Start on Spring Scholarships

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As you creep closer and closer to the day that it’s time to decide where you want to go to college, the financial aspect of tuition costs, room and board and other college expenses can start to weigh heavily on your mind.

This is where scholarships can make a difference and now is the time to really focus on turning in those applications with spring deadlines and make the final push for every additional dollar you can find.

Scholarships are free money. Sure you have to spend time and energy completing applications, writing essays, and seeking out letters of recommendation, but if you spend two hours on an application and get a $500 scholarship you just got paid $250 an hour tax free.

Scholarships are awarded for almost everything; you just have to put in the work to find the ones that fit your skills and experience. Did your parent or grandparent serve in the Armed Forces? Are you left-handed? Do you have a unique talent? Are you involved in extra-curricular activities or community service? All of these things could qualify you for a scholarship or two.

Check with your school counselor for local scholarship options and have your parents check with their employers to see if they offer scholarships for the children of employees. Do you have an after-school job? Check with your employer too. Many employers have scholarships for their employees. Scholarships are a great way for employers to give back to the students that are closest to them.

It’s important to talk to each college you are considering attending about any institutional scholarship opportunities. Check not only with admissions, but also with the department that holds your major area of study. There may be scholarships specific to your course of study or the department, as well as internship or job shadow opportunities once you are on campus.

You can also do online searches. Check out www.ICANsucceed.org/scholarships to review the ICAN Scholarship Database, along with other safe online searches. Scholarship searches shouldn’t cost you money that could otherwise be put towards your education; NEVER pay for scholarship searches or assistance.

There’s a lot of work that goes into the scholarship process, and it can seem very overwhelming, but it is worth every minute when you receive those awards. And every dollar earned through scholarships is a dollar you don’t have to borrow and repay through student loans.  If you need some guidance through the process, check out the scholarship process video on the ICAN YouTube Channel.

And don’t forget to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as part of your scholarship process. Many scholarship applications require the FAFSA to be completed to qualify so it’s a good first step no matter where you plan to attend. ICAN offers free FAFSA completion assistance across the state and also hosts the Iowa College Goal Sunday program which offers free assistance as well. If you need FAFSA Completion or scholarship process assistance call ICAN at 877-272-4692.

Financial aid and scholarships can seem overwhelming, just take it one step and one application at a time and you’ll do just fine.

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.

The Scholarship That Always Pays

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Thirty Iowa high school seniors will each earn a $2,000 college scholarship this spring through our Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship.

But, every student who completes the three qualifying steps will also win big — by learning ways to reduce college costs and potential debt and by connecting college majors to anticipated salaries and future financial success.

Here’s what last year’s scholarship recipients had to say about the lessons they learned through the qualification process.

Register Now

To qualify for a scholarship:

  1. Register online between now and March 4, 2016.
  1. Follow the instructions you receive by email to complete two online financial literacy tools and a related assessment by March 4, 2016.
  1. Achieve one of the top scores on the assessment. (If a tie results in more than 30 top scores, tied students will be asked to write a short essay for judging.)

Your High School Can Win As Well

Each recipient’s high school will also receive a $500 corresponding award for financial literacy programs and scholarship funds.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Choosing a Fulfilling Career Goal

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Choosing a career goal is an important step toward being successful in college. You should do this as early as possible.

When thinking about a career, don’t let a desire for money or prestige be the sole deciding factor in career choice. You need to make sure you pick a career that will allow you pay back loans and live the lifestyle you want. But you should also choose something that will provide you with a fulfilling long-term career. Our ROCI Reality Check tool can help you explore careers and expected income levels.

Finding a fulfilling career is important because you will be at work or thinking about work for about 60% of your waking hours. Taking a job you hate can make you unhappy, regardless of how much money you make. If your dream job doesn’t yield high compensation, then adjust your lifestyle to live within your means.

You will be much happier if you are working at a job:

  • That you truly enjoy.
  • At which you excel.
  • Where you can contribute to the organization’s success
  • That you feel called or meant to do.

How do you identify the “dream job” that meets your criteria? The following tips can help.

1. Don’t be hindered by the fear of making a mistake. A lot of people say, “I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life!” The funny thing is, some of them are in their 50s!

Choosing a career is not a one-shot deal. The average American changes careers seven times during his or her lifetime. If you wind up not liking your job, you can transition to a different one.

But you have to get started by choosing your first career and trying it out. If nothing else, you will be building a resume that will help you obtain other jobs in the future, as well as earning a living to support yourself while you find something better.

2. Figure out what you are good at. Take an inventory of your skills and accomplishments:

  • What are the classes/subjects in which you excel?
  • What awards or competitions have you won?
  • What do you feel the most confident doing?
  • What do your friends, parents, relatives and teachers think you are good at?

3. Figure out what you enjoy. My first boss once told me that the secret to a successful career was finding something you enjoyed doing so much that you wanted to do it on your day off. I believe this to be true, because the people that I know who are most successful in their careers are truly passionate about what they do. Find your passion by:

  • Identifying times you became so engrossed in what you were doing you lost track of time. You looked up and could not believe several hours had elapsed.
  • Thinking of an activity that you could not wait to tell others about and could not stop talking about.
  • Thinking of an activity that you voluntarily spent an incredible amount of time doing.
  • Considering the things you are good at. Many times this ability comes from the willingness to devote time and energy toward success. This willingness to devote time and energy is usually enhanced by an enjoyment of the work.
  • Asking your friends, parents, relatives and teachers what they think you enjoy doing.

4. Match the things you are good at and are passionate about to potential careers. Several websites and software programs are specifically designed to access your interest and aptitudes and give you lists of careers that match them. Some are free to the public online, and others are purchased by your high school, local community college or state workforce development centers and are free for your use.

  • Choices by Bridges.com
  • Discover by ACT
  • CICS by the University of Oregon
  • Kuder.com
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Use this site to research your career prospects, including the work environment, demand for individuals in your potential field, salary ranges and college majors that typically lead to the job.

5. Try a potential career on for size. The best way to do try a position is to job shadow. This is a fancy name for finding someone who does the job and hanging out with them as they do it. You can see first-hand what it is really like and hear all about it from someone with experience.

To find someone willing to let you job shadow:

  • Ask your parents if they have a friend or relative in this field, and if they would help you arrange to job shadow them.
  • Ask your high school counselor for help.
  • Contact the professional association for individuals in your prospective field, and ask them to help arrange job shadowing.
  • Contact your local Rotary Club, which includes individuals from all professions that gather to perform service projects. Many of these clubs have job shadowing programs in place or would be willing to introduce you to a member in your prospective field.

6. Research colleges that offer majors and programs that lead to this career. The software discussed above can help, as can www.petersens.com. Pay particular attention to internship programs and job placement rates in your chosen field of study. Remember, choosing a college needs to be about finding the college that is best for your future career.

By: Steve McCullough
President/CEO
Iowa Student Loan

How to Manage Scholarship Applications

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You may feel like you already have enough to do managing senior year classes and activities, college and scholarship applications and other commitments.

Even though it may seem like you don’t need to add to your load, a couple of simple tricks can help you feel less anxious about scholarship results. And, you’ll be ready with an informed answer when Mom or Dad asks about your progress.

Here’s how to stay on top of scholarship applications:

Get Organized from the Beginning
Set up a spreadsheet with all your scholarship application information. Your scholarship search is unique, but you can set up a basic spreadsheet using the suggested categories below and customize them as needed.

For each scholarship you apply for, include the following information as applicable:

  • Name of scholarship
  • Scholarship sponsor
  • Sponsor contact information, including preferred methods of contact or no-contact requests
  • Award amount
  • Whether the scholarship is a one-time or renewable award
  • Name of the website, person or other source that made you aware of the scholarship
  • Website login information
  • Required elements for the application
  • Deadline
  • Submission date
  • Expected date of award notification
  • Method of award notification
  • Any additional requirements to accept scholarship
  • Notes or special information

Check for Updates
Once you submit a scholarship application, make sure you check often for updates and notifications. Depending on the scholarship, you may need to check your email (don’t forget to look in your spam folder), listen to voicemail or log in to the scholarship website.

• Respond quickly. You may receive a notice that your application is missing some required information. If you’re missing information or the scholarship sponsor has questions, respond as quickly as you can.

• Check often. Set aside a specific time every day to check your scholarship applications. It may be helpful to move all scholarship-related email to special folder in your inbox. Some email applications allow you to set up rules to do this automatically.

• Pay special attention to announcement dates. Watch for notifications that you have earned a scholarship or are a finalist. Enter any to-dos to submit additional required information or to accept the award on your spreadsheet, and then follow through.

If you haven’t heard within a few days after a publicized announcement date, you may want to follow up with the scholarship sponsor. First check your spreadsheet to ensure that the sponsor didn’t specify no contact or specified only certain forms of contact, though.

Organizing your scholarship application information and staying up to date with notifications will help you remain calm while you wait for results.

By: Iowa Student Loan

12 New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

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The new year is a good time to evaluate what’s been working — and what hasn’t — for you at college and figure out ways to improve in the future.

Here are 12 popular resolutions for college students. Which ones should you adopt for yourself?

  1. Improve your sleep habits. Do you get too little sleep or have trouble getting out of bed for your first class? Resolve to get an adequate amount of sleep each night and make the changes necessary to ensure it happens.
  1. Get fit. You probably remember where the exercise facilities on your campus are. If you don’t like the gym atmosphere, or the hours or location aren’t convenient for you, find other ways to get your exercise — go for a daily walk or run, join an intramural sports team or create your own weekly competitions with friends.
  1. Eat better. Are you making healthful choices in the dining center? Do you eat too much fast food or easy-to-cook convenience foods? Stock up on healthy snacks while you’re at home over the holidays and make a resolution to replace more meals each week with a more nutritious alternative.
  1. Add (or drop) an extracurricular activity. Are you too busy going to club and society events that you don’t have time for studying or other activities? Or, are you bored and looking for a reason to get out of your room? Evaluate your activity level and consider whether you should join a new club or quit an existing one.
  1. Try something new this semester. College is an ideal time to study abroad, make new friends or take off for an impromptu (but still safe) road trip. You may never again have the same freedom and opportunity to try such a variety of things. Take advantage of it.
  1. Speak up in class. Even if you’re mostly in large lecture classes, go ahead and ask your question or voice your opinion. It may be embarrassing at first, but you’ll find it helps you be more involved and you may discover others who share your ideas. (And, it usually makes a good impression on the instructor!)
  1. Set a savings goal. Can you save money by renting or buying used textbooks? How about reducing your daily spending? Set a goal for yourself and see if you can reach it by the end of the semester. Find ideas for saving money during college with Student Loan Game Plan.
  1. Get classwork organized. Use a calendar system to plan out study times, course work, projects and papers for the new semester’s classes to ensure you meet deadlines.
  1. Be a leader. Find a leadership opportunity to build skills for your future career. Many organizations will take nominations and hold elections for next year’s officers sometime in the spring. If you prefer more casual leadership, take control of a study group or play an integral role on a house or campus committee.
  1. Improve grades. Unless you managed a 4.0 last semester, you have room to improve your grades. Evaluate the reasons you missed points on tests, papers and projects and make a plan to do better.
  1. Invest in a good outfit. Are you ready for on-campus interviews and career fairs? How about networking events? Make sure you have at least one professional suit or outfit. If cash is tight, check out consignment stores. Some campuses even offer professional outfits for free or a small fee to students through their career services department.
  1. Try one career preparation strategy. Visit your campus career services and get help with a resume, apply for an internship or job, participate in a mock interview or another activity. You’ll make connections with the career services staff and you’ll improve your chances at landing a future position.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Prepare to File for Financial Aid

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Whether you are planning to enter college for the first time next fall or are returning for another term, securing financial aid means filing your Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). The federal and state governments and your school use this form to determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, work-study and federal and institutional loans.

The FAFSA requires your and your parents’ or guardians’ financial information. Families often dread the process as much as tax preparation, but with a little work beforehand, you can breeze through the online form in less than an hour.

Filing Dates
Generally, you should file your FAFSA as early as possible. The FAFSA for the 2016–2017 academic year is now available as of Jan. 1. New regulations will allow the FAFSA to become available beginning in October for subsequent academic years.

Find current federal and state deadlines at the Federal Student Aid website.

Each college also has its own application deadlines, and many schools have a priority deadline for students who want the best chance at available aid. Get the deadlines from the website or financial aid office for each school you will apply to and file before the earliest priority deadline. See Iowa college priority deadlines.

Even if you haven’t yet made a final school decision, you need to file only one FAFSA each year, although you may need to log in to update or correct information.

Information to Have on Hand
You, and your parents or guardians if you are a dependent student, will each need to have an individual FSA ID, identification and financial information available.

  • FSA ID username and password (set yours up at ed.gov/fsaid)
  • Social Security number, driver’s license number and date of birth
  • Alien registration number for non-citizens
  • Most recent tax information
  • W-2 forms, pay stubs or other records of income earned the previous tax year
  • Balance of checking, savings and investment accounts
  • Untaxed income records
  • Business and farm records
  • Marriage, separation or divorce dates, if applicable
  • Child support received or paid, if applicable

More Information
See more tips for filing the FAFSA. For free assistance completing the FAFSA, contact the Iowa College Access Network or attend a local College Goal Sunday event.

By: Iowa Student Loan