11 Things You’ll Learn During Your First Semester

College is about learning, and not just in class. Some life lessons you’ll figure out quickly and maybe painfully. Others will take time.

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1. You’ll probably feel lost in at least one class. It’s OK, and you’re not alone. Make an appointment with your professor, check out resources like free tutoring and the writing center, or join a study group to learn from your peers.

2. Your professors expect you to show up, ready to take notes or participate in class. They won’t spell out assignments or remind you of upcoming tests. Use a calendar or organizer to manage study sessions and upcoming due dates.

3. You should go to class. You’re paying to go. If you skip classes, you’re throwing money away. If you’re using student loans, you’ll have to pay back that money with interest. Plus, you never know when the professor will provide key details that will be on an exam.

4. Silence your phone. When you’re in a class, meeting with a professor or studying with classmates, be respectful of their time and others around you by turning off the ringer and turning down the vibrate volume. Rarely is a call or text worth disturbing others or breaking your concentration.

5. Don’t leave your clothes in the laundry after the cycle. You don’t need to babysit your clothes. Just know how long the cycle runs, set a reminder on your phone and return promptly. Your fellow students will not appreciate clothes left in a machine. Your personal garments may end up in a pile somewhere, or potentially, gone for good.

6. Register for classes as soon as you can, especially on larger campuses and for required classes. Waiting until later may mean missing a prerequisite class that can set you back on completing other classes and cause you to attend school longer than you expected, costing you additional money.

7. Credit cards offered on campus are probably not your best options. The cards offered on campus often have extremely high rates. If you feel you need one, talk with your parents or a financial planner at your bank or credit union about the best option for you.

8. You and your roommate may have issues. One way to help prevent or lessen resentment is to discuss preferences at the beginning of the year, compromise where necessary and then set some ground rules. When you do run into problems, talk with your roommate and try to work through issues together. If you still need help, ask your RA for advice. It’s OK to ask your parents for advice, but try to handle it yourself instead of asking them to fix the problem for you.

9. Homesickness is normal. Whether you miss your family dog, younger siblings, homemade dinners or sleeping in your full-size bed, you will likely experience some homesickness. Everyone adjusts to life away from home at a different pace, and with everything going on in your life, it may seem overwhelming at times. Take time to call or video chat with family and friends. Hearing each other’s voices can be better than checking social media or receiving texts.

10. Random acts of kindness are awesome. Something simple can make a person’s day better and give your outlook a boost at the same time. Hold the door open for someone a few steps behind you; smile at people in the hall; be there for someone having a rough day.

11. You can never have too many clean, dry towels. Pack an extra one, or three. You’ll want them.

By: Iowa Student Loan

3 Tips to Limit Borrowing for School


Before you apply for additional student loans, make sure you’re not borrowing too much. Doing so can make repayment painful. So, use the tips below first and then only borrow what you need.*

*And if you determine you’ve borrowed too much for this year already, you may be able to cancel part of the loan before all the funds are sent (or “disbursed”) to your college. Check in with your financial aid office to see if you can still cancel part of the loan.

Don’t Borrow for Extras

You should only borrow money that you need to pay college costs, not for incidentals or other items you want.

Check out these great ideas to save money on supplies.

Student loans should be used for any education-related expenses such as tuition, room and board, meal plans, book and even transportation costs. Those loan funds shouldn’t be used to decorate your dorm room with the trendiest items when you may already have most of what you need at home. The newest gaming equipment, spring break trips and pizza for all your friends on a Thursday night also shouldn’t be paid for with student loan funds.

Think about it. Do you really want to be paying back that money, plus interest, in 10 years when the pizza is long gone and the décor and gaming items are out of date?

Work a Few Hours a Week

If you want to pick up the newest version of Call of Duty for a break from studying or want to head to Vegas for spring break, think about getting a part-time job during the school year. Working just 10 hours a week can help put some extra cash in your checking account and may help your grades by forcing you to budget your time wisely.

It would probably even be better to use your paycheck to buy needed supplies like books or pay some of the smaller fees charged by your school so that you don’t have to use loans for those expenses. And don’t forget, you can always use any money earned to make monthly interest payments on your current student loans to prevent the loan amount from increasing while you’re in school.

Maximize Your Course Load

Want to do one more thing to keep your loan balance from getting out of control? Be sure you’re taking as many classes as you can so that you graduate on time. Does your college consider 12 hours full-time enrollment but allow you to take up to 18 hours at the same tuition cost? If so, try to make the most of that time. If your grades and schedule allows, consider taking 18 hours at a time. If you can’t manage 18 hours effectively, taking 15 hours can help you stay on track for graduating in four years better than 12 hours will. And graduating in four years instead of five or more can significantly keep your loan costs down.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Save Money on College Supplies

Save Money on College Supplies

Use these tips to save money as you prepare for your first semester of college.


Buy only what you really need.

  • If you live in a residence hall, you may find you don’t need your own vacuum or printer.
  • Before you buy a lot of new clothes, consider what you’ll really wear on a daily basis. You probably won’t want to dress up for those 8 a.m. lectures.
  • Do you really need a new matching bed set with a duvet cover? You may find your old bedding is more comfortable.
  • Check social media sites and ask professors about recommended books — maybe you’ll find you don’t really need them all.
  • If you’re not sure about a specific purchase, wait a couple of weeks after you move in — by then you’ll probably have a better idea of whether you’ll have room for (or even still want) a sofa.

See what you already have at home.

  • It may be fun to get all new school supplies, but you might have enough basic items like notebooks, pens, folders, scissors, and even a bag or backpack, to get you through a semester.
  • Check for items like extra storage bins, hangers and mirrors at home instead of buying new.

Rent, share, borrow and swap.

  • Your college or an affiliated organization may offer dorm size refrigerators and other large-ticket items for rent.
  • Check for your textbooks on rental sites if you don’t think you’ll have a reason to use it again once the class is over.
  • See if your roommate or other students are willing to share a textbook if you’re in the same class.
  • If you have older relatives or neighbors who are moving off campus, they may be willing to lend you some furniture or other items for a year or two.
  • Check the college library for required textbooks. (If only limited copies are available, you may need to plan ahead to have one on hand just before exams.)
  • Some sites even let you borrow or rent e-books and audiobooks, and electronic versions of text books are becoming more available.

Buy used.

  • Hit garage sales and thrift shops to save the most money on items like furniture, bedding and rugs. Remember to check social media sites and pages dedicated to swaps and sales, especially those used by students at your college.
  • Consider refurbished and certified electronics and laptops.
  • Used textbooks are available at several online sites as well as campus bookstores.

Use discounts.

  • Your student ID will often get you a discount for electronics, software, books and services like oil changes and salon services. Be sure to ask if it’s not advertised.
  • Your parents may belong to an association that offers discounts, such as AAA and other savings clubs.
  • Follow retailers on social media and sign up for emails and electronic coupons. (Be careful about opening new store-associated credit cards, though!)

Watch for deals.

  • School supplies are often cheapest and most available just before school starts. Stock up now so you don’t pay more later.
  • If you don’t need it right away, wait for popular items, like dorm-size rugs and extra-long sheets, to go on sale shortly after move-in is over.
  • Check websites that compare prices (including shipping costs) for you.
  • Take advantage of the annual tax holiday on school supplies.

See additional tips on saving money in college.

What should you do with all the money you saved? See how making an interest payment on your student loans while you’re in school can save you even more in the long run.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Financial Aid Myths

Have you heard that applying for financial aid isn’t worth it because your parents earn too much or because it takes too long to complete? Don’t be tempted by these common myths to skip completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You could be passing up free money. And that’s the last thing you want to do when it comes to paying for college.


Financial Aid Myth — You won’t receive financial aid because of how much money your parents earn.

Income is not the only determining factor when it comes to whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And there is no income level that automatically disqualifies you for aid. Taking the time to complete the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student aid and you won’t know if you qualify until you do that step, so completing the FAFSA every year you are in school is important.

Also, did you know that the FAFSA is used for more than just federal financial aid? State and school aid is also awarded based on your FAFSA results. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could also be missing out on these other sources of financial aid.

Financial Aid Myth — The FAFSA is difficult to complete.

The FAFSA has changed a lot since it was first introduced, and the application is revised often to make the process smoother. The online process uses logic to limit questions to ones that are relevant and completing it online instead of filling out a paper application lessens the chance for mistakes. According to the federal government, completing the FAFSA now takes less than 21 minutes on average. That’s not too bad if the outcome is grants, scholarships and other funds to help lower your college expenses, is it?

Financial Aid Myth — You need to have your taxes filed before starting the FAFSA.

While you will eventually need final annual tax information for your FAFSA, you can start and even submit it with estimated information. It’s really important not to wait until your or your family’s taxes are filed to submit your FAFSA, especially if your college or university’s priority deadline is well before April 15. Financial aid is distributed first to those students who file their FAFSA by the school’s deadline, so if you miss that by waiting until you file your taxes, you may miss out on important opportunities.

If your taxes won’t be filed until closer to the tax deadline, you can estimate your information using last year’s tax return. Then once your taxes for this year are completed, you can update that information online. Remember, there is no penalty for using estimated information.

Financial Aid Myth — You only need to complete the FAFSA once.

If you complete the FAFSA before starting college, you may think you don’t need to file it ever again. But you should file the FAFSA every year as soon after Jan. 1 as possible if you intend to enroll in classes during the next academic year. This is especially important if your family’s circumstances change because you may be eligible for new or more aid next year. Even if there are no major changes to your family, though, other factors such as how financial need is calculated may mean you are eligible for different options next year. And, once you complete the FAFSA the first time, it will take even less time to complete the following years.

Financial Aid Myth — Your parents are not supporting you financially in college so you don’t have to include their information on the FAFSA.

Unfortunately you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, even if you are paying for all your college expenses yourself. You will need to answer questions in the FAFSA to determine if you are considered a dependent student or an independent student. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. If you are unsure how what type of student you are, contact your college or university’s financial aid office for assistance.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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