Checklist for College Prep

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

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

March

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

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

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

April

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

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

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

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

□ Help your student set reminders for requesting final transcripts.

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

□ Check personal IDs and documents.

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

□ Help your student finish strong.

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

May

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

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

□ Make a four-year plan for coursework.

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

□ Plan needed transportation and accommodations.

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

June

□ Work on life skills with your student.

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

□ Encourage contact with future roommates.

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

□ Develop a network.

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

July

□ Start exploring the college community with your student.

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

□ Shop for books and supplies.

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

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

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

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

August

□ Make a communication plan.

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

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

By: Iowa Student Loan

PLUS Loan Basics: What You Need to Know

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

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

Features of the PLUS Loan

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

Benefits of the PLUS Loan

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

Drawbacks of the PLUS Loan

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

Other Considerations Before Taking Out a PLUS Loan

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

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

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

By: Iowa Student Loan

Iowa Families Can Win Cash for Educational Expenses

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

Learn more and enter the giveaway today!

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

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

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

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

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

By: Iowa Student Loan

10 Budget Tips for Spring Break (Infographic)

Download Infographic as a PDF.

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

1. Plan ahead.

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

2. Take a cheaper flight.

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

3. Drive or ride instead of flying.

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

4. Take the road less traveled.

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

5. Stay for less.

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

6. Save on activities.

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

7. Save on food.

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

8. Avoid impulse buying.

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

9. Use your legs.

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

10. Stay out of trouble.

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

By: Iowa Student Loan