5 Small Changes to Save Big


It’s easy to spend a couple of dollars here and there without realizing how they add up. Before you know it, finances can be pretty tight.

Use these tips to help you make small changes that can save big money over time.

1. Make your own coffee.
Day-to-day caffeine runs can add up quick. Instead of $3 or $4 dollars for a large gourmet takeout coffee, spend less than a dollar per cup to make your own. Your favorite coffee chain might even have a brew-at-home version available at the grocery store.

2. Skip the fast food.
An average fast food meal costs $5 or more. Eating at home or on your meal plan instead for four meals a month saves at least $20 a month and $240 a year outright. If you tend to order a bacon cheeseburger and fries, your health may benefit from more nutritious meals as well.

3. Stay home on date night.
Renting an inexpensive movie instead of going to the theater can save between $7 and $10 for each of you. If you and your significant other see a movie every other week, that’s about $200 a year in savings.

4. Drop the Wi-Fi subscription.
If your campus and local gathering spots offer free Wi-Fi, you may not need to pay for a separate Internet service. Even less expensive plans run around $40 a month. Drop it and save nearly $500 over a year.

5. Work part-time.
Working just 10 hours a week at minimum wage lets you bring in more than $2,400 a year. Plus, you gain valuable experience to improve your chances of landing a great job after college.

See more tips (PDF) on how to save money in college.

By: Iowa Student Loan

How Much Should You Save for College?


At the start of your senior year in high school, how you’ll pay for college may not be a high priority yet. It’s something you should be thinking about, though, as you consider different colleges and the costs associated with attending each one.

A national study, How America Pays for College 2015, shows that the average student contributes 11% to the total cost of his or her college education. That is money from the student’s income and savings, not student loans.

So, how much should you plan to save for college this year?

That answer depends on a multitude of different factors, but the easiest response is “as much as possible.”

If you want a more precise number, though, there are things you can do now to determine how much you want to save during the next 12 months.

Create a Budget

Use an in-school budget tool to start forming an idea of how much money you’ll need to live on each month. It’s OK to guess right now and try out different calculations. How much will you cover with grants, scholarship and student loans, and how much will you need to have on hand each month for your extra costs?

If you live on campus in a dorm during your freshman year at college, many of your expenses will be set and you’ll be left with a smaller number of variable categories. But if you’ll be living off campus, you will have to calculate additional costs like your portion of the monthly rent, gas and car maintenance, and how you will fill a refrigerator.

Figuring out how much you will need each month can help you set a goal for the amount you definitely want to save during your senior year.

Compare Costs

While you’re creating different in-school budget scenarios, be sure to consider the costs needed for different schools you’re considering. Less-expensive schools might seem like the way to save money, but many times those institutions also have less money to offer in terms of scholarships and grants compared to more-expensive colleges or universities.

Anticipate that you will need more spending money than you think to ensure you don’t greatly underestimate how much you will need to save.

Reduce Expenses

Is your budget a lot higher than you expected? Check out these ideas for ways to save on supplies. Will any of those options help reduce your monthly budget?

You can also consider options such as:

  • Living at home and attending a community college for your first year or two to meet your general education requirements.
  • Planning to work part-time during college to help you cover some monthly expenses.
  • Cutting back on entertainment or other non-necessities to reduce the amount needed for spending money each month.

It may seem like a daunting task, but the more you’re able to save for college today means less that you will have to borrow in the future.

By: Iowa Student Loan

6 Ways to Help Your Student Save


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

1. Understand how much your student will need.

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

2. Foster an environment of saving.

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

3. Encourage your student to reduce expenses.

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

4. Explore interest-bearing accounts with your child. 

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

5. Know the options to reduce college costs.

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

6. Set goals and monitor progress.

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

By: Iowa Student Loan

Interview Tips for On-Campus Jobs

Working on campus offers several benefits for college students from convenience to flexibility. In addition, you may gain valuable skills and contacts for your future career path. Use these tips to help you land the job.

Interview-InfographicDownload a PDF of this infographic.

Before Interview Day

  • Look at the department or office website to understand its mission and activities. Then, articulate how those are tied to your own goals and how you can help your employer.
  • Ask how long the interviewer expects the session to take and schedule appropriately. Plan to arrive early.
  • If you’re communicating with the interviewer, ask about the office dress code. If you’re unsure how to dress for your interview, err on the side of more business than casual, even if it means overdressing for your 8 a.m. class.
  • Know your availability. How many hours can you work during the week without affecting your studies? Do you have a regular activity or commitment that you’ll need to schedule around?
  • Ask potential references who aren’t related to you if you can give out their contact information.
  • Prepare your answers — with examples — to common interview questions, such as:
    • Name an accomplishment you’re proud of.
    • What previous jobs have you had and what did you do?
    • Tell me about an area you’d like to improve on.
  • Think of at least two questions to ask the interviewer.
  • If you’re nervous or haven’t had a job interview before, work with your campus’s career services to practice.

Day of the Interview

  • Have the interviewer’s contact information with you in case you’re unavoidably delayed.
  • Bring a copy of the resume and cover letter you submitted when you applied, as well as a transcript or other documentation that show your qualifications if the job is related to academic ability. Bring along your reference information as well.
  • Arrive five to 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time.
  • Silence or turn off your phone and put away earbuds and other electronics.
  • Dispose of any food, drinks or gum before you enter the office.
  • Introduce yourself and shake hands firmly.
  • Be friendly and relaxed (but still professional).
  • Show that you’re attentive by making eye contact with the interviewer, nodding and smiling as he or she describes situations or asks questions, and paraphrasing questions in your response.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush every answer. Thinking for a few seconds can help you make sure you convey the impression you want to give. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification.
  • Before you leave, ask about the next steps and the timeline for those.
  • Thank the interviewer for his or her time and shake hands again.

After the Interview

  • Within 24 hours, send a more formal thank-you by email.
  • If you haven’t heard anything within a couple of days after the timeline you were given at the interview, follow up. Let the interviewer know that you are still interested in the job and offer to provide any additional information needed.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Fixed or Variable: Which is Best?


When faced with the need to find funds to close the gap between college costs and available financial aid, many students and their families turn to private student loans. One of the first choices a family looking at a private loan needs to make may be choosing between a variable and a fixed interest rate. Which is best? The answer: it depends.

First, you should know that variable rates are typically lower than fixed rates. Why? Nobody can predict the future accurately. Because a bank is in the business of making money they must always consider the risk of lending money. One of those risks is called “interest rate risk” – the risk that in the future the bank will need to pay a higher interest rate to its lender for the money it has lent to you. A fixed rate loan, especially one with a long term like a mortgage or a student loan, offers a rate that anticipates higher future rates.

On the other hand, a variable rate loan is usually presented to the consumer as a base rate (such as Prime or LIBOR) plus a “margin”. This assures that the bank will always earn money because when the rate the bank pays to borrow money changes, the base rate will change in the same direction, but the bank will always have a consistent “margin” – that extra percentage they add on to the base. Banks love predictable cash flows – hence, the lower rate for variable rate loans. But, there is a risk to you – what if the base rate increases significantly over time? Your payments will increase to a level that may be higher than one you are able to afford.

So, in the end, the choice between a fixed and variable interest rate is a personal choice based mainly on the borrower’s long-term and short-term goals. What should you consider when weighing the decision between variable and fixed rate loans? Experts say that the answers to just a few questions can help make the decision easier.

Do you believe interest rates will increase significantly over time?

To answer that question you may need to do some research or consult with an expert, but, in general, if you imagine interest rates will increase beyond the offered fixed rate (and stay there) over the term of your loan (around 15 years if you include the time in school), you may want a fixed rate.

Do you imagine being able to pay off the loan faster than the repayment schedule assumes because of an expected windfall in the future or a very high-paying job?

In that case, a variable rate may work for you.

Do you like consistency so you can more easily create a budget?

A fixed rate is the one for you – you won’t see any gains when interest rates drop but you also won’t see any losses when they increase. And you will know exactly what your payment will be for all 120 months of your repayment term.

Do you want to start repaying your loan immediately (which is a good idea)?

Then a variable rate may be best for you as the monthly payments will generally start off lower than a fixed rate loan.

No matter which loan type you select you can choose either type for the next loan. If you follow the old saying of not putting all your eggs in one basket (what financial planners call “diversifying your risk”), you may want to consider taking out some fixed rate and some variable rate loans over the course of your college career.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Partnership Creates Greater Access to Financial Literacy Tools


Students and families now have the chance to gain even greater access to personalized college planning and financing information while visiting a few of the Iowa College Access Network’s (ICAN) locations.

ICAN, a Student Loan Coach contributor, recently teamed up with Iowa Student Loan to create mobile learning stations in three of its 11 office locations.

Providing statewide outreach, ICAN helps more than 500,000 students, parents and education professionals prepare for life after high school each year. An important aspect of that preparation includes financial planning for college.

For the past few years, ICAN has provided visitors instructions to Iowa Student Loan’s online smart borrowing resources and tools. These tools help families borrow less for college, and target majors that lead to jobs. Now, with the help of the learning stations, students and parents will be able to experience those tools while on-site at three ICAN locations, allowing for immediate discussion of personalized results and options with ICAN’s team of highly-qualified student success advisors.ICAN_Station

The tablet- and laptop-based stations have been set up at ICAN center locations in Hiawatha, Ankeny and Coralville. The stations provide the technology needed to access Iowa Student Loan’s suite of financial literacy tools — Student Loan Game PlanSM and ROCI Reality Check — in addition to other resources regarding college financing.

Student Loan Game Plan is an interactive educational resource demonstrating how student loan debt can affect a student’s financial future. It provides customizable results based on major interests and individual situations, and provides an action plan to help reduce the need to borrow for college. During the month of July 2015, 14 percent of users were able to reduce the amount of student loan debt they planned to incur by an average of $1,800 after using Student Loan Game Plan.

The ROCI Reality Check provides users with job prospects, earning potential and maximum suggested student loan debt loads based on a student’s chosen major, allowing them to see the potential return on college investment, or ROCI.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Getting a Jump on Interest

If you have some extra cash from earnings, gifts or your own savvy shopping skills, you may want to invest in your financial future by making an interest payment on your student loans.

Here’s an example situation:

Private student loan amount: $10,000

Interest rate: 7%

Repayment term: 10 years

Extra payment made: Beginning of first year of a four-year college career


Simple interest is calculated based on a $10,000 principal balance x interest rate x term of 54 months (48 months in-school + 6-month grace period). The total repayment amount includes interest accrual over the life of the loan and is based on making a single interest-only payment before the repayment period begins. Savings over the life of the loan is equal to the monthly reduction in payment amount multiplied by the 120 payments made over the life of the loan.

Now, let’s assume you need to take out $10,000 in private student loans at the same rate for each of four years, and you are able to make one-time payments each of those years.


Calculations are the same as above except interest accrues over 36 months + 6-month grace period for a loan taken out the second year of college, 24 months + 6-month grace period for a loan taken out the third year of college and 12 months + 6-month grace period for a loan taken out the fourth year of college.

The information above shows how making one-time interest-only payments can help reduce your student loan burden.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Parents: Register to Win a $1,500 College Savings Plan Deposit


A college savings account is a great way to set your future college student up for success by helping them to possibly reduce debt later in life.

Iowa Student Loan’s Save Now, Save Later: College Savings Plan Parent Giveaway is a great way to give that savings account a boost.

Now through Nov. 30, you can register to win one of 30 deposits of $1,500 to a College Savings Iowa© account. All you need to do is complete the one-time registration process, including completion of the cosigner version of Student Loan Game Plan, an online educational tool.

Enter now to win a $1,500 deposit

“(The program) is a great way to support Iowa’s youth who are approaching the college years,” said Michele Stiles, of Des Moines, a 2014 winner. “It helps parents plan and save ahead for college so that both parents and students are more financially prepared as students enter college.”

Eligible registrants are:

  • an Iowa resident;
  • and a parent or legal guardian of a high school student in Iowa (grades 9, 10, 11 or 12).

Winners will be selected in December, and notified in January 2016.

Read the full news release

By: Iowa Student Loan

Make the Most of Your Senior Year


If you’re planning to go to college after you graduate from high school, you may find yourself overwhelmed as you try to prepare for next year and enjoy this one at the same time. The timeline below can help you make sure you do both well.

All Year Long

No matter where you are in the process, a few things should remain constant from now until you head off for move-in day.

  • Organization is key. You’ll have a lot of paper and deadlines to deal with. Keep it together with a frequently updated calendar and separate folders or binders for each school you’re considering.
  • Enjoy your time with family and high school friends. Have fun and relax once in a while. If you need help, ask your friends and family for advice — they know you best, after all.
  • Meet people! One of the reasons new college freshmen get anxious is that they aren’t sure how to meet new people. Use this year to get comfortable introducing yourself to and making small talk with strangers.
  • Keep your priorities straight. Even after you’re accepted into a college, your grades and behavior may affect your admission and scholarship opportunities.


  • Now is the time to act if you need to improve your grades or become more involved in volunteering, extracurriculars or a job related to your career choice.
  • Take the ACT or SAT if you haven’t yet or want to try to improve your previous score.
  • Finalize your list of potential colleges.
  • Draft essays and collect recommendations for college applications.
  • Fill out the Common App if several of the colleges on your list accept it.
  • Start researching scholarship and grant opportunities.
  • Visit your final choices of schools to help you narrow down your choices.
  • Take dual enrollment courses to earn college credit before you graduate.


  • Include a “safety school” or two in your application process. These are schools you know will accept you if you don’t get into your top choices.
  • Submit applications and letters of recommendation to your final list of schools.
  • Keep looking for scholarships and applications.
  • Talk to your parents about financial aid and how much they expect to contribute to your college funding.
  • Prepare for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so you can file shortly after Jan. 1. Get your FSA ID, a user name and password that you’ll use to sign the FAFSA, and start gathering the required information.
  • Keep working hard academically. It may be a good idea to meet with your school counselor to be sure you’re on track for graduation.
  • Think about your college major and how that affects the college you choose and the classes you’ll take your freshman year.


  • Write thank-you notes to the teachers and references who wrote you letters of recommendation.
  • Watch for admission and financial aid letters. Compare them carefully to understand any requirements for admission, scholarships and their renewal, and available loan amounts.
  • Once you make your final choice of college, complete the required steps to accept your admission, sign up for classes and housing, schedule summer orientation and find a roommate as soon as possible.
  • Don’t forget to let other schools know you won’t be attending.
  • Consider summer courses at a community college or a summer job that will give you experience in your chosen field.

See our Summer To-Do List for College Prep.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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