommend you to their own connections later).
  1. You have time to travel. With a stretch of two to four weeks away from school, you will have time to travel to a distant city or employer that appeals to you. Contact companies in your desired area and ask about opportunities for informational interviews, career exploration discussions and job-shadowing in your field.
  1. The pressure’s not on. Since you have time before graduation, making connections now provides plenty of opportunity to develop relationships without appearing to try to land a full-time job. Perhaps the professional you met at the neighborhood holiday party will become a mentor throughout your college years and early career, or maybe a potential employer you visit now will become an internship opportunity for next summer.

Networking Tips  

Before you head out to your first potential networking event, make sure you:

  • Have prepared a brief summary of your goals. Nail a casual yet professional 30-second networking speech about what you want to do and why.
  • Have contact cards and resumes on hand. Be ready if people ask if they can have a colleague or acquaintance contact you.
  • Set up your profile on LinkedIn and other social networks. Even if someone doesn’t seem interested right away, he or she may have occasion later to try to find out more about you.
  • Clean up your social media accounts. Your contacts and their connections may check you out before agreeing to an informational interview or calling you. Make sure they don’t have reason to call someone else instead.

And, always remember to say thank you, whether it’s for a person’s time, an introduction to someone else or a potential opportunity.

By: Iowa Student Loan

5 Ways to Engage Your College Student During the Holidays


The long winter break offers parents and college students an opportunity to reconnect and share thoughts on college life. It can also be a stressful time for both parents and their adult children, who are becoming more independent with each week at college.

Making supportive and timely efforts to learn about life at college can truly help you and your son or daughter communicate openly.

Here are some ideas for tackling five big topics.

Fall Grades

  • Keep in mind that college classes are more challenging than high school classes and your student’s grades may reflect that fact.
  • Once grades arrive, be sensitive to your student’s reaction and congratulate successes.
  • Unless there is a major issue with your student’s grades, wait for an invitation to discuss ways to improve study habits, time management and his or her use of campus resources.

Spring Classes

  • Check in with your student on upcoming classes without appearing to question his or her ability to manage college on his or her own. You can do this by asking which class or classes he or she is looking forward to next semester instead of asking if the classes will meet graduation requirements or wanting to see a class schedule.
  • If your student already has spring syllabuses, offer assistance in looking for books online before classes start.
  • Find out if he or she needs some quiet time to get a head start on any reading and help facilitate that by keeping younger siblings occupied or treating your student to a favorite meal away from the dinner table so he or she can keep studying.


  • Starting Jan. 1, you and your student can begin working on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for next year’s financial aid. Go online to, log in and begin entering any information from 2015 you already have. You can estimate tax information if you won’t be completing your taxes for a few months. Starting on this now helps prevent you and your student from having to deal with it long distance while classes are in session.
  • Working on FAFSA paperwork might provide a good opening to discuss your student’s budget. If overspending is an issue, ask if he or she has a plan to cut back on spending or if getting a part-time job might be necessary. Keep your student’s unique nature in mind and work with his or her preferences. If being in charge of his or her entire semester’s budget didn’t work, ask if your student would prefer to receive set amounts monthly to help with overspending. If there have been restrictions on how much money he or she can access at once, find out if your student is ready to be in control of more financial decisions through the next semester. Remember that students may make mistakes, and that it is part of learning.

Future Plans

  • Another important matter to talk about with your student while working on the FAFSA is his or her plans for the next academic year. For example, does your student want to live on campus or off next year?
  • Find out what interests your student has to open opportunities for discussing how you can help him or meet college goals. Is studying abroad an option? Does your student want to work part-time to earn extra spending money or gain experience or does volunteering pique his or her interest?

What can I do?
Ask if there is anything your student wants to talk to you about. Your student may not have an answer immediately, but knowing he or she can talk to you anytime may lead to future discussions.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Make the Most of Winter Break


Winter break is a good time to rest, relax, and recharge for the coming semester. And all that relaxation time can serve your future well, too.

Read, read, and read some more
Using winter break as a chance to read something fun and self-selected daily is a great way to keep your mind sharp without feeling like you’re still doing school work. Take a trip to the public library and see what’s on the recommended reading list, or check out what’s on some best book lists for the holidays.

Get Active
Relaxing doesn’t mean spending two weeks on the couch with a bag of chips; get out and get active. Visit your local recreation center or YMCA, check out a trampoline park or bundle up and get outdoors for a few hours. Fresh air and activities will boost your energy levels and keep you from becoming a permanent piece of the family room furniture.

Do Something Fun
Reach back into the recesses of your mind and remember how much fun winter break was when you were a kid; what were your favorite activities? Now, go do them. Sometimes the best way to relax and recharge is to have some good old-fashioned fun. Go sledding, build a snowman, get out that giant bucket of Legos stored in the basement and build something. Heck, get out every blanket in the house and build a fort to read in, just like when you were a kid.

In between rounds of snowball fights and reading hour, you should definitely use some of your time off to complete scholarship applications. While this activity may sound like the opposite of rest and relaxation, it will in fact make you feel a lot more relaxed to have some of those applications off your to-do list.

Another way to make yourself feel great is to volunteer some of your free time to a good cause. Look for opportunities at your local church, a community shelter or soup kitchen, or with a school group. Community service looks great on scholarship and admission applications, but more importantly you’ll be giving back to your community, helping those in need, and boosting your self-esteem in the process.

College Prep
For those that really want to make the most of your time off, there are a few more serious tasks you can tackle over break. Get a part-time job to increase your skills and increase the balance in your college savings account. Get in touch with someone in your desired field and setup a short-term internship or a job shadow. Spend a few days getting to know the ins and outs of your prospective career and make some connections. Networking is always useful and those connections could come in handy when you need a letter of recommendation or reference.

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.

Consider a Part-Time Job


Are you working while attending classes? If not, the extended winter break may be a good time to weigh the pros and cons of working part time or temporarily during the spring semester.

Why Work?
Working just five to 10 hours a week while attending college full time has many benefits:

  • The extra cash can help reduce your need to borrow for college costs.
  • A job, whether it’s in your intended career field or not, helps you obtain experience and build up your resume.
  • You will gain important time management skills by learning to balance your academic and work schedules.

It’s important to put academics first, but a job during your college years can really pay off if your schedule and classwork allow it.

Finding a Job
If you determine that you can handle the demands of a part-time job, you can start searching while on break.

  • Look for on-campus opportunities. You can use your college’s career services or job boards to see if there are any openings on campus. Because colleges understand your first job is attending classes, on-campus jobs typically offer the most flexibility with schedules. Another great idea is checking with professors or department heads in your field of study to see if they have part-time or short-term needs that may not be posted elsewhere.

Check out some ideal part-time college jobs from Lifehack.

  • Check with local staffing agencies. While restaurants and retail positions provide typical opportunities for college students, working temporary office openings through a staffing agency now can really benefit you after you graduate and are looking for your first career. You’ll have experience working in office settings, and the people you work with may be able to help you with networking and introductions to other opportunities once you’re ready to graduate.
  • Think about freelancing. Some skills and knowledge can translate perfectly to a freelance situation. If you are driven to work on projects by yourself and like setting your own schedule, consider what you can offer to businesses large and small. Smaller businesses might need someone to overhaul their website, redo their store’s layout to optimize customers’ experiences or design logos and graphics to stand out from their competition. Larger business may need help on one or two copyediting projects, translating content to a language you’ve mastered or coding smaller projects an IT team doesn’t have time to focus on.

By: Iowa Student Loan

15 Ideas for Making Money During Winter Break

Depending on your school’s calendar, you may have from two to four weeks away from school with little or no academic commitments, which leaves you plenty of time to earn extra cash which could be used to reduce your need for student loans or allow you to pay interest on current student loans to reduce your balance.


Download a PDF of this infographic

Here are 15 ways you can make money over your break.

  1. Find a paid internship. Make money and gain valuable experience at the same time. Check with your campus career services office for available opportunities near campus, or contact companies in your field close to home.
  1. Apply for scholarships. Spend several hours researching and applying for the scholarships you were too busy to look at during the academic session.
  1. Work retail. Many retailers take on seasonal staff to help with the preholiday rush, post-holiday sales and gift returns.
  1. Turn your existing part-time job or internship into a full-time position. Your employer may jump at the chance to give you more hours to offset other employees’ vacation time or to help handle year-end projects.
  1. Babysit for busy parents. Besides the extra commitment of holiday parties and travel, many parents also seek temporary, full-time sitters for school-age children at home during winter break.
  1. Take care of Fido (and Bessie). Pet owners who will be away for an extended period of time may prefer to have a responsible person come in to feed, exercise and clean up after their furry friends. If you live in or near a rural area, don’t forget that farmers often need someone to take care of their stock every day. Advertise early to line up several commitments over break.
  1. Be a house-sitter. Homeowners will often pay a responsible person to stay in their home, water plants, set out garbage and take care of other tasks while they are away for a long trip.
  1. Sell your stuff. While you’re at home over break, take the opportunity to go through clothes, electronics, books and other belongings you no longer need. You can take them to consignment shops or sell them yourself online.
  1. Be the designated driver. With holiday parties in full swing, more and more people turn to Uber and other driving services.
  1. Promotional campaigns. Offer your tech and social media savvy to businesses who want to promote products or holiday sales. A few hours of your time can be worth a lot of money to business owners who don’t have the time or knowledge to set up their own campaigns.
  1. Put your creations up for sale. If you’re artistic or crafty, a little time designing holiday cards, decorations or gifts can pay off when you sell them online or at flea markets.
  1. Fill in on or near campus. It may sound strange to spend your break on campus, but if you have a place to stay, you may be able to find a temporary position taking shifts for other students who’ve gone home. The bookstore, area shops and campus offices may need help preparing for the spring semester while some of their regular staff is out.
  1. Teach a class. Work with local gyms, libraries and shops to set up special classes in something you know well and can teach others — a great workout for sedentary office workers, a how-to for smartphones or apps, creative cooking for the budget-conscious.
  1. Do the legwork. Do any local businesses need help distributing fliers or making holiday deliveries? While you’re doing your own holiday shopping, keep an eye out for an opportunity to offer your services.
  1. Take care of not-so-odd jobs. Advertise your availability to run errands, wrap gifts, hang holiday lights and shovel snow.

 By: Iowa Student Loan

Understanding Cost of Attendance


If you have started the process of preparing for your child’s college career, you may have run into several things that have you confused – and maybe a few that have you nervous.

Cost of attendance may be the most confusing term you will hear even though it sounds mostly harmless.

What Cost of Attendance Means
The cost of attendance is rarely the amount paid to attend college. The cost of attendance is the “sticker price” and does not consider scholarships, grants, personal contributions (from a college savings plan or graduation checks, for example) and other financial assistance available to your student. Also, most cost of attendance figures include additional costs that may not be encountered – this is important as your student will most likely be presented with a statement called an award letter that assumes he or she will need those additional funds.

Understanding the Award Letter
Award letters are usually created by the college and sent in February or March. Award letters outline how much one year of college will cost by detailing the tuition and fees and room and board costs. The letter also shows all awards (scholarships, grants, work/study funds) as well as the EFC, or expected family contribution. You may be a bit shocked by the size of the EFC. Before throwing up your hands in despair, please consider the two ideas presented below to help calm yourself.

Transportation Costs
Take a look at one aspect of cost of attendance – “transportation costs.” Although your student will most likely travel back and forth from college for visits and holidays, the amount of these costs can be subtracted from the cost of attendance in most cases.

Two things to consider:

  1. When the time comes to travel, most students will be able to drive home. According to the Higher Educational Research Institute at UCLA’s 2014 freshman survey, approximately 57% of students attend a college within 100 miles of their home. Encouraging your student to carpool can reduce expenses by paying for only a fraction of the gas costs.
  2. Even if you do anticipate your student having travel expenses beyond gas costs, do everything you can to resist the urge to include the costs in any student loans you or your student take out – federal or private. Even a ticket to fly home twice a year can be something that can be saved for or purchased using money earned through wages by working during the school year (bonus: studies show that students who work 10-20 hours a week while in college have better grades and a higher graduation rate as a group). Most likely, the expected family contribution can be reduced by more than $1,000 by removing transportation costs from the bottom line for now.

Book Costs
Another quick way to reduce up-front costs and the amount you or your student may need to borrow is to look at the line item on the award letter for books. You may be surprised at the relatively reasonable prices of books in some cases. Trends toward loose-leaf books (printed on 3-hole punched paper – high quality, not Xerox copies) and book rental has helped reduce costs. Books are another item that can usually be subtracted from the bottom line cost of attendance – pay for books can be paid for with cash from savings, earnings or high school graduation cash. Encourage your student to only purchase books that he or she plans to keep – otherwise rental is a smart path to save money.

By: Iowa Student Loan