4 Reasons to Apply to Multiple Colleges


Once you’ve visited colleges and narrowed down the list of schools you’re interesting in attending, it’s time to consider where you will apply. There is no right number when it comes to how many applications to complete — whether that be as few as three or as many as eight — but applying to multiple colleges is universally recommended for many reasons.

1. Applying for college has become much more competitive in the past two decades. Just because you meet a school’s minimum entrance criteria does not guarantee you an acceptance letter. Applying to multiple schools increases your chances of acceptance and good financial aid packages.

2. You should apply to the colleges you really want to attend as well as at least one safety school. Most experts recommend you apply to a couple of reach schools, several schools you feel are a great match for you academically and otherwise and a couple of safety schools.

Reach colleges are ones you may barely meet the minimum entrance criteria for or that are considered elite. Getting accepted at one of these colleges would be a stretch.
Match schools are ones where you solidly meet the entrance requirements and you feel you would fit in well. You may or may not get accepted at a match college based on the other students trying to earn a spot.
Safety colleges are those where you feel you definitely would be accepted based on their academic criteria and your test scores. There is nothing wrong with safety schools and, in fact, they may offer you a great financial aid package to get you to attend there.

3. It may make sense to apply to a number of colleges instead of just two or three. If you apply to the school of your dreams and one safety school that you’re not thrilled about, and you are not accepted in your first-choice college, what are you going to do? Attend the safety college that was just a backup in your mind? If you’re not sure where you stand academically (maybe you earn good grades but attend a large high school where it’s difficult to figure out where you truly rank), applying to six or seven colleges with varying entrance criteria and different student body numbers may give you multiple options to determine best fit, which may even surprise you. But, also keep in mind that most college applications come with fees. Applying to schools you know you don’t meet basic entrance criteria can cost you unnecessary cash. Save that money and put it toward costs at a college where you can get accepted.

4. Costs may play a big role in your final choice. If you apply only to schools you think you can afford based on the “sticker price,” you may miss out on colleges that offer great financial aid packages. Be sure to review the overall costs and factor in financial aid packages and scholarship options. You can use tools like a net price calculator online to figure your actual costs.

By: Iowa Student Loan

9 Things to Do After You Apply to College

The college applications are in. Now what? While you wait to hear if you’ve been accepted, try out these tips.


Check for questions and information. Once you submit your application, the school will use the information you provided to get in touch with you. If you set up an online account, log in at least a few times a week. You may want to check your email and voicemail every day.

Be a friend. Like, friend or follow the college on social media, websites and blogs to receive updates and further determine if it’s the right fit. Don’t forget about pages or sites for the admissions office, particular departments or majors you’re considering, and parent and family groups.

Send updates as needed. If anything has changed since you submitted your application, make sure the schools receive updated documentation of new grades, college entrance test scores, honors or special achievements.

Revisit campuses. Going back for a second visit now lets you avoid the crowd of other seniors who wait to receive acceptance letters before visiting. It may also help you realize whether or not you really want to attend a particular school.

Perform a gut-check. Remind yourself why you like each of the schools you applied to so you’ll be ready to make an informed decision when you receive acceptance letters.

Work ahead. Start filling out any scholarship and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications so you’ll be ready as soon as you know which colleges accepted you and which one you’ll attend.

Say “thank you.” Thank everyone who took the time to write a recommendation or helped you complete the application process in some way. A personal note is best in most cases.

Remain calm. If you receive notice that you’ve been wait-listed for one of your top choices, don’t panic. First, decide if you want to stay on the waitlist. If you do, return confirmation as soon as you possibly can. Find out what your odds are of being accepted from the admissions office, if they’ll tell you. You may have to accept another school, and then plan to change or transfer later.

Enjoy your senior year. Immerse yourself in the experience of your last year of high school. For better or worse, your connections to your friends, teachers, high school and community will change soon. Now that you’ve taken care of a lot of your college planning, you can relax and enjoy this year.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Six Things to Know Before You Apply to College

Once you have decided on your top college choices, it’s time to start the application process. Here’s what to know:


1. Know the types of applications and the deadlines for each
Many colleges and universities allow you to apply early, either with or without a commitment on your end. Know if the school offers early action, early decision, rolling admission or other types of applications and what you need to complete when.

2. Allow enough time
Will you need to complete a personal essay as part of the application process? Does the college require an admissions interview? Plan to complete each step in plenty of time to meet deadlines.

3. Understand yourself
Be prepared to explain your previous activities and academic achievements, as well as your goals and your motivations. Articulate what makes you different than everyone else, and make sure you focus on that uniqueness in essays or interviews. Also think about why each of the colleges on your list is a good fit for you.

4. Consider your online activity.
Some colleges may look up your social media profiles and pages. Make sure they don’t have a reason to discount your application because of what you’ve posted online. If your personal email address isn’t professional, create a new one that is.

5. Complete essays ahead of time
If you need to submit an essay online, have it written and saved beforehand, so you can copy and paste it into the application. This way, you won’t need to begin again if you experience technical problems, and you have a backup copy if needed.

6. Stay in touch
You should receive some confirmation that the college has received your application. If you don’t, reach out to the admissions office. Admissions representatives are also available if you have questions or need help completing the application process. Just make sure you contact the school; don’t ask your parents to do it on your behalf.

By: Iowa Student Loan

7 Tips for a Strong Admissions Essay

Standard college applications, SAT or ACT tests and your current transcripts are straightforward ways college admissions officers judge if you would fit in well on campus and whether or not to offer you a spot.


The other element is your admission essay, if the colleges you are applying to require one. With it, you have a chance to show these officers that you are more than your grades and test scores. Make your essay shine with these tips.

1. Choose a topic you’re passionate about. Whether you’re asked to answer a question, focus on a specific topic or allowed to write anything you want, if your essay is about something important to you, your writing is likely to be better than if you don’t care about the subject. Try to find a way to make the essay about your life’s passions, and bring that topic to life.

2. Start strong. You want to engage the person reading your essay as quickly as possible because he or she probably has hundreds more to read. Begin with an amusing or vivid anecdote that fits your essay or focus on a compelling introduction to capture the reader’s attention.

3. Stay focused. Spend time brainstorming what you want to say before you start writing and determine the main message you want to convey. Once you’ve written your essay, review it several times and look for places where you might have strayed from your message. If you have time, don’t look at your essay for several days so that you can take a fresh look to find ways to improve and keep the message on track.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. Overcoming challenges or weaknesses in life is a wonderful thing, but more than likely the college admission officers have read plenty of essays like that. Plus, you don’t want to draw attention to anything that may diminish you in their eyes.

5. Try to look at your essay from the college’s point of view. After you’ve written your essay, try to look at it from a different perspective. Imagine that you’re an admissions officer and ask yourself what you think of the essay. Is it unique, engaging and error-free?

6. Skip the big words. It’s a smart thing to use adjectives to help your essay come to life, but you don’t want it to be obvious that you went for the $25 word in the thesaurus. When it comes to verbs; choose ones with meaning. “I picked the crimson rose blooming in the garden” provides depth without being both vague and fussy, unlike “I got the rubicund rose from the garden.”

7. Give yourself plenty of time. It’s best to avoid rushing through the essay process. Brainstorm a lot (over a couple of days up to a week or more) before starting to write, be sure to review several times and leave plenty of time for a parent or other adult to review your final piece for any typos or other errors.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Beyond the Basics

When choosing a college or university, you may benefit from asking more than the standard questions. Since you and your family will be paying for you to attend college, asking in-depth questions now can help you make a good investment in your future.


Your success in — and after — college depends a lot on your commitment to your education and to graduating. A college that is invested in your success will offer you the support you need.

Seek Out Specifics

Most colleges offer information upfront about their:

  • Overall graduation rate.
  • Post-education job placement rate.
  • Students’ average debt upon graduating.

This information provides a good overview, but once a college makes your short list, you can seek out more specific details. Ask about students who are similar to you (e.g., you sex, race, choice of major and if you are a first-generation college student.) when it comes to these rates and numbers. You might want to ask about the school’s retention rate, or even better, your chosen department’s retention rate.

Your choice of major and the type of school you plan to earn that degree from are also important factors. Are you planning to major in a liberal arts field at a university? What would be different if you attended a liberal arts college instead of a university? What if you’re hoping to earn an engineering degree at a private college? Will your opportunities be the same there as they would be at a large university?

If you know what you plan to major in or have a general idea of what you’d like to study, find out more about that academic department and its class offerings.

  • Research other schools with strong reputations in your major to see how they stack up with the colleges you’re looking at.
  • Find out how many faculty members have advanced degrees or relevant experience in your major and how many undergraduate classes they teach each semester. Do an online search for articles and research that individual professors have published.
  • Check out the course catalog to see how many classes are offered for your major, if the options wide-ranging and whether you pick out both comprehensive classes and more in-depth classes that focus on a specific topic.

Check Out Career Services Offerings and Internship Opportunities

A college that is really invested in your success will have integrated internship opportunities and career services offerings.

At the career services office:

  • Is there more than simply job posting and resume writing assistance?
  • Does the staff work with you to ensure your classes are also benefiting your future job prospects?
  • Do you see opportunities for part-time work during the school year or during summer breaks that will help you build a strong resume for your future career, not simply pay your bills?

When it comes to internships:

  • Does the career services office have information about a variety of internships and the process for obtaining an internship?
  • Does your major department offer internships or work with businesses to find internships for students?
  • Does the college put a significant emphasis on students taking on internships or is the general message more hands off?

By: Iowa Student Loan

Choosing the Right College Fit


So you’ve visited a few campuses and narrowed your college choices to a few schools. Now what? The strategies below can help you determine which to move to the top of your list.

1. Reconsider your short list.
Why is each school on your list to begin with? Does it have a great reputation in your intended field of study? Was it easy to relate to the students on campus? Is it the most affordable? Write down the best features of each of your top schools.

Decide which features are most important to you. Instead of assuming you’ll feel lost at a larger university because you come from a small town or that it will important to be within an hour of home, ask others how their expectations matched up to reality in their own college experiences. Your family and friends, who know you best, can also help you rank characteristics in order of importance.

2. Go back to campus.
If you have the time and opportunity, go back for a second campus visit. This time, immerse yourself to get a better feel for the atmosphere. Stay overnight in a dorm; sit in on a large lecture and a smaller class from your major. Talk to a professor or academic adviser, and ask students what they like and don’t like.

Finally, just walk around and hang out where the students do — the union, the commons and the local establishments — and observe. Can you see yourself talking to the students at the next table? Do you feel safe in the community?

3. Compare real benefits to actual costs.
Give each of your college choices a score for benefits, including reputation in your area, connections to possible employers and industry advancements, and placement and graduation rates.

Then, give each of your college choices a separate score for net costs. Compare financial aid award letters or the school’s online net cost calculator instead of the published rates for each. Make sure you consider costs for your entire college career, not just the first year. Don’t forget that variations like distance from home and residence options can increase or decrease total expenses for each college.

By: Iowa Student Loan

In-State Vs. Out-of-State Colleges

As you consider different colleges, are you looking at both in-state and out-of-state institutions? Consider these important differences when you think about the location of your chosen school.

InStatevsOutofStateDownload a PDF of this infographic.

When it comes to public, in-state colleges and universities, tuition is usually less for in-state students compared to what students from other states will pay. Tuition costs for in-state and out-of-state students do not usually differ, however, when it comes to private colleges and universities.

Travel expenses can really add up if you attend school outside of your home state. If you go to school across the country or even a few states away, you’ll likely need to consider auto or airline costs if you want to head home during breaks as well as costs to either store your belongings or get them to and from school each year.

If you attend school in your home state, it may be easy to travel home to visit with friends and family on weekends. And, it’s likely some of your high school classmates will end up at the same campus, giving you a sense of confidence in a new environment. If you want to be more independent, you’ll have to work a little harder to avoid the temptation of the familiar.

If you cross state lines for school, you may only see your family two or three times during the school year and you may be the only person from your high school attending college at your campus. You’ll be able to interact with new people, maybe from very different backgrounds than your own and with varied experiences than what you’ve experienced in your hometown. It’s an easy way to become more independent but could lead to feelings of loneliness for some.

Your number of choices for in-state colleges and universities are obviously limited compared to what is on offer in the other 49 states, but you can make the most of an in-state school. Check out study abroad opportunities, statistics on students from other states and countries, and learn what academic programs they offer that are considered cutting-edge or tops in the country.

Out-of-state schools may offer you more specialty program opportunities as well as different climates, new surroundings and different challenges.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Is Community 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? Compare your 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.


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


• 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.


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


• 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

Choose a College – Data Now Included

Choosing a college is an important part of the ritual of many high school students at this time of year. Finding that “perfect match” may have just gotten easier with the release of the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard website.


In these days of surging student loan debt, it is important to select a college that not only meets your academic requirements but also provides you with the opportunity to get your education without taking on an unrealistic amount of student loan debt. You also want to be sure that the college you select has a good track record of meeting the needs of all students, including providing you with a quality education and a high probability of success.

Why You Should Use the Scorecard

The College Scorecard adds a dimension that has been missing from many college choice activities – an easy-to-access, reliable treasure trove of data to help you make that crucial decision.

With the click of a mouse you can bring up information about a single university or college or easily compare multiple institutions. Some of the important information now available to future college students and their families include:

  • Average annual net cost – quite often, the price that families pay is less than the price shown on financial aid websites because of university-sponsored scholarships and grants; the average annual net cost is the adjusted price
  • Graduation rate – what percentage graduate after 6 years (for 4-year schools) or 3 years (for 2-year schools)
  • Future salary expectations – the median salary for graduates 10 years after initial enrollment and the percentage of graduates that earn more than those with only a high school diploma
  • Total federal student loan debt, the proportion who borrow, and the typical monthly payment on those loans
  • Diversity information – percentage of students receiving a Pell Grant and the proportion of various racial and ethnic backgrounds
  • ACT and SAT test score range of students that get accepted
  • Most popular majors and available areas of study

A comparison to national averages is also provided for many data elements – an important comparison when deciding on your best option for the future.

How You Can Best Use This Data

One of the best uses of the new tool is its ability to compare multiple institutions. Users can select schools to compare based on characteristics (single or combinations) they are interested in exploring.

For example:

  • Schools that offer a particular degree
  • Program length (2-year or 4-year)
  • Location
  • Size (enrollment)
  • Sector (public, private nonprofit, private for-profit)
  • Religious affiliation
  • Special populations served
  • Or by name, if you have specific colleges in mind

The data covers both 4-year and 2-year schools and by selecting multiple characteristics users can customize the results to their exact needs. Results can be sorted by various characteristics and details about each school are easily viewed.

Be sure to incorporate the information available in the new College Scorecard into your college choice process – having this useful data will help you make the best decision for your future.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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