5 Financial To-Dos for College Seniors

5-FinancialtoDos-CllgeSeniors

As you prepare to take your final college classes and collect your hard-earned degree, don’t forget that soon you will be supporting yourself financially and, if you have student loans, beginning to repay that debt. Here are some financial to-dos before you leave campus.

1. Pay Outstanding Items

Check with the financial services office or log in to your online account. Have you paid all tuition, fees and charges associated with your college account? Don’t forget campus parking tickets, organizational fees or other charges not reflected on your college bill.

If you owe rent, utilities or other off-campus charges, make sure you’ve taken care of those obligations before you leave campus.

2. Provide Updated Contact Information

If you have student loans, notify your student loan lender or servicer of your new mailing address in accordance with the credit agreements or promissory notes you signed. Keep in mind that customer service for some of your loans may be provided by a different entity than your original lender.

In addition, you may need to provide your updated contact information to the college, U.S. Postal Service, utility providers, landlords or property management companies, driver license or department of motor vehicles, insurers, employers and others.

3. Get Your Student Loans in Order

Take a look at all the paperwork you kept for your student loans, or log in to any online accounts you set up. Also, open—and thoroughly read—any correspondence from student loan lenders or servicers. Be sure you understand when your first payments are due, your payment options and how much you will be required to pay each month.

If you haven’t lined up a job before your first payment is due, contact your lenders and servicers about your options for delaying payment. Understand you are responsible for daily interest accruing on unsubsidized loans during deferment and on all loans during forbearance. Paying at least the accrued interest on a monthly basis will help prevent capitalization, where interest is added to your principal balance and begins to accrue interest as well.

If you have any questions about repaying your student loans, call your lender or servicer. Generally, these organizations are willing to assist you in navigating the complex student loan repayment process.

4. Budget Your Income and Expenses

Make a monthly budget based on your current circumstances.

If you already have a job secured, compare your starting salary to your expected living expenses and student loan payments. Don’t forget that part of your paycheck will go toward taxes and other required deductions as well as optional benefits such as retirement and medical insurance.

If you haven’t been hired in your field yet, detail your monthly expenses and come up with a plan to pay for them. You may need to explore lower level or part-time jobs until you land your desired career.

5. Get Cash for Goods

Before you leave campus, sell what you won’t need again. This includes current textbooks, furniture, electronics and other items. Your campus area may offer several social media sites to advertise your belongings to next year’s students.

By: Iowa Student Loan

30 Iowa Seniors Receive College Scholarship

SrScholarship-Winners-BlogImage

Iowa High School Seniors Each Earn $2,000
for Demonstrating Financial Know-How

High school seniors from across the state earned $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills through the 2015–2016 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship sponsored by Iowa Student Loan.

More than 4,300 Iowa high school seniors registered for the scholarship between November 2015 and March 2016. Of those, more than 2,200 completed two online financial literacy tutorials and a related assessment to qualify for one of 30 scholarships. The 30 winners were those who scored highest on the assessment and, because of a tie for top scores, received the highest scores on an independently judged essay.

“High student loan debt levels are a legitimate concern,” said Christine Hensley, chair of the Iowa Student Loan board of directors. “The scholarship is a great way to expose high school students to the concepts of minimizing debt and making responsible borrowing decisions right at the time they are making college decisions. We hear from parents every year that the process of experiencing our online tools as part of the scholarship qualification opens up enlightening conversations with their students.”

The tools, along with tips that registered students received by email through the scholarship period, are designed to help students avoid the pitfalls of heavy student loan debt, a continuing concern for college graduates in Iowa and nationwide, Hensley said. Student Loan Game Plansm and the ROCI Reality Check were developed by Iowa Student Loan to help students understand the consequences of college borrowing and discover how to maximize their return on college investment, or ROCI.

“The [scholarship] was extremely insightful to just how many expenses there really are in college,” said Ian Kubbe, an Ottumwa High School senior and one of the 2015-2016 recipients of the scholarship. “I strongly recommend this scholarship opportunity to any high school senior, not only for the financial benefit it provides, but also the helpful information about loans, college expenses and how to budget your money correctly.”

“This year we expanded the scholarship program to award more students with more college funds and to recognize the role high schools play in educating their students about important college financing concepts,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “This initiative is a tangible aspect of our mission to help Iowa students and families successfully pay for postsecondary education.”

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

Program Future

Although details are not yet finalized, Iowa Student Loan anticipates offering the scholarship next academic year. More about the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org.

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 School Student Name Student School
Veronica Augustine West High School (Davenport) Brandi Miller Waverly-Shell Rock High School
Aaron Bertini Glenwood High School Kaylee Puttmann MOC-Floyd Valley High School
Jared Davis Hempstead High School Lindsey Reicks Solon High School
Crystal Eppling Le Mars High School Alexandra Reifert Wilton High School
Jason Fisher Nashua-Plainfield High School Bradley Ritter Baxter High School
Rebecca Fuhrmeister Pleasant Valley High School Rebecca Roberson Akron Westfield High School
Leah Gibbs Easton Valley High School Lauren Ronnfeldt Regina High School
Nicole Giesemann Bellevue High School Amber Snyder Wilton High School
Hailey Gross West Central Valley High School Alexandria Sturtz North Polk High School
Jenny Ha Linn-Mar High School Jordan Thomas Southeast Polk High School
Alexander Hall East Mills High School Sarah Todd Columbus Community High School
Ian Kubbe Ottumwa High School Jack Turner Dowling Catholic High School
McKenna Lloyd Xavier High School Cierstynn Welcher Van Buren High School
Lindsay Mahaney Bishop Heelan Catholic High School Carter Wolf Southeast Polk High School
Nathan Maughan Albia High School Sarah Zelle Linn-Mar High School

By: Iowa Student Loan

Parents’ Guide to College Prep

With graduation approaching quickly, parents of high school seniors often spend a lot of time preparing for the big event—the ceremony, invitations, open houses and parties, award ceremonies and other events. Don’t forget, though, about the preparation for the next step—going to college.

Use this checklist to help you organize your plans for this spring and summer.

ParentsGuide-College-Infographic

Download this infographic as a PDF.

Plan for medical emergencies.
You are not automatically granted access to your student’s health information or permitted to make medical decisions if he or she is 18 or older and becomes incapacitated, even if you carry the insurance and pay the bills. You may want to have your student properly complete, sign and have notarized official power of attorney and medical information release forms that you can carry on your phone or otherwise easily access in case of emergency.

In addition, your student should understand when an illness or injury requires self-treatment, a visit to the health center or a specialist, or a trip to the emergency room.

Prepare for other medical events.
Check with your student’s college to see if you’re being charged for health insurance and if you can waive it if your plan already covers your child.

You may find your student needs vaccinations or boosters, as well as a regular physical, dental cleaning or vision check before college. Encourage your student to schedule appointments, complete the appropriate paperwork and fill or refill a prescription for these visits so it’s not all new when he or she is far from home. In addition, provide your child with copies of the pertinent medical, prescription, vision and dental insurance cards.

With your student, put together a basic medical kit for the dorm room with pain reliever, bandages and other health items you normally keep at home.

Request grades and school records be sent to the college.
Have your student work with the high school counseling office to ensure final transcripts are sent to his or her college as required.

If your student has taken Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or college courses, he or she should also have those credits and transcripts provided to the college to ensure proper credit and to possibly reduce the number of required college classes.

Set up a financial system.
If you will be helping your student financially, ensure you can easily transfer money to him or her, perhaps through a student checking account that also carries your name. Check for financial institutions that have a branch or no-fee ATMs on or near campus.

Adding your student to a credit card account also makes financial transactions simpler. Because a college student’s card could be easily lost or stolen, you may want to set up a new card or account number to avoid problems with your own purchases.

Get ready for orientation.
Besides actually signing up for an orientation date, your student may need to take online placement tests and training or safety courses before attending. In addition, if he or she will be signing up for classes at orientation, suggest that your student look through the course catalog for entry-level required classes and come up with a preferred and alternate schedule.

Plan the big move.
Decide if it makes sense to purchase items now or wait until you get on campus, depending on planned transportation and availability. Some department store chains allow you to select items at one location or online and pick up at a location close to campus. In general, understand that dorm rooms are small, students will probably only need half or less of their original packing list and they can usually pick up or order items they forgot later.

Make needed reservations.
If you plan to attend orientation, move-in day or parents weekend with your student, check hotel and transportation availability early. Especially in smaller college communities, nearby rooms and rental vehicles may be booked quickly. If your student will fly home and back to school during high-traffic times like Thanksgiving or Christmas, you may also want to book those flights early.

Get the car college-ready.
If your student will be taking a car to campus, help him or her set up any appointments for needed maintenance or repairs over the summer. Discuss an appropriate schedule and possible locations for service they may need close to campus. You might consider a AAA membership with towing services if the student will be driving far, and you may also need to let your car insurance provider know. Finally make sure your student knows what to do in case of a car accident, such as whom to call and what to say to another party.

If your student won’t be taking a car to campus but normally drives under your car insurance policy, contact your provider about possible savings and reduced coverage.

Take care of any additional paperwork.
If your student may need an updated passport or their Social Security card or birth certificate, help him or her locate those and discuss how important it is to keep these documents safe. If your child relies on his or her cell phone contact list for phone numbers for you and other important contacts, suggest a printed or electronic list in case the phone is broken, lost or stolen.

You may also need to finalize college housing contracts and other documents for the college. If your student will have valuables on campus, consider dorm insurance or check your homeowner’s policy for coverage.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Is Grad School the Next Step for You?

GradSchool-NextStep

As you progress through your undergraduate education, you may realize that the career you want requires an advanced or specialized degree, or perhaps your potential starting salary will be higher if you earn a graduate degree first.

But continuing in your education beyond a bachelor’s degree will require more time and more money. Is graduate school the right choice for you?

Here are some questions to ask:

Are you financially ready?
A good guideline for student loan debt is that you should not borrow in total more than you expect to make in your first year after graduation. With a graduate degree, you may be able to earn more in that first job, but remember to include any debt you took on for your undergraduate degree when you calculate how much debt you may be able to repay later.

You may be able to find a graduate assistantship or other position that will cover all or part of your graduate tuition, but you will also have housing and living expenses. Be prepared to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for each year of graduate school and have a plan for meeting your financial needs.

Will you succeed academically?
Your grades in the undergraduate classes required for your major can be a good indication of your ability to do well in a graduate program. The more As you have, the better. A general guideline is that if you have more than a few Bs and Cs, you may want to think about your passion for the field and your own ability to do well.

Are you taking rigorous courses now?
Your undergraduate program likely offers classes at different levels, from introductory courses designed for students of all majors to junior seminars and senior thesis classes. Taking rigorous courses specifically created to meet the needs of students within your major will allow you to sample professional-level coursework and provide an opportunity to stand out among undergraduates.

Do you have the right connections?
Your entrance into graduate school will require several letters of recommendation. Try to connect with faculty who have a national reputation, work in your desired field or have another draw. When you ask for recommendations, it’s helpful to provide a portfolio or synopsis of the work you did for that instructor, especially if it’s been a year or two since you took the class or worked in the lab with him or her.

Have you looked into graduate programs?
If you think you might want to continue your education beyond a bachelor’s degree, start looking into your options as early as your sophomore year and at least 12 months before you graduate. This is especially important if you think you may get a graduate degree from a different university than where you attended undergraduate classes. You need to know about the required entrance exams, other entrance requirements, and the graduate school’s reputation, as well as your personal liking for the environment and faculty.

Are you prepared for the entrance exams?
You will likely need to spend several months preparing for the required entrance exam in your field. Research the exam and take practice tests to get a good idea what you need to work on. If you find it hard to prepare for a standardized test on your own, work with your academic adviser or the campus advising center to locate a study group or a tutor who can help you.

Will you be able to provide the required entrance materials?
Graduate schools may require you to provide a well-written personal statement about your goals for your graduate education and your readiness to achieve them. You’ll also need several letters of recommendation and may need to provide a portfolio of your previous work. Finally, you’ll need to send in transcripts, test scores, and writing samples or essays for evaluation.

By: Iowa Student Loan

New College Funding Forecaster Tool

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Would you order a three-course meal at a restaurant if you only knew the cost of the first course? Would you buy a car if you only knew what your loan payments would be for the first year of a five-year loan?

You probably would not agree to do either of these things. So why plan to go to college for four years only knowing the cost of the first year? That is basically what you are doing when you select a college to attend based on the award packet you receive in February or March of the year before you or your child starts college.

CFF_ScreenshotThe College Funding Forecaster is a free, online tool designed to help borrowers make good decisions about borrowing student loans. After you enter information from your award packet you receive from a college, this new tool will show you a projection of your college costs for four years as well as two important dollar amounts: your potential college funding gap and your potential student loan debt. The total and annual amounts are displayed for each item.

The college funding gap is the amount of money that you will need to come up with to pay your university bill after you have exhausted all aid, contributions from income and savings accounts, and federal student loans. Where will you get that extra money if you or your family can’t come up with it? Three options are typically available:

  • Work more hours while in school and use your additional earnings.
  • Parents of dependent students can take out a Federal Direct PLUS loan.
  • Take out a private student loan, like the Partnership Advance Education Loan available from Iowa Student Loan.

When all is said and done, you will most likely have student loan debt when you graduate. If you take out a private student loan and have also accepted the federal student loans offered in your award packet (you should always exhaust all of your federal student loan eligibility before considering the use of other loans), that can add up to a lot of debt.

The new College Funding Forecaster calculates your potential college funding gap and potential student loan debt so you can start planning now. If you need additional money beyond the aid and federal loans offered, you can work more hours over the summer to earn more money, take an extra class each semester to graduate on time and reduce your need to borrow, or reduce some of the costs you borrow (do you really need to borrow, and pay interest on, transportation costs to and from school?). The College Funding Forecaster tool allows you to experiment with different scenarios to find ways to close your funding gap and borrow only the amount you need.

The College Funding Forecaster is available free online.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Maximize Your Graduation Money

MaximizeYourGradMoney

Your high school graduation is an occasion to reflect on past accomplishments and prepare for a new adventure in college. It can also be a veritable gold mine.

As college becomes increasingly expensive, many of your family and friends may opt to give you a gift of cash to help you offset your costs. While it might be tempting to use that newfound cash to upgrade your phone or gaming system, you could use that money in ways that will better help you prepare for college. Here are some ideas to make the most of monetary gifts you receive.

If you have: You could:
$50–$100
  • Get a haircut.
  • Have the oil changed in your car.
  • Buy a few dorm or personal care items.
  • Pick up an interview outfit.
  • Buy paper, pens and other supplies.
$100–$500
  • Rent some of your required books.
  • Pay for a campus parking permit.
  • Buy a bike to get around campus.
  • Pay program fees or club dues.
$500–$1,000
  • Get a computer or other electronics you need.
  • Put money toward your tuition bill.
  • Buy plane tickets to come home at the semester break.
  • Save for a rental deposit if you plan to live off campus next year.
  • Pay major- or activity-specific fees.
$1,000–$5,000
  • Save to use toward future tuition and fees.
  • Buy textbooks and supplies for one year.
  • Pay a summer’s rent for an off-campus house or apartment.
  • Cover fraternity or sorority dues and other expenses.
  • Cover insurance deductibles for a car or medical emergency.

By: Iowa Student Loan

What to Do If Your Financial Aid Award Is Inaccurate or Incomplete

FA-Award-Incomplete

When you receive your financial aid award notification, check it carefully. Here are some circumstances you may run into and what you can do.

Situation What to Do
Your contact information is incorrect. Contact the financial aid office with your updated information. You also need to log in to the FAFSA portal to update your information.
Your tax or other financial information has changed since you submitted your FAFSA. Contact the financial aid office if your financial situation has changed drastically due to loss of a parent’s job or other circumstances. You will need to log in to the FAFSA portal and update anything that has changed due to estimating or amendments made to your tax returns.
You want to be considered independent of your parents for financial aid purposes due to a severed relationship or abusive situation. If you have extenuating circumstances in regard to your relationship with your parents, contact your financial aid office to clarify the situation and determine the dependency appeal process.
You didn’t receive a federal or state award you expected. If you believe you qualify for but didn’t receive a federal or state grant or scholarship, first determine if the award is automatically granted to all eligible applicants.

  • If you didn’t receive an automatic award, contact the agency responsible for administering it and notify your financial aid office.
  • If the award is not automatic, funds may not be available for all applicants. You may try contacting the agency administering the award to see if any remaining funds will be awarded later.
You didn’t receive an institutional award you expected. Not all awards are automatically granted to all eligible students. If you met the college’s priority deadline, contact the financial aid office to determine if any institutional awards are still available. If the award was offered by a specific department, ask a financial aid representative if the office has been made aware of the award.
A state or federal award was submitted to the wrong college. Contact the agency responsible for administering the award. Also notify your financial aid office and the financial aid office at the other institution of the mistake.
You received an award you didn’t expect. Many colleges consider your application for admission to also be your application for other institutional awards. If you feel you didn’t meet the qualifications for an award, contact the financial aid office to clarify.
A grant or scholarship awarded by an outside entity isn’t shown in your award packet. You need to tell your college about all grants and scholarships you receive. If an award is missing, contact the financial aid office.
You received a work-study award. This award may be dependent on you finding a work-study position and earning a paycheck based on hours actually worked. Start with the financial aid section on the college’s website. If that doesn’t contain information about how to locate and apply for work-study positions, contact the financial aid office.
You didn’t receive enough aid to pay for your costs of attendance. If you are significantly short of aid, you may need to consider:

  • Contacting the financial aid office to inform them of your situation and see if you qualify for any additional aid.
  • Working more to earn income to pay for your shortfall.
  • Asking about monthly payment plans.
  • Exploring less expensive education options, such as a public university or community college.
  • Relying on family to help with the cost of your education through gifts or federal PLUS Loans for parents.
  • Taking out private student loans to cover the remaining expenses.

By: Iowa Student Loan