8 Ways to Start the College Conversation

Middle school is a great time for students to start thinking about and discussing their plans after high school. It may feel like your child just headed off to the first day of school, but time passes quickly and now is the time to plan for high school and beyond.Header image: Start the College Conversation

Here are eight ways to start a conversation with your student.

1. Connect current interests.

Observe the things your child enjoys and discuss how these activities translate into college majors and careers. Even if you are sure your child won’t end up as a chef, talking about cooking for a living helps your student think about the connection between interests and careers. Just remember that as your child matures, his or her interests will change as well.

2. Explore career possibilities.

Your student might have some idea of what you do for a living and is likely familiar with several common jobs like teacher, police officer, doctor and lawyer. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Talk about what people you work with do, as well as the careers of extended family members, friends and acquaintances. Help your student see the nuances between different careers and how people got to the point where they are today.

3. Define “college.”

What do you and your student think of when you hear the word “college”? Explore the different types of postsecondary options and the types of careers associated with them to help your child understand their future choices. Visiting different campuses can help.

4. Stress the importance of academic habits.

Middle school grades and test scores usually don’t count for college admission considerations, but now is the time to set good habits and define expectations. High school course rigor and grades, along with standardized test scores, play a major role in college admissions. Set the stage now by talking about what’s happening at school and how to improve.

5. Make a financial plan.

Discuss the current and projected future cost of college and what that means for your family. If you expect your student to work in high school or college to help offset costs, talk about that now. In addition, let your student know what kind of college savings or funding he or she can expect from the family. This will help clarify the college choice down the road.

6. Talk about academic options.

If your student performs well in middle school, there may be an opportunity to advance in coursework. Taking high school classes in middle school frees up time for more advanced classes, and even classes that count for college credit, in high school. In addition, standardized test scores may help your student qualify for substantial merit-based scholarships for college.

7. Clarify expectations.

Some families assume their children will attend college; others assume their children won’t. Where does your family fall on this scale and how does that fit with your student’s own ideas? Encourage your child to think in terms of financial and personal goals and how college affects those.

8. Share your own experience.

Discuss your favorite and least favorite aspects of your own education and what you would do differently. Share how the choices you made or the situations you were in affected what came after.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Comparing Postsecondary Options (Infographic)

The postsecondary options after high school can be confusing. Here is a comparison of the most common routes for recent high school graduates.

Keep in mind that these routes are not permanent or exclusive, and choosing one route doesn’t rule out other options if a student would like to pursue an additional or different path later.

Infographic: Comparing Postsecondary Options

Download this infographic as a PDF.

  Workforce Military Short-Term Education Apprenticeship Public Four-Year College Private Four-Year College
Description Full-time employment directly after high school · Before or instead of pursuing a college education

· Military academies

· Short professional programs

· Certificate programs

· 9-month, one-year, two-year college programs

Up to six-year programs Rely on government funding as well as tuition and fees from students Rely on tuition, fees and private sources for funding
Average Cost $100–$1,000 $0 $5,000–$20,000 $0 $47,000–$90,000 $77,000–$140,000
Potential Earnings Starting: $18,023

Mid-career: $31,239

Starting: $19,199

Mid-career: $41,958

Starting: $24,030

Mid-career: $44,056

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Required May need related job experience or certain skills · ASVAB test

· Fitness and health standards

· Background check

·  Requirements vary by program

· Placement tests

· Requirements vary by program

· May be minimum age

· May require community college acceptance

· Minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA

· Core high school classes

· Application (sometimes with essay, interviews and letters of recommendation)

· Minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA

· Core high school classes

· Application (sometimes with essay, interviews and letters of recommendation)

Typical Jobs • Accounting clerk

• Animal caretakers

• Childcare

• Clerical, administrative, office clerk

• Customer service representatives

• Driver

• Food services

• Maintenance and janitorial

• Retail worker

 

• Administration

• Aviation

• Combat officer

• Construction

• Engineering

• Health care

• Intelligence

• Mechanical and maintenance

• Public affairs and media relations

 

• Auto mechanic

• Barber

• Chef

• Computer tech

• Cosmetologist

• Court reporter

• Dental assistant

• Fitness trainer

• Nursing or home health aide

• Pharmacy tech

 

• Carpenter

• Electrician

• HVAC installation and repair

• Machinist

• Mason

• Pipefitter

• Plumber

• Sheet metal worker

• Tool and die worker

• Airline pilot

• Architect

• Computer programmer

• Educator

• Engineer

• Financial specialist

• Graphic designer

• Reporter or correspondent

• Writer or editor

 

• Airline pilot

• Architect

• Computer programmer

• Educator

• Engineer

• Financial specialist

• Graphic designer

• Reporter or correspondent

• Writer or editor

 

Sources:

  • Average Cost of Workforce includes the cost of work clothes, transportation to interviews and printing resumes.
  • Average Cost of Public and Private Four-Year College are based on the 2011–2012 net lowest and highest cost of attendance (after discounts on the published costs) per year multiplied by four years.
  • All other Average Cost information is based on figures available online for Iowa programs.
  • Potential Earnings for Workforce are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment up to high school diploma.
  • Potential Earnings for Military are private (E1) and first lieutenant (O2) from https://www.goarmy.com/benefits/money/basic-pay-active-duty-soldiers.html.
  • Potential Earnings for Short-Term Education are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of associate degree.
  • Potential Earnings for Apprenticeship are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of some college.
  • Potential Earnings for Public and Private Four-Year College are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of bachelor’s degree.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Exploring Careers with Your Student

This step-by-step guide can help you and your student explore available careers and decide on possible choices that suit his or her interests.

Discuss Possible Careers

Your student may understand what you and other adults in life do for a living, and they are likely aware of many other popular career choices like doctor, lawyer, educator and accountant. But they may not understand the wide variety of jobs currently available or possible in the near future. Here are some ways you can help your student discover more possibilities:

  • Point out less well-known professions as you observe them in daily life.
  • Mention the jobs held by relatives and associates. Be specific about job duties instead of using general descriptors like “She works with computers,” or “He works in an office.”
  • Ask acquaintances more about their careers within your child’s hearing.
  • Encourage your student to research job titles and related duties. Classified ads and job websites can indicate the most popular jobs today.

Determine Interests

Help your student connect his or her own growing interests with possible careers. One way to do this is through career interest assessments. Some to try:

Understand Related Careers

Once your student better understands his or her current interests and the type of job that they may be interested in, it’s time to look at other related careers. These can be careers within the same field or they may simply share similar characteristics or duties. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook may be a good place to start. For each career, it provides:

  • Starting and median pay
  • Required education, training and work experience
  • Current number of jobs
  • Job outlook
  • Job duties or activities
  • Work environment
  • State and area data
  • Similar occupations

Experience Actual Jobs

To help your student understand whether a particular career would be appealing eight hours a day and five days a week, encourage him or her to work with current employees in that field. Adult professionals are often willing to share information with students who express interest in their jobs. Encourage your student to explore careers through:

  • Job shadowing
  • Volunteering
  • Internships
  • Informational interviews
  • Club activities
  • Online research

Connect Skills to Duties

As your student narrows down possible careers, he or she should think about the skills that can be developed now to prepare for those careers. Some skills are industry specific and can be obtained through academic classes or club activities, while others are transferable to many different fields. Some skills highly prized by employers are:

  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Self-motivation
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal

Make a Plan

Help your student come up with a flexible and ongoing plan to achieve career goals. The plan can be revisited as your child’s interests develop and other circumstances change. Some concepts to include in the plan are:

  • Job outlooks
  • Geographical influences
  • Entry level and mid-career salaries for related careers
  • Cost of the education required to obtain a specific career
  • Academic and technical preparation

By: Iowa Student Loan

Building Time Management Skills

Students of all ages need good time management skills to balance school, homework, activities, family responsibilities and just having fun. Here are some tips for building effective time management practices to last through college and beyond.

Figure Out What Has to be Done

  • Make a list of everything that’s required, such as sleep, school, homework, organized sports and activities, work, and family and household commitments.
  • Add in fun activities.

Determine the Time Commitment for Each Activity

  • Plan for at least eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours for meals and personal care each day.
  • Use classroom materials or talk to teachers to determine adequate time to reserve for studying, projects and other schoolwork.
  • Incorporate additional time for meeting improvement goals.
  • Consider preparation for sporadic events like standardized tests, recitals and conferences.

Block Out Commitments Using a Planner or Calendar

  • Break big projects down into multiple stages instead of just listing a deadline.
  • Color-coding can be a visual cue for the most important items.
  • Ensure new assignments and commitments are recorded daily or as soon as they’re known.

Make a Daily To-do List

  • Put the most challenging or important items at the top to be done first.
  • Think about rewards for completing tasks on the to-do list.
  • Take along portable items, such as a book, notes and flashcards, to stay on track during idle moments.

Be Strategic

  • If procrastination is a problem, find out why. Is extra help with homework needed? Is it an activity that has become less appealing over time?
  • Discover the student’s best working conditions for completing specific tasks. Is it better to do math after school or after dinner? Is running better first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening?
  • Stay organized. A clean environment with all the needed materials at hand helps move things along with fewer distractions.

Develop a Routine

  • Set aside dedicated study time every day, even if the time of day must change periodically for seasonal or special activities.
  • Be consistent to reach short- and long-term goals.

Set Priorities and Resolve Conflicts

  • Remember that it’s important to set aside time to recharge and relax. Some students need time to read, be with friends, exercise, play games or enjoy other recreational pursuits.
  • Understand the consequences for not getting something done to help prioritize the most important items.
  • Approaching a coach or teacher with alternatives sometimes helps resolve conflicts, but understand that as pressures and commitments build, something may need to be dropped.

By: Iowa Student Loan

10 Things You Need to Complete the FAFSA

10thingscompletefafsa

With the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, open soon, it’s a good time to plan a little time to complete it. Before you start, make sure you have these items available if they are applicable to you.

10 Things You Need to Complete the FAFSA

 

Item Dependent Students Parents
List of schools you wish to send FAFSA results to

X

FSA ID username and password

X

X

Biographical information like Social Security number, drivers license number, birthdate, marriage and divorce dates

X

X

Alien registration number for non-citizens

X

X

2017 income tax returns, W-2s and other records of money earned in 2017

X

X

2017 bank statements and investment records

X

X

2017 untaxed income records

X

X

2017 businesses and farms records

X

X

Child support received or paid

X

X

Marriage status and date of separation or divorce

X

X

By: Iowa Student Loan

FAFSA: What You Need to Know

If college is in the picture for the 2019–2020 academic year, it is almost the time to file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Here are answers to some of the most important questions about the FAFSA.

Why should I file the FAFSA?

Regardless of financial situation, filing the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for many forms of aid, not just those based on income. Federal Student Aid’s Myths About Financial Aid (PDF) provides more information on why all students should submit the FAFSA.

Whose information goes on the FAFSA?

The student who will attend college will provide biographical and financial information on the FAFSA. Dependent students, whether or not they are financially supported by their parents, will need to provide parent or guardian biographical and financial information.

Is the FAFSA only for federal aid?

The federal government uses the income, family size and other information provided on the FAFSA to award federal aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans. You need to file the FAFSA to qualify for federal work-study and federal student loans. In addition, many states and colleges and some private organizations use the information to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and other aid.

When should I start?

The 2019–2020 FAFSA opens Oct. 1 and is available until June 30, 2019. Some types of aid have limited funds, so the earlier the FAFSA is completed and submitted, the better the chances of receiving more financial aid from those programs.

Remember to complete a new FAFSA the fall before each new college year.

What information will I need?

The student should create an FSA ID to make it easier to complete and access the FAFSA. You can also gather identifying information (Social Security numbers for student and parent, driver’s license number, and Alien Registration number if applicable); federal tax information or returns from 2017; records on any untaxed income; and balances for cash, savings and checking accounts, investments, and business and farm assets for both the student and parents.

Note: You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pull in applicable tax information while you complete the FAFSA, but this information will not be displayed on the online FAFSA or your Student Aid Report.

If you have any questions on the information you will need to provide, start by reviewing the Completing the FAFSA guide (PDF).

Where do I start?

You can complete your FAFSA online at https://fafsa.gov.

You may also download a PDF form to print and complete or call (877) 433-7827 to request a form be mailed to you. Some colleges may allow you to file your FAFSA at their financial aid office.

Do I need to do it all at one sitting?

You may save the information entered into the FAFSA online if you need to stop before completing it. Then, when you’re ready to finish, log back in to complete the form, sign and submit it.

What will happen next?

Within three weeks after submission, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, which summarizes the data you submitted. You should review this report carefully and follow the instructions for correcting any mistakes.

Your Student Aid Report will also tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. This is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong; verification may be based on a random selection or because one or more of the schools listed requires all FAFSAs to be verified. If you are selected, follow the instructions to verify your information with the requested documents.

Federal Student Aid also shares the information you submitted with the colleges you listed when you completed the FAFSA, your state and the states of colleges you entered. Each college you have been accepted to will follow its own timeline to send you a financial aid award packet detailing the financial aid available to you if you choose to attend that school.

More information is available from Federal Student Aid.

By: Iowa Student Loan

3 Budget Basics for Middle Schoolers

If they haven’t begun already, current middle school students will soon be considering part-time jobs, saving for college and paying for their own expenses. You can help your child set a strong financial foundation with these three budget basics.

1. Understand the value of money.

Help your student appreciate the value of money by encouraging them to earn their own. By babysitting, doing yard work, helping around the house or otherwise working for money, your child will soon learn how much work is required to earn $1, $10 and $100.

Then, help your student complete the picture by involving them in decisions about purchases. Ask them to help you make decisions about common expenses like groceries or clothing. Encourage them to think about the quality, quantity and other features of specific brands for the cost.

2. Know the importance of goal-setting.

Having specific financial goals provides a framework for decision-making. If your student is saving for a particular purchase, discuss how many hours they will need to work for pay for it. Encourage them to consider whether making other purchases in the meantime is worth delaying the larger purchase.

If your student is saving for a major purchase such as a car or college, help them set smaller goals, like saving a certain amount per month. This is a good opportunity to research different methods of saving, like 529 plans and saving accounts, and the advantages of each, as well as the effects of compound interest over long periods of time.

3. Compare earnings to purchases.

If your student has his or her own spending money, encourage expense tracking. Then discuss how your child is spending money and whether they are surprised by the amount spent on specific purchases. Tracking spending helps consumers see their own habits and pinpoint how to cut back to improve their overall financial situation.

After tracking spending for a time, you and your student can then use a basic budget to compare earnings and income to expenses and savings goals. Multiple online tools and apps are available for free to get you started. As your student builds assets and becomes more responsible for expenses, add to your budget template or move to a more robust version.

By: Iowa Student Loan

5 Reasons to Start a 529 Plan Today

5-Reasons-to-Start-529

Saving for your child’s college education can be stressful, but it can also be one the best things you can do to help ensure he or she has a solid financial start in life. If you’re considering different savings options, check out these benefits of a 529 plan.

1. Plans are good nationwide.

Most states, including Iowa, and a number of institutions offer 529 plans, and the plans are not restrictive to the state you live in or where the student attends college. That means parents can take out a College Savings Iowa 529 Plan and the student can use the funds at any eligible school in the country and even some colleges or universities outside the United States.

2. Anyone can open a 529 plan account.

Parents, grandparents and even friends can open a 529 plan for a potential college student. You can even start a 529 plan for your own education.

Parents: Enter to win a $1,000 contribution to a 529 plan.

3. There are tax benefits.

While contributions are not deductible at the federal level, Iowa taxpayers may deduct some contributions from their adjusted gross income. When the plan owners deduct funds to pay eligible college costs, that money is not taxed. For the beneficiary, all earnings on the 529 plan grow tax free.

4. Plans are flexible.

You can choose to change the investment options up to twice per calendar year. Plan owners can make regular contributions, open an account with an initial deposit and never make another contribution, or make deposits whenever it’s convenient. You can even change the beneficiary if the person the account was opened for decides not to attend college.

5. You stay in control of the account.

When you open a 529 account for your child, or anyone else, you maintain control of the account and how the funds are spent. The money is not automatically transferred to the student to spend.

By: Iowa Student Loan

11 Benefits of a College Saving Plan

Most states offer college saving plans, or 529 plans, that allow families to invest money that can later be used for qualified higher-education expenses. These plans offer savings and tax benefits over other ways of saving for college. Here are 11 reasons you may want to consider a 529 plan, such as a College Savings Iowa plan.

1. You can choose, and change, your investment strategy.

College saving plans offer a variety of investment tracks to allow you to decide how to invest contributions. You may choose from among recommended investment tracks based on the age of the beneficiary and your comfort level with risk. Or you may wish to choose from among individual portfolios of specific bond and stock funds.

After choosing your initial investment strategy, you can make changes over time. You may make changes to existing contributions twice a year.

2. You receive tax benefits.

Your 529 assets grow deferred from federal and state income taxes as long as the money remains in the plan. Many states also offer additional state tax advantages for in-state residents.

3. Qualified withdrawals are not subject to taxes.

Withdrawals used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses are also tax-free. This means any growth from your principal investments in a 529 plan used for qualified expenses will never be included in your income tax.

4. The assets are less impactful on financial aid.

The formula used to calculate financial aid treats 529 plan assets more favorably than it treats savings or investments owned by the student. According to savingforcollege.com, a maximum of 5.64% of all parental assets, including 529 plans owned by a parent or a dependent student, is counted toward the expected family contribution for college by the federal financial aid formula, compared to 20% of student assets.

5. Anyone can start or contribute to a plan.

You don’t need to be related to the student you name as the beneficiary of a 529 plan you open. This means you can be a parent, grandparent or friend of the student who will use the money, or you can be the student. There are no income limits, age limits or annual contribution limits for account owners.

Someone who would like to make a gift to the student can also make one-time contributions to an existing account.

6. Minimum investments are small.

College Savings Iowa allows initial investments or contributions of $25 or more and a minimum of $15 for employers that offer payroll deduction. Investments in 529 plans can be as large or small as comfortable for families.

7. You are not limited to your state’s plan.

You may choose to use any state’s 529 plan even if you don’t live there or the student doesn’t intend to attend college in that state.

8. The money can be used for attendance and other expenses at a wide variety of institutions.

The student beneficiary can use the money to attend any eligible two- or four-year college, postgraduate program, trade or vocational school, online college and university programs and even some international institutions or study-abroad programs.

Besides tuition, money can be applied to other qualified higher-education expenses like fees, books, housing, meals, supplies, computers and printers, software and internet access.

9. Plans are transferable.

If the student beneficiary named on the plan doesn’t need the money, it can be transferred to an eligible family member of the student, like a sibling, child, parent or spouse.

10. You can always withdraw the money if needed.

If the student earns a scholarship or enrolls in a military academy, you can withdraw up to the amount of the scholarship or the value of the education tax-free. If the student passes away or becomes disabled and is unable to attend college, there is also no penalty for withdrawals.

If you withdraw money for any other reason than these circumstances and the withdrawal is not used for a qualified higher-education expense, a 10% federal tax penalty will may apply to any earnings. (You would receive the full value of your contributions minus any administration fees.) A tax adviser can help you understand tax consequences of non-qualified withdrawals from a 529 plan.

11. A 529 plan may encourage college attendance and graduation.

Researchers have found that when money is set aside for college, families save more. Even when budgets are tight, families with even relatively small amounts of money earmarked for college find creative ways to save more. Additionally, the perceived value of higher education increased and a high percentage of parents felt their children would finish college.

By: Iowa Student Loan

6 Ways to Help Your Student Save

6-Tips-to-Help-Your-Student-Save

If you’re not independently wealthy, chances are you’ll be relying on a variety of sources to help your child pay for college: scholarships, loans, your own savings and earnings, and your student’s savings and earnings. How can you help your student maximize savings so you don’t end up draining your retirement resources to help them out?

1. Understand how much your student will need.

Many free online calculators provide estimated college expenses for a variety of college types for the year your student will enter college. Try different scenarios to understand the range of expected college expense.

2. Foster an environment of saving.

What do you do with your paycheck? If you expect your child to save 50% of earnings in a savings account, set an example by building your own savings. The same goes for discount shopping, clipping coupons and so on.

3. Encourage your student to reduce expenses.

If your child tends to spend a large portion of earnings and gift money on clothes, for example, work with him or her to find ways to dress in the same manner for less. Think creatively—garage sales, thrift shops and discount store sales can provide a wealth of bargains.

4. Explore interest-bearing accounts with your child. 

Leverage savings by depositing the money in an interest-bearing account. Spend some time researching options and discussing the risks and advantages to different account types. Make an appointment with a specialist at your own financial institution and attend with your student so you both learn your options.

5. Know the options to reduce college costs.

If you realize you and your child will not be able to save enough for college by the time he or she will be ready to enroll, consider how to reduce the overall cost of college. Will your student be able to live at home? Attend a less-expensive school, at least for part of his or her education? Work while attending college? Apply for more scholarships and grants? Graduate early?

6. Set goals and monitor progress.

Use what you’ve learned about college costs and financial products to set goals. Then, periodically check that your student is working toward those goals. You may consider a matching contribution or other reward for progress.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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