Plan for Total College Costs; Enter to Win

Use the free College Funding Forecaster online tool now through April 30 and enter for a chance at one of 10 $1,000 awards.

The College Funding Forecaster helps you get a clearer picture of the total costs, aid and shortfalls over four years using freshman year financial aid award information, as well as family contributions and outside scholarships and grants.

How to Use the College Funding Forecaster

Follow these simple steps to get started:

  1. Gather up your financial aid award information from the college(s) and any information about scholarships received from schools or outside organizations.
  2. Go to IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.
  3. Enter in the college’s financial information as well as information about your family’s earnings and savings and any outside awards.
  4. Review year-by-year estimates and make adjustments for your own situation. For example, living off campus after sophomore year may cost less than living on campus. Or you may be expecting to earn more after the first year of college.
  5. Review the results, as well as the informational tips on how to address funding shortfalls.
  6. Enter your information at the end of the tool to be included in the drawings.

Awards for College

Iowa high school seniors and their parents and guardians can enter the giveaway for a chance at one of 10 $1,000 awards paid to the college on behalf of the winning students.

Use the tool and enter the giveaway today! 

Learn More About the Tool

By: Iowa Student Loan

What Your Financial Aid Award Letter Doesn’t Tell You

The daily life of a college student is filled with associated costs. Many of these are detailed in the financial aid award letters and packets colleges send out, but other expenses can add up.

Don’t forget to plan for expenses like these listed below when estimating your cost of attendance. Having a clear idea of all your expenses upfront will allow you to better plan how you will pay for college.

Class or major-specific materials and fees

Your award letter probably provides an average cost for books and materials, but depending on specific classes, you may need to budget more. For example, you may need to purchase specialty art or lab supplies, specific software or even tickets to local performances or speakers for certain classes.

Social and pre-professional dues and fees

Fraternities, sororities, pre-professional societies, clubs and student organizations often have membership fees, as well as costs associated with special events, trips, conferences and clothing.

Entertainment costs

Sporting events, concerts, movies and other entertainment can add up. In addition, you may need to pay for cable or another TV subscription service, dining outside of a meal plan, snacks, beverages and more.

Printing and photocopy fees

While the world of academics is progressively moving toward electronic communication, you may need to print materials, signs, resumes and portfolios for presentations, interviews and other occasions. You may have a printing allowance included in the cost of attendance, but watch especially for limits on color, 3-D and other specialty printing.

Clothing

Besides an initial outlay for clothes appropriate for the weather and fashions at a specific school, students often buy new clothes for theme days or holidays, special events, interviews and jobs. Don’t forget to budget spirit wear for game days.

Extra travel

Many college award letters list an average amount for transportation. This may not cover your specific costs for travel to and from a faraway home or travel expenses for study abroad, internships or co-ops, conferences, service trips or even trips over breaks. If you take a car to college, you may have parking, insurance and maintenance costs on and off campus, or you may end up paying for cabs, Uber, trains or buses if you don’t have a car available.

Bank and financial fees

If your financial institution doesn’t have a branch on or near campus, you may be responsible for extra fees for using the ATM. Colleges may also charge fees if you choose to use a payment plan or to pay your tuition bill by certain methods.

Health and fitness expenses

If a college doesn’t include membership to a campus fitness center in its fees, you may need to budget for that expense. In addition, physical therapy or personal training services may be available only at an extra charge.

Health insurance

On a related note, consider whether there are extra fees for using your family health insurance in the college area. Many colleges offer their own insurance plans and automatically enroll students. Check with the college to determine if you are being charged for health insurance and how you can avoid paying for double coverage.

Parent travel

If you don’t attend college close to home, your parents may find themselves paying to travel to and stay in the college community several times a year, either for visits, special events or college functions like orientation and family day. This may affect the amount your parents are able to provide for other college-related expenses.

Renter or dorm insurance

You and your family may want to consider an additional policy or increase current insurance coverage in case of loss or theft of personal items at college. Insurance may cover contents of a dorm room or off-campus housing, bikes and computers, as well as other items.

Storage or shipping for breaks

If you attend college far from home, items that can’t be reasonably carted home will need to be either shipped or stored when the dorm closes for the year or while you are between off-campus leases.

Student loan interest

All student loans begin accruing daily interest from the moment they are disbursed to the school or the student. The federal government will pay interest on subsidized federal loans while you are in school at least half-time, but all other student loans have that interest added to the total repayment amount, which can significantly increase the amount you must repay. Choosing to pay interest during the school years can offset the accrual; otherwise, you will need to include that added interest in financial plans for the future.

You may have additional expenses not listed here based on your personal situation. Remember, you will need to repay any student loans with interest on your starting salary after leaving school, so consider how you can pay for these expenses as they arise without borrowing too much.

Iowa Student Loan has several tools to help you plan for college and life afterward. View our smart borrowing tools here.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Package

While college acceptance letters are often exciting, the arrival of financial aid award packages can be confusing. Keep these five things in mind as you review your financial aid awards to limit stress.

Financial aid is not all free money.

Depending on the college or university, financial aid may be presented under one large heading or broken down by type. Remember that work-study and loans, including federal and supplemental loans, are also part of financial aid packages. Work-study requires you to find and obtain work on campus, and loans must be paid back with interest after you graduate or leave college.

Cost of attendance varies by college.

Like the types of aid offered, college costs may be presented differently by different institutions. Tuition and fees may be grouped together or separated; room and board may be called housing and meals; and estimated expenses for books, transportation and miscellaneous may or may not be listed. You may also see tuition, fees, housing and meals listed as direct costs, while other expenses are shown as indirect costs because they are not billed by the school. Remember, many indirect costs are estimates or averages, and you may spend less or budget more depending on your situation. Be sure you understand what is included in each category to get a true comparison between schools.

Work-study requires work now.

If your award package includes a line for work-study, don’t assume the college will have a job waiting for you when you arrive on campus in the fall. As soon as you decide on a college, touch base with the financial aid office to determine what steps you need to take to get a job on campus. Then, apply for the job(s) you are interested in or seek out other opportunities to count on that money coming in once you start classes.

Outside scholarships may impact your award package.

You need to report any scholarships or grants you receive from sources outside of the government or college to the financial aid office. While those outside scholarships may reduce the aid you’re eligible to receive, they can also help you borrow less if you need loans, so don’t be afraid of finding as much outside free money as possible.

Expenses may increase and free aid may decrease after your freshman year.

College tuition, on-campus housing and meal plans will likely cost more each year you’re in school. Grants and scholarships you’re offered to attend a college as a freshman, on the other hand, may decrease in future years. Find out if scholarships and grants are for one year or if they are renewable. If they can be renewed each year, be sure you understand any requirements you must meet to keep those awards. Also, be aware that maximum federal loan amounts may increase every year you’re in college, but those funds will need to be paid back with interest in the future. It is a good idea to estimate total college costs to earn your degree so you can make a realistic plan to pay for your entire college career.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Minimize Your Student Loan Debt: Declining Awarded Student Loans

Colleges sometimes include the maximum available federal student and parent loans on financial aid award letters to bring the amount of awarded financial aid closer to the total cost of attendance. It’s not always clear that students don’t need to accept the full amount of all loans.

Reducing expenses or increasing earnings to offset awarded loans will mean less debt after graduation. Not only would the amount of the student loans need to be repaid, but so will interest that accrues daily on those loans. And, it won’t matter if college doesn’t result in graduation, a job or the anticipated earnings. Once the loan has been accepted, the student (or parents in the case of a federal PLUS Loan for parents) is responsible for repaying it.

If the awarded loan amount seems like more than the student will really need, it’s important to decide exactly how much to borrow.

Need some, but not all, of the awarded federal student loan amount?

Students can always accept only the loan amount they need. To take a partial loan amount:

  • Fill in the desired loan amount on the document to be returned to the financial aid office if a paper copy needs to be signed and returned.
  • Choose the electronic option for accepting or declining each applicable loan, or for taking out a partial loan amount, when accepting financial aid online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to accept a partial award.

Can all loans be declined?

Many students have the goal to attend college loan-free. Even if some loans will eventually be needed, declining all loans for one semester will save capitalized interest later on. To decline the offered loans:

  • Cross out the loan amount or select the “decline” option on the document to be returned to the financial aid office.
  • Choose the electronic option for declining each applicable loan if financial aid is accepted online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to decline loans.

Considering PLUS Loans?

Although PLUS Loans may appear to be part of the awarded financial aid, they are not automatically paid to the student or institution. Parents need to request these loans. Your family may wish to compare the terms and benefits of a PLUS Loan with those, like our College Family Loan, offered by private lenders. These loans may have different fees or interest rates. Be sure to discuss repayment expectations as a family if parents will be responsible for repaying the PLUS or other loan debt.

By: Iowa Student Loan

12 New Year’s Resolutions for High School Seniors

jan17-newyearresolutions

The final year of high school may feel like a time to settle in and enjoy the familiar. With a big life change coming up, however, the start of a new calendar year might facilitate a few changes to get ready for even larger ones later.

Here are 12 resolutions for college-bound high school seniors.

1. Get excited about college.

It’s natural to feel sad about leaving high school behind, but resolve to think instead about the new opportunities waiting for you in a few months. Regardless of how far from home your college is, you will have a chance to make new friends and to discover new things about yourself and the world. Let go of any resentment about what didn’t go right in high school and prepare to be open minded about new horizons.

2. Finish strong academically.

Remember that your college will need your final transcript, so don’t let your grades drop once you’ve been accepted. If you’re taking dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, remember that you may need to achieve certain grades or test scores to be able to receive credit for required classes at your college.

3. Learn how to adult.

Very soon, you will be responsible for getting yourself out of bed and to class or work on time. You’ll also need to know how to take care of laundry, handle financial matters, advocate for yourself and much more. Make a list of things you’ll need to know how to do on your own and start checking items off.

4. Know what needs to be done for college.

If you’ve made your final college decision, make sure you understand what is needed next. You may need to make enrollment and housing deposits, reserve a spot at orientation, select housing and roommates and visit the doctor for vaccinations or checkups. You may also need to contact other institutions you applied to and let them know you aren’t planning to attend. If you haven’t yet committed to a college, check the deadlines for the top contenders to ensure you don’t miss any.

5. Save or make money.

Besides the large expenses of tuition, fees, housing, books and other costs of college attendance, you’ll need money for daily expenses, transportation and more. Resolve to spend less between now and the day you leave for college and make a goal to land a job to earn additional cash if possible.

6. Make memories.

Even though you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing for college, also try to be present in the moment. Enjoy your hometown friends and family while you’re with them.

7. Say thank you.

Many people have probably helped you get where you are right now. Teachers, mentors, coaches, recommenders, your parents and others may deserve and will undoubtedly appreciate your thanks. Be specific about how they’ve helped or inspired you and let your relationship guide you on whether a handwritten note or an in-person gesture is best.

8. Apply for scholarships.

It’s never too late to apply for scholarships to help you manage your college expenses. Start with a search on your college’s website or a call to the admissions or financial aid office. You may be eligible for competitive or automatic awards from the college, your academic department or other providers. Also search on scholarship websites and check with your school counselor for outside scholarships. And, finally, remember to explore offerings from your own and your family’s employers, financial institutions, community and religious organizations, and other outside sources.

9. Leave a positive impression.

If you will soon need to end your involvement in an organization or activity, plan a way to leave a lasting legacy. You may be able to spearhead a special campaign, pass a project or advice on to another member, or put forth your best effort.

10. Create your own future.

Many seniors who have been deferred or denied by their top choice college feel as though they are settling for second best. Remember, regardless of admission decisions, your success is more about you than any one college path. Resolve to always be your best and seek out opportunity no matter where you’re headed next fall.

11. Weigh financing options.

If you haven’t yet, you’ll soon receive your college’s financial aid packet detailing the financial aid you are eligible to receive as a student at that institution. Carefully consider how you can limit borrowing. If your financial aid doesn’t cover cost of attendance and you need to think about private loans, compare your options for the best fit for your situation.

12. Set goals for the next phase.

Most college freshmen plan to graduate college and find a job after obtaining a degree. Think about specific and incremental goals that will help you reach that main objective. Consider whether you want to or should maintain a certain GPA; find and participate in internships, co-ops or other career-related work; complete research; join student organizations or graduate debt-free.

By: Iowa Student Loan

College Visits: What to Ask

Header image: College Visits: What to Ask

A visit to a college campus is a great way to familiarize yourself with the overall atmosphere on campus and see what daily life there may be like. It’s important to find the right fit financially and personally so that you save time and money in attaining your degree. Choose from among the questions below to ask on your next college visit.

What to Ask an Admissions Representative

  • Is admission need-blind (meaning financial background does not impact admission) or need-aware (meaning that full-pay students are more likely to be admitted or that there’s a limited number of scholarships for financially needy students)?
  • Is there an introductory freshman year experience, such as a service or camp opportunity?
  • Is there a culminating senior year experience?
  • What is the average class size for introductory or general education classes?
  • Are students required to live on campus? Every year?
  • Are dorms available or guaranteed for upperclassmen?
  • What are the food plan requirements when living on campus? How does the food service accommodate food allergies/sensitivities?
  • How do AP, IB and dual enrollment classes, SAT subject test scores and CLEP test scores count for credit?
  • How does class scheduling/academic advising work? How and when do freshmen sign up for classes?
  • How does the school help students take the right classes at the right time to graduate in four years?

What to Ask a Financial Aid Representative

  • How do outside scholarships affect financial aid? Will they replace other awarded aid or be stacked on top of it?
  • What are the work-study opportunities on campus?
  • What campus employment is available for students not awarded work-study?
  • Is alternative financial aid, such as service-based scholarships, available?
  • Do financial aid packages change after freshman year?
  • How many campus and departmental scholarships are available after freshman year?

What to Ask a Representative of Your Major

  • What is the student-faculty ratio in my major?
  • What is the average class size for upper division classes in my major?
  • What opportunities for undergrad research would be available to me?
  • How many undergraduate students conduct research?
  • Is there a separate admission process for my major, and what does that entail?
  • What is the admission rate for students of my declared major?
  • Is my major impacted or highly selective? Or, is there a chance my major will be eliminated before I graduate?
  • How many students get internships? What is the process for finding internships?
  • Do companies come to campus to recruit? Is there an annual career fair for students in my major?
  • What is the role of teaching assistants for my major?
  • What does it take to graduate in four years?

What to Ask Your Tour Guide

  • How many students live on campus versus off-campus? How many commute?
  • Are art or music spaces available to non-majors?
  • What IT services are available, and how much do they cost students?
  • What is the campus sports atmosphere?
  • What do students on campus think of my intended major? Does it have a reputation?
  • What happens when there is an emergency, such as severe weather or an active shooter?

What to Ask Students on Campus

  • How crowded are dorms?
  • What happens on weekends and breaks? Do many students leave campus?
  • What other schools did you look at and why did you decide on this one?
  • What is the social life like?
  • How do you get around campus or to shopping, the airport or the entertainment district?
  • Do most students have bikes or cars?
  • How much does it cost to live off-campus and what are the options?
  • How hard is it to get into required classes?
  • Are you able to meet with your professors when you want to?
  • What are your favorite and least favorite things about this college?
  • Where do students get food other than the dining centers?
  • How do students view fraternities and sororities?
  • What are the most popular activities on campus?

What to Ask Yourself

  • Does the student body seem friendly and welcoming?
  • Are the library and other student academic centers up to date and are students using these resources?
  • What is available to eat in the dining center and how many options are there on a daily basis?
  • Where do students gather and how do they interact with each other?
  • Does the bus system run on time and go where needed? Does it seem overcrowded or underused?
  • What do I think of the main buildings, labs and facilities for my major and other main interests?
  • What does the student newspaper, posted fliers and notices tell me about the campus?

See questions that are easily answered through research instead.

By: Iowa Student Loan

College Visits: What Not to Ask

Header image: College Visits: What Not to Ask

Many of the most common questions people ask on college visits can be answered by looking at the school website or its Common Data Set questionnaire*.

* To find the Common Data Set online, search for the term on the school’s website, or enter the school name and “Common Data Set” in your browser search bar.

Research the answers to these questions to help you narrow down college choices.

  • What are the requirements for admission?
  • What other factors, like being a first-generation or legacy student, affect admission?
  • Are students typically accepted through early admission or off a waitlist?
  • Is a gap year allowed between admission and enrolling?
  • How many undergraduate students and graduate students are on campus?
  • What is the student-faculty ratio?
  • How many students are in the average class?
  • How many students graduate in four years, five years and six years?
  • What is the student retention rate?
  • What is the average debt for students?
  • What is the percentage of financial need met by the school?
  • What percentage of students receive financial aid?
  • How much of awarded financial aid is scholarships and grants, and how much is loans?
  • How many students are in fraternities and sororities?
  • What activities and clubs are available?
  • How many students study abroad?
  • Is there an honors college or program, and what are its requirements?
  • Does the school offer living/learning communities, and how do those work?
  • What additional services, including tutoring, academic advising, health, mental health and career, are available to students?
  • What are the crime rates and types for the campus and the surrounding community?
  • What do students and families say about this school on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit?
  • How do professors in my major score on ratemyprofessor.com and other educator rating sites?

See a list of questions to ask during college visits instead.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Six Tips for Staying Sharp During Break

6-Tips_SharpDuringBreak

Winter break: a perfect time to catch up on sleep, eat wonderful meals with family and relax in front of the TV. These opportunities to recover from the stress of classes, homework and studying are important. But don’t let your time away from the classroom impact all that you have been learning. Stay sharp by engaging your mind in different activities.

Take Time to Read

A book, news or sports articles or your favorite blog. A break from typical academic reading to focus on topics that you really enjoy can remind you why you like to read before textbooks and research papers become your major source of words again.

Tutor a younger student

Helping someone master a difficult math concept, memorize the periodic table or learn about your favorite subject can benefit you both. The student you spend time with gains from your knowledge while you get a chance to look at a topic from a different point of view (you’re the teacher now, not the student).

Take an online class

If you’re in college, you may be able to take an intensive online class or two over the winter break for credit. If you’re in high school or your college doesn’t offer online classes during the winter break, check out your local community college offerings for credit or look for free online learning opportunities where credit may not be offered but interesting topics may be available. Top colleges like Yale, Harvard and MIT offer access to prerecorded lectures and courses at no cost.

Work ahead

Do you have your syllabus and books for next semester’s classes? Or do you know where you left off in a year-long class? Make good use of your down time by getting through some early reading and studying. Don’t forget to take notes about what you’re reading so that you can quickly refresh your memory when class starts back up in the new year.

Do something fun

Staying mentally sharp doesn’t necessarily mean doing work. Challenge yourself with a puzzle, arrange a family game night or create a scavenger hunt filled with riddles and problems to solve for friends. Entertaining activities can stimulate your mind and be much more enjoyable than spending time answering practice questions.

Don’t forget to exercise

Take your mind off school subjects by going for a walk, hitting a local basketball court with friends or trying your luck at an ice skating rink. Your mind and body will both thank you for some physical activity.

By: Iowa Student Loan

15 Ideas for Making Money During Winter Break

Depending on your school’s calendar, you may have from two to four weeks away from school with little or no academic commitments, which leaves you plenty of time to earn extra cash which could be used to reduce your need for student loans or allow you to pay interest on current student loans to reduce your balance.MoneyOverWinterBreak-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic

Here are 15 ways you can make money over your break.

1. Find a paid internship

Make money and gain valuable experience at the same time. Check with your campus career services office for available opportunities near campus, or contact companies in your field close to home.

2. Apply for scholarships

Spend several hours researching and applying for the scholarships you were too busy to look at during the academic session.

3. Work retail

Many retailers take on seasonal staff to help with the preholiday rush, post-holiday sales and gift returns.

4. Turn your existing part-time job or internship into a full-time position

Your employer may jump at the chance to give you more hours to offset other employees’ vacation time or to help handle year-end projects.

5. Babysit for busy parents

Besides the extra commitment of holiday parties and travel, many parents also seek temporary, full-time sitters for school-age children at home during winter break.

6. Take care of Fido (and Bessie)

Pet owners who will be away for an extended period of time may prefer to have a responsible person come in to feed, exercise and clean up after their furry friends. If you live in or near a rural area, don’t forget that farmers often need someone to take care of their stock every day. Advertise early to line up several commitments over break.

7. Be a house-sitter

Homeowners will often pay a responsible person to stay in their home, water plants, set out garbage and take care of other tasks while they are away for a long trip.

8. Sell your stuff

While you’re at home over break, take the opportunity to go through clothes, electronics, books and other belongings you no longer need. You can take them to consignment shops or sell them yourself online.

9. Be the designated driver

With holiday parties in full swing, more and more people turn to Uber and other driving services.

10. Promotional campaigns

Offer your tech and social media savvy to businesses who want to promote products or holiday sales. A few hours of your time can be worth a lot of money to business owners who don’t have the time or knowledge to set up their own campaigns.

11. Put your creations up for sale

If you’re artistic or crafty, a little time designing holiday cards, decorations or gifts can pay off when you sell them online or at flea markets.

12. Fill in on or near campus

It may sound strange to spend your break on campus, but if you have a place to stay, you may be able to find a temporary position taking shifts for other students who’ve gone home. The bookstore, area shops and campus offices may need help preparing for the spring semester while some of their regular staff is out.

13. Teach a class

Work with local gyms, libraries and shops to set up special classes in something you know well and can teach others — a great workout for sedentary office workers, a how-to for smartphones or apps, creative cooking for the budget-conscious.

14. Do the legwork

Do any local businesses need help distributing fliers or making holiday deliveries? While you’re doing your own holiday shopping, keep an eye out for an opportunity to offer your services.

15. Take care of not-so-odd jobs

Advertise your availability to run errands, wrap gifts, hang holiday lights and shovel snow.

 By: Iowa Student Loan

Is Community College the Right Place to Start?

Comm-College-the-Right-Place-to-Start

Many students choose to start their college careers at a two-year community college. Is it right for you or your student? Compare options below.

Two-Year Community College Four-Year College or University
Annual in-state tuition and fees*

Costs are typically lower at two-year colleges.

$3,000–$5,000

• National average: $3,347
• Iowa average: $4,541

$7,000–$32,000

• National average (public four-year): $9,139
• Iowa average (public four-year): $7,857
• National average (private four-year): $31,231
• Iowa average (private four-year): $29,650

Annual room and board*

Many students at two-year colleges choose to live at home and commute.

$0–$8,000

• National average: $7,705
• Midwest average: $6,486

$9,000–$12,000

• National average (public four-year): $9,804
• Midwest average (public four-year): $8,968
• National average (private four-year): $11,188
• Midwest average (private four-year): $9,691

Type of degree

If you plan to transfer from a two-year college to a four-year institution, you should first check how and if specific credits will transfer.

• Associate degrees and certifications for trade-related careers
• Transferrable general education requirements
• Bachelor
• Post-graduate degrees
Hands-on experience • Close association with area industries
• Often offer local apprenticeships and internships
• Can be limited for undergraduate students
• Opportunities for local, national and international internship, cooperative education and study-abroad programs
Campus experience • Traditional to commuter campus
• More limited campus activities
• Traditional
• Extensive campus activities and clubs
Confidence in major or career choice • Little opportunity to explore variety of majors
• Opportunity to achieve a two-year degree, work and then re-evaluate
• More opportunity to explore before declaring a major
• Changing majors and five- or six-year graduation rates are common
Classroom instruction • Career professionals
• Nontenured instructors
• Tenured professors
• Nontenured professors
• Other instructors
• Graduate students
Admission requirements • High school graduate
• Placement test may be required
• ACT or SAT may be required for specific degrees
• High school graduate
• ACT or SAT usually required
• Minimum high school grade point average
• Essay, interview or other requirement may be needed
Schedule flexibility

Do you need to work around a work or family schedule?

• Daytime and evening classes
• Some weekend classes
• Online classes
• Mostly daytime classes
• Some evening and online classes

*2014–2015 Trends in College Pricing, College Board

 By: Iowa Student Loan

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