12 New Year’s Resolutions for High School Seniors

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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

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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?

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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

Scholarship Provides Money for College and Valuable Tips

Registration is now 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 $250 award.

Register Now

Senior Scholarship Details

High school seniors may register for the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship between now and Feb. 22. 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 Plan 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 2019. If top-scoring students tie, those students will be asked to complete a separate component so that 30 final recipients can be determined.

Each scholarship recipient’s high school will also receive a corresponding $250 award to be used toward scholarship and financial literacy programs.

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2018–2019 school year and attend college in fall 2019. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

Register Now

Additional Resources Available

Iowa Student Loan also has additional resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. The Grad Degree Gauge encourages students to make informed decisions about borrowing levels and their ability to repay new student loan debt when considering the pursuit of an advanced degree. Both tools are available free at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.

By: Iowa Student Loan

4 Tips for Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to help you pay for college, so that you can keep your potential debt down when you graduate. Start with these four scholarship tips.

Scholarship Tip: Start Your Search Online

There are many scholarships available, and the Internet is a great place to start your search both locally and nationally.

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Scholarship Tip: Help Pay for Graduate School

Your scholarship search should not stop after you graduate with your bachelor’s degree. Many opportunities exist for students continuing their studies.

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Scholarship Tip: Nail Your Application

While you may be ready to write a scholarship essay, make sure you don’t miss small details that may or may not make you ineligible.

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Scholarship Tip: Essay Writing

If you’re applying for scholarships, you will undoubtedly have to write some essays. Take your time and do it right to help improve your chances.

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By: Iowa Student Loan

How to Manage Scholarship Applications

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You may feel like you already have enough to do managing senior year classes and activities, college and scholarship applications and other commitments.

Even though it may seem like you don’t need to add to your load, a couple of simple tricks can help you feel less anxious about scholarship results. And, you’ll be ready with an informed answer when Mom or Dad asks about your progress.

Here’s how to stay on top of scholarship applications:

Get Organized from the Beginning

Set up a spreadsheet with all your scholarship application information. Your scholarship search is unique, but you can set up a basic spreadsheet using the suggested categories below and customize them as needed.

For each scholarship you apply for, include the following information as applicable:

  • Name of scholarship
  • Scholarship sponsor
  • Sponsor contact information, including preferred methods of contact or no-contact requests
  • Award amount
  • Whether the scholarship is a one-time or renewable award
  • Name of the website, person or other source that made you aware of the scholarship
  • Website login information
  • Required elements for the application
  • Deadline
  • Submission date
  • Expected date of award notification
  • Method of award notification
  • Any additional requirements to accept scholarship
  • Notes or special information

Check for Updates

Once you submit a scholarship application, make sure you check often for updates and notifications. Depending on the scholarship, you may need to check your email (don’t forget to look in your spam folder), listen to voicemail or log in to the scholarship website.

• Respond quickly. You may receive a notice that your application is missing some required information. If you’re missing information or the scholarship sponsor has questions, respond as quickly as you can.

• Check often. Set aside a specific time every day to check your scholarship applications. It may be helpful to move all scholarship-related email to special folder in your inbox. Some email applications allow you to set up rules to do this automatically.

• Pay special attention to announcement dates. Watch for notifications that you have earned a scholarship or are a finalist. Enter any to-dos to submit additional required information or to accept the award on your spreadsheet, and then follow through.

If you haven’t heard within a few days after a publicized announcement date, you may want to follow up with the scholarship sponsor. First check your spreadsheet to ensure that the sponsor didn’t specify no contact or specified only certain forms of contact, though.

Organizing your scholarship application information and staying up to date with notifications will help you remain calm while you wait for results.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Tips for Landing a Scholarship (Infographic)

As you enter your last few months of high school, the pressure’s on to figure out how to pay for the next stage of your education. Improve your chances of landing scholarship funds with these tips.

TipsLandingScholarship-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic.

Beef up your qualifications.

Try a new extracurricular activity, volunteer and bump up your GPA to qualify for more scholarship funds and increase your chances of earning those scholarships.

Update your information.

As you accomplish more, update your qualifications listed for your accounts on scholarship search sites, such as scholarships.com, bigfuture and Fastweb, to find more results.

Keep searching for new opportunities.

Perform new searches through free scholarship sites on a regular basis. Remember, many non-academic entities offer scholarships and make information available at different times of the year.

Touch base with your support crew.

Let teachers, coaches and family friends who have agreed to write letters of recommendation or proofread essays know when you will need help. Allow them enough time to help you while still meeting all their other commitments, and offer to help any way you can.

Stay on top of deadlines.

Plan your priorities to ensure you submit applications and supporting materials before their due dates.

Reread all your upcoming scholarship submissions.

Check for any typos, make sure you’ve followed all instructions and submit everything required.

File for financial aid.

If you haven’t yet, complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a primary tool to qualify for scholarships awarded by colleges. If you need help completing your FAFSA, contact the Iowa College Access Network or attend a free Iowa College Goal Sunday event near you.

Contact your college.

If your FAFSA doesn’t accurately reflect your financial situation or if you have questions about scholarships available at your college, contact the college’s admissions or financial aid office. Also let the admissions office know if the final price tag will make the difference in your college choice; the school may have some flexibility in scholarship awards.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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