Registration Still Open for College Scholarship Program

Registration is still open for a scholarship that offers Iowa high school seniors a chance to receive one of 30 scholarships worth $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills.

“I’m incredibly grateful for Iowa Student Loan and the Financial Know-How Challenge Scholarship. The financial rewards as well as the skills I learned when applying will be a huge help to me … as I strive to pursue my dreams in a way that is financially responsible.”

— Ryan Wagner, a 2017 graduate of Fort Dodge High School and a recipient of the 2016–2017 scholarship

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are residents of Iowa; are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2017–2018 school year; and attend college in fall 2018. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

Register Today!

High school seniors may register for the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship by Feb. 16.

Iowa Student Loan® will award the $2,000 scholarships to students who complete two online financial literacy tutorials and score highest on a related assessment. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

The two tutorials — Student Loan Game PlanSM and the ROCI Reality Check — were developed by Iowa Student Loan to help students understand the consequences of college borrowing and discover how to maximize their return on college investment, or ROCI.

A related multiple choice assessment checks students’ understanding of the concepts in the tutorials. If top-scoring students tie, those students will be asked to write and be judged on a short essay so winners can be determined.

“Each year, we hear from participants and parents that this scholarship campaign helped them understand how they can minimize college debt,” Christine Hensley, Iowa Student Loan board chair, said. “Our hope is that they also tell others, who can then also use our online tools to reduce borrowing as well.”

In addition, each recipient’s high school will receive a corresponding $500 award.

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are residents of Iowa; are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2017–2018 school year; and attend college in fall 2018. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

By: Iowa Student Loan

 

 

How to Handle Multiple Acceptance Letters

Sometimes the most nerve-wracking part of the entire college admissions process is making the final decision. If you received admission or acceptance offers from more than one of your top choices, these tips can help you choose.

MultipleAcceptLetters_infographicDownload a PDF of this infographic.

  1. Be sure you know how soon you need to make a commitment by comparing dates provided in your admissions packet. (Most colleges and universities give you until May 1 to respond.) If you were admitted and met entrance requirements, you may have some time yet to consider your final choice before you miss the first deadline.
  1. Rank your options. Order your choices based on how well each school fits your needs.
  1. Get student perspectives. If you haven’t already, revisit campus and talk to students. Online resources — like social media, blog entries and comments, and reviews — are also great resources. You can learn a lot of helpful information from those who have been there.
  1. Delve into the nitty-gritty. Look up student retention rates to see if a high proportion of freshmen don’t stay in school; graduation rates for four, five and six years; and job placement rates after graduation. Freshmen do or don’t stay for myriad reasons, but an unusual proportion may indicate an issue you would also face.
  1. Look at your major specifically. How many students are in your major? Do they have trouble getting into the classes they need? Check out the list of required classes for your major and compare that to the number of sections available each semester in the school’s course catalog. Don’t forget to search for online reviews or comments specific to your intended major.
  1. Look at your bottom line. Your total cost to get through all your undergraduate years should be a major consideration. A good financial aid package may move your second or third choice up to the top spot. If a lack of financial aid is keeping you from choosing your favorite school, consider contacting the admissions office to let them know money is preventing you from accepting. If you’re a desirable candidate, they may be able to help with a little more financial aid, depending on their budget.
  1. Commit to one school. You should not agree to attend more than one school. Not only are you likely to lose at least one deposit, a school may rescind its offer if it finds out you are accepting additional offers. The only exception to this is if you are wait-listed at your No. 1 choice; in that case, you may decide to accept your second choice while you wait to hear. Just be sure you notify the second school immediately if you get in at your first choice.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Applying to College

You’ve been considering colleges for a while now; visit booths at college fairs, perusing websites and pamphlets, and even venturing out on campus visits – all the while looking for that perfect campus that says home away from home.

Well, the time has come to start applying if you haven’t already. October is College Application Month and now is the time to make some decisions about what colleges interest you enough to fill out that application and hit submit.

The application process is actually a lot easier than most people think, but depending on where you decide to apply there can still be some steps to the process.

Step 1:
Narrow your choices. You should apply to 3-5 schools to keep your options open. You want to apply to your top schools, but you also want to make sure your final list includes a safety school. What is a safety school? It’s a school that you know you’ll get into and that has your program of interest. You want to always have a back-up plan and your safety school is your admissions back-up plan.

Step 2:
Review each school on your list and determine their application process and requirements. Are the applications online free? Is there a benefit to applying on campus? What pieces of information are required such as ACT score, GPA, letters of recommendation, or essays? Make a list for each school and then begin compiling everything you need.

Step 3:
Fill out the application. Be thorough and don’t leave anything blank. If you have to submit additional information, be sure you proof read everything and check off each item as you submit it to the school.

If there’s an essay make sure you are following all the instructions. Some schools will provide a prompt or topic they want you to write about. Others may simply ask for a personal statement. Remember that you can reuse certain parts of essays but be sure to tailor each essay to the specific shcool

Once you’re organized, the application process is pretty straight-forward. Just remember to take your time and be yourself on your applications. Try and submit your applications by early to mid-November so you have plenty of time to focus on scholarship applications at each college. And remember, you can also be working on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.)

That’s about it. Now get out there and submit those applications.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

Registration Opens for College Scholarship Program

Scholarship Gives 30 Iowa High School Seniors Chance at $2,000,
Educates Them on College Borrowing and Personal Finance

Registration is open for a scholarship that offers Iowa high school seniors a chance to receive one of 30 scholarships worth $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills. In addition, each recipient’s high school will receive a corresponding $500 award.

2017 Scholarship recipients with then Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

High school seniors may register for the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship between now and Feb. 16. Iowa Student Loan® will award $2,000 scholarships to 30 students who complete two online financial literacy tutorials and score highest on a related assessment. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

After registering for the scholarship, students receive emailed instructions for completing the three required online components. The two tutorials — Student Loan Game Plansm and the ROCI Reality Check — were developed by Iowa Student Loan to help students understand the consequences of college borrowing and discover how to maximize their return on college investment, or ROCI.

A related multiple choice assessment will check students’ understanding of the concepts in the tutorials. The 30 high school seniors who score highest on the assessment test will each receive a $2,000 scholarship that will be sent directly to their colleges in fall 2018. If top-scoring students tie, those students will be asked to write and be judged on a short essay so winners can be determined.

Each scholarship recipient’s high school will also receive a corresponding $500 award to be used toward scholarship and financial literacy programs.

“I’m incredibly grateful for Iowa Student Loan and the Financial Know-How Challenge Scholarship. The financial rewards as well as the skills I learned when applying will be a huge help to me … as I strive to pursue my dreams in a way that is financially responsible.”

— Ryan Wagner, a 2017 graduate of Fort Dodge High School and a recipient of the 2016–2017 scholarship

 

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are residents of Iowa; are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2017–2018 school year; and attend college in fall 2018. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

Register Today!

By: Iowa Student Loan

Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

Header image: Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

Choosing the college you want to attend is a big decision and there are many factors that you should consider when making the decision.

Future Career
What do you want to do when you finish college; what’s your ultimate goal? You should answer this question and then find colleges that will help you reach the answer. Your career path is something that you will spend 30-40+ years developing and the best training and foundation for that career comes in the form of the right college or training program. You want to make sure the one you pick has everything you need to be successful in your future career.

Campus Programs/Majors
Having everything you need to be successful in your future career boils down to the right program or major to get you into your field. A mistake that many students make is selecting a college for campus amenities or connections with family or friends, and then finding out that the college doesn’t have the program or major they really want. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety due to picking a different major or transferring to a different school. Transfers can cost more as well because you may add on an extra year or two to complete your degree. Make sure that the colleges you consider have the program or major that is right for you, and that the program is in line with your career goals.

Campus Visit
Try and visit every campus you are considering. While websites and guidebooks give you an idea of what campus will be like, only an in-person visit will give you the full picture. Schedule a visit with the admissions office and personalize your visit by:

  • Attending a lecture in your chosen major
  • Meeting with faculty or students in your chosen department
  • Do an overnight visit and experience campus life
  • Sit down with a financial aid advisor and discuss cost and scholarship opportunities
  • Try the food in the cafeteria and check out the career center, student life, and the dorm
  • Ask lots of questions (download a Campus Visit Guide at icansucceed.org/materials)

Financial Aid
Make sure you are picking a college that is within your means and allows you to graduate with an affordable degree. Your basic college budget formula is this:

Starting Salary = Overall Borrowing Limit

This means that if you will make an average starting salary of $25,000, your total student loans for the full time you are in school should not exceed $25,000. This keeps your student loan payments at a reasonable level for repayment once you graduate. Make sure you are picking a school that is affordable for the life and career you plan to have after graduation.

Choosing a college can seem overwhelming but breaking down the decision into these categories and asking questions will help you make the best decision based on your future goals and set you up for future success.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

 

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

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

Comparing Student Loan Options

You’ve recently determined that your child will need a student loan to help cover the remaining cost of college. You’ve probably also discovered that there are many options to choose from. What might be less obvious is that there are some big differences between those options and many providers make it hard for you to know what those differences are.

Knowing how to spot these differences can help you get the best loan for your situation and potentially avoid thousands of dollars in added costs and fees.

Key Differences:

 

  • Marketing Tactics. Many student loan providers won’t tell you the actual interest rate you will receive until you have invested a significant amount of time and provided the necessary information to apply for their loan. Instead, they advertise using the lowest rate they offer, without explaining that only a small percent of applicants qualify for it.
  • Incomplete information. All private student loan lenders are required by law to provide consumers with the annual percentage rate (APR) of their loan products. The federal government however, does not publish the APR for the widely used PLUS Loan for parents. Instead, they provide the interest rate. By not disclosing the APR, consumers often don’t see the effective rate for the PLUS Loan which is much higher than the advertised interest rate due to an upfront fee charged on PLUS Loans not included in the advertised rate.
What You Can Do:

 

  • Do your homework. Be sure to compare several different options to determine the best fit for your situation. Things to look for include: interest rates, repayment options, terms and any additional charges or fees.
  • Be mindful of advertisements including “rates as low as”. Most applicants don’t qualify for the lowest advertised rate. Instead compare the highest advertised rates. If the lender won’t tell you your rate in advance of applying than the most important benchmark to consider is the highest rate they charge.
  • Know your FICO score before applying. Most lenders of private student loans use this as a key factor in assigning your interest rate and APR. Some lenders will provide their interest rates upfront. If you know your FICO score, this allows you to learn what interest rate or APR you will receive if you qualify for their loan before even starting an application.

By: Steve McCullough
President/CEO
Iowa Student Loan

At Iowa Student Loan, we believe in providing you with as much information as possible upfront, before you even start an application. That’s why we offer a national comparison for students and families interested in our Partnership Advance Education Loan®.

Making the Leap: Financially Preparing for College Life

The first year of college may bring a lot of new experiences, and for many, this includes the need to budget a limited income for the first time. Earnings from a summer job can provide financial help for the school year as well as the opportunity to learn how to be financially independent.

Follow these five steps to make the most of the opportunity this summer.

1. Take time to really understand the financial aid package. Make sure you have a good idea of expected aid and how much college will cost for the student as well as the parents or other financial supporters.

  • Each college provides set costs for tuition, fees, room and board, and expected expenditures like books and transportation.
  • In addition, families often face additional expenses that either add up over time or weren’t expected.
  • How much awarded financial aid is gift aid? Grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back and fall into this category. Be aware, though, that many awards are one-time gifts and are not renewable for future years.
  • Is work-study reliable? Work-study awards are dependent on the student finding a qualified position and receiving the wage and hours required to total the award. Check the college’s website for a job board or financial aid section to gather information. Social media can also provide insight on whether students are able to find adequate work-study jobs.
  • Remember that loans must be paid back, with interest. It may help to calculate an expected monthly payment for anticipated college loans and compare that to average monthly payments for a car, house or other major expenses.

2. Track spending. Keeping track of purchases for a week or a month helps indicate where and on what most spending occurs.

  • Apps like Mint and tools like banking or card statements can be helpful.
  • A pattern of where spending can be cut or reduced may start to become clear.

3. Set up a basic budget. Budgets compare income and other funds to monthly expenses to keep consumers from spending more money than they have.

  • Take into account taxes and other deductions that will be removed from gross earnings. A site like PaycheckCity can help estimate these.
  • Divide up expenses into general categories based on typical spending.
  • Consider how spending will change once the academic term begins.

4. Plan out a monthly budget. Use realistic numbers to calculate an in-school budget.

  • Don’t forget that earnings will need to cover expenses for the remainder of the summer plus the entire academic year, unless the student also works while taking classes.
  • If a school-year job with the desired hours or pay doesn’t happen, or if it’s necessary to reduce hours to concentrate on schoolwork, each dollar may have to go further.
  • If parents are contributing to expenses, how will that happen? Options include a one-time gift intended to last through the school year, a monthly deposit into a checking account, a shared credit card account for certain purchases, or another method.

5. Evaluate the results. Adjustments may be required, based on the initial budget and events that occur later.

By: Iowa Student Loan

College To-Dos for Entering Freshmen

Deciding which college to attend can be a huge relief as senior year winds to a close. Don’t forget to take care of these important items, however, as high school ends and college approaches.

Sign up for orientation. Many colleges allow you to choose between single- and multi-day orientation sessions and offer several different date selections. Parent sessions may be offered, and some colleges even offer sessions for younger siblings. Choose the option that works for you and sign up early. You may need to pay a fee for on-campus housing or make separate arrangements to stay nearby.

Take care of financial issues. Pay any remaining fees or deposits due before the first term begins. You may need to reserve a parking permit, sign up for tickets to games, pay to use the fitness or other facilities, or submit funds for food or housing. You should also review your financial aid award package and accept or decline any funds as needed.

Plan out possible course options. You may sign up for fall classes at orientation, so be prepared with a few alternative plans. First, check to see what existing credits will transfer from dual enrollment, AP or other classes. You may also want to look at recommended course plans for your specific major to ensure you enroll in the necessary prerequisites to take required classes later. If you have questions, contact your admissions or registrar’s office.

Take any required online tests or courses. You may need to take an online placement test for math, foreign language or other courses. Some colleges also have drug and alcohol education, campus-wide reading and other programs they expect all students to participate in. Review the requirements for your college and get these items out of the way early.

Enroll in special programs. Your college may offer camps or other programs that occur before fall move-in. Some departments also offer specialized programs for a fee or by application. Check out your options to see if any appeal to you. These programs can help you meet other like-minded students and establish a network before school even starts.

Connect with other students. Look on social media sites for groups of other incoming freshmen or current students to connect with. Becoming part of these groups may help you locate a compatible roommate, find others from a similar background or discover social events and activities you’d like to join.

Connect with faculty. If you plan to do lab research, initiate a specialized project or work in a particular department, take some time to reach out to relevant faculty. You may want to ask a researcher what classes you should take to become qualified to work with him or her or determine the requirements for employment at a specific position.

Finalize housing arrangements. It’s probably time to find a roommate and select your dorm preference if you don’t want to be randomly assigned. Follow your college’s instructions for online roommate matching services and choosing your residence hall. The online communities mentioned above can help you if you have questions about dining, shared spaces, room layout or student population in any of the dorms.

Get to know your campus. The college website is a good place to start. Look for information on student organizations as well as support systems like career planning, tutoring, mental health and physical health services. A video tour or campus map can help you visualize where the main buildings are. You may want to plan another campus visit either separate from or adjacent to your orientation session now that you have committed to this school.

Get to know your new community. Either in person or virtually, spend some time looking at the areas surrounding campus. Some commonly used community services include post offices and shipping centers, drugstores, grocery stores, book and supply shops, electronics stores and repairs, medical specialists and restaurants. Look for transportation options if you will regularly need to go further than walking distance from campus.

Make a list. Finally, make sure you are prepared for packing and moving. Think about what items you should purchase beforehand and transport with you to campus and which items you can pick up after arrival. Many retailers allow you to order online or select your purchases locally, and then pick them up at a store closer to your college. You may need to shop for clothes if your climate will change, and you’ll need a few basics like toiletries, bedding and towels.

See other college prep suggestions.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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