Comparing Postsecondary Options (Infographic)

The postsecondary options after high school can be confusing. Here is a comparison of the most common routes for recent high school graduates.

Keep in mind that these routes are not permanent or exclusive, and choosing one route doesn’t rule out other options if a student would like to pursue an additional or different path later.

Infographic: Comparing Postsecondary Options

Download this infographic as a PDF.

  Workforce Military Short-Term Education Apprenticeship Public Four-Year College Private Four-Year College
Description Full-time employment directly after high school · Before or instead of pursuing a college education

· Military academies

· Short professional programs

· Certificate programs

· 9-month, one-year, two-year college programs

Up to six-year programs Rely on government funding as well as tuition and fees from students Rely on tuition, fees and private sources for funding
Average Cost $100–$1,000 $0 $5,000–$20,000 $0 $47,000–$90,000 $77,000–$140,000
Potential Earnings Starting: $18,023

Mid-career: $31,239

Starting: $19,199

Mid-career: $41,958

Starting: $24,030

Mid-career: $44,056

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Starting: $20,025

Mid-career: $47,098

Required May need related job experience or certain skills · ASVAB test

· Fitness and health standards

· Background check

·  Requirements vary by program

· Placement tests

· Requirements vary by program

· May be minimum age

· May require community college acceptance

· Minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA

· Core high school classes

· Application (sometimes with essay, interviews and letters of recommendation)

· Minimum SAT/ACT score and GPA

· Core high school classes

· Application (sometimes with essay, interviews and letters of recommendation)

Typical Jobs • Accounting clerk

• Animal caretakers

• Childcare

• Clerical, administrative, office clerk

• Customer service representatives

• Driver

• Food services

• Maintenance and janitorial

• Retail worker

 

• Administration

• Aviation

• Combat officer

• Construction

• Engineering

• Health care

• Intelligence

• Mechanical and maintenance

• Public affairs and media relations

 

• Auto mechanic

• Barber

• Chef

• Computer tech

• Cosmetologist

• Court reporter

• Dental assistant

• Fitness trainer

• Nursing or home health aide

• Pharmacy tech

 

• Carpenter

• Electrician

• HVAC installation and repair

• Machinist

• Mason

• Pipefitter

• Plumber

• Sheet metal worker

• Tool and die worker

• Airline pilot

• Architect

• Computer programmer

• Educator

• Engineer

• Financial specialist

• Graphic designer

• Reporter or correspondent

• Writer or editor

 

• Airline pilot

• Architect

• Computer programmer

• Educator

• Engineer

• Financial specialist

• Graphic designer

• Reporter or correspondent

• Writer or editor

 

Sources:

  • Average Cost of Workforce includes the cost of work clothes, transportation to interviews and printing resumes.
  • Average Cost of Public and Private Four-Year College are based on the 2011–2012 net lowest and highest cost of attendance (after discounts on the published costs) per year multiplied by four years.
  • All other Average Cost information is based on figures available online for Iowa programs.
  • Potential Earnings for Workforce are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment up to high school diploma.
  • Potential Earnings for Military are private (E1) and first lieutenant (O2) from https://www.goarmy.com/benefits/money/basic-pay-active-duty-soldiers.html.
  • Potential Earnings for Short-Term Education are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of associate degree.
  • Potential Earnings for Apprenticeship are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of some college.
  • Potential Earnings for Public and Private Four-Year College are the 15th and 50th percentile salaries from U.S. Census Bureau 2015 PUMS data (1 year sample) – educational attainment of bachelor’s degree.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Five Advantages to Working During Breaks

If you need to build up savings for college and living expenses, think about a job during holiday and spring breaks.

Here are five advantages to working during school breaks.

Maintain your regular study schedule.

Because you don’t have classes to take up a large part of your day, you can often dedicate a large chunk of time to your job. If your break also falls between school terms, you can devote even more hours to earning money since you won’t have studying or homework to do.

Build up earnings.

You may be able to work 40 or more hours a week to maximize your earnings in a short period of time. Even better, while you’re working many hours, you have less time and opportunity to spend your earnings, so you’re able to save more to reach your financial goals.

Take advantage of openings.

Many employers need extra, short-time help to deal with the increased workload during the holidays. Besides standing behind a cash register, you may be able to find positions to help with stocking, holiday displays, returns and exchanges, or filling in for others who are on vacation. Seasonal employment is also more widely available.

Gain work experience.

You may find it easier to land a paid internship or co-op position for a short break than you would for an entire semester or school term. Even jobs that aren’t directly tied to your intended career can provide valuable transferrable skills.

Create a relationship.

As a reliable seasonal employee, you may be able to return to the same position, or more advanced positions with the same employer, break after break. You may even be able to land a permanent position or develop a network of mentors who will help you after college graduation.

See additional ideas for making money during breaks.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Building Time Management Skills

Students of all ages need good time management skills to balance school, homework, activities, family responsibilities and just having fun. Here are some tips for building effective time management practices to last through college and beyond.

Figure Out What Has to be Done

  • Make a list of everything that’s required, such as sleep, school, homework, organized sports and activities, work, and family and household commitments.
  • Add in fun activities.

Determine the Time Commitment for Each Activity

  • Plan for at least eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours for meals and personal care each day.
  • Use classroom materials or talk to teachers to determine adequate time to reserve for studying, projects and other schoolwork.
  • Incorporate additional time for meeting improvement goals.
  • Consider preparation for sporadic events like standardized tests, recitals and conferences.

Block Out Commitments Using a Planner or Calendar

  • Break big projects down into multiple stages instead of just listing a deadline.
  • Color-coding can be a visual cue for the most important items.
  • Ensure new assignments and commitments are recorded daily or as soon as they’re known.

Make a Daily To-do List

  • Put the most challenging or important items at the top to be done first.
  • Think about rewards for completing tasks on the to-do list.
  • Take along portable items, such as a book, notes and flashcards, to stay on track during idle moments.

Be Strategic

  • If procrastination is a problem, find out why. Is extra help with homework needed? Is it an activity that has become less appealing over time?
  • Discover the student’s best working conditions for completing specific tasks. Is it better to do math after school or after dinner? Is running better first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening?
  • Stay organized. A clean environment with all the needed materials at hand helps move things along with fewer distractions.

Develop a Routine

  • Set aside dedicated study time every day, even if the time of day must change periodically for seasonal or special activities.
  • Be consistent to reach short- and long-term goals.

Set Priorities and Resolve Conflicts

  • Remember that it’s important to set aside time to recharge and relax. Some students need time to read, be with friends, exercise, play games or enjoy other recreational pursuits.
  • Understand the consequences for not getting something done to help prioritize the most important items.
  • Approaching a coach or teacher with alternatives sometimes helps resolve conflicts, but understand that as pressures and commitments build, something may need to be dropped.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Getting Back in the Habit (Infographic)

The first few days of a new school year can be a big adjustment after your summer break. Help yourself get back into the school routine by preparing now with these tips.

Download this infographic as a PDF.

Get back into the routine

Start waking up at the time you need to get up to get ready for school or activities. Set your alarm and go through your school morning routine to be sure you’re adjusted. Work on getting to bed at a reasonable time as well.

Notify your employer

If you’ve been working over the summer, now is the time to speak to a manager about adjusting your shift times or to put in your notice. Give your employer plenty of time to rearrange schedules.

Organize your space

Get ready for homework by cleaning your accustomed study area. Make sure you have the space and materials you’ll need to be successful this year.

Gather supplies

Take the time to inventory your school supplies, from paper and notebooks to binder clips and calculators. Replace or purchase as needed.

Clean out your closet

Go through your clothes to see what you no longer need and what’s missing. Take advantage of any sales tax holidays and back-to-school sales to stock up.

Prepare for activities

Get ready for your extracurricular activities for the coming term by cleaning, repairing and replacing equipment as needed. Ensure you have the clothing and other items you’ll need.

Organize your schedule

If you haven’t previously done so, it’s not too late to find a homework and activity organizer that suits you. You may prefer a paper planner, a shared online calendar or an app for your phone or tablet. Whichever you choose, start off right by entering times and commitments you already know.

Prepack

Put all the items you’ll need the first day of school together. Put your supplies and materials in your bag and lay out the clothes you’ll wear. If you’ll take your lunch or other food, have the supplies on hand to reduce last-minute stress.

Make a dry run

If you will be taking a new route to school, driving to school for the first time or starting at a new building, make a practice trip to get the timing down and avoid any pitfalls.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Crossing the Line: Improve Academic Standing for Financial Aid

CrossingtheLine_ImpAcademStnding

Good grades and test scores typically mean more scholarship opportunities. Did you also know that a small margin can sometimes push you over the line for eligibility, or even for higher awards? Here’s a look at how small improvements matter.

PSAT/NMSQT

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). If you take the PSAT as a junior, you’re automatically screened for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The top scorers in each state receive special recognition.

  • About two-thirds receive Letters of Commendation and become eligible for special scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.
  • About one-third become Semifinalists, and most of those complete several steps to become Finalists. Finalists are eligible for:
    • Merit Scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, corporations and colleges.
    • Special scholarships up to and beyond full tuition from certain colleges.

The difference between a Commended student’s score and a Semifinalist’s score could be a single point in a metric called the “Selection Index,” which is based on your PSAT scores.

How to Cross the Line

Preparation is key for the PSAT.

  • Take the PSAT 10 as a sophomore to become familiar with the test format and see where your strengths and weaknesses lie to better prepare yourself for the PSAT as a junior.
  • Use practice tests to review the test concepts and learn which answers are considered correct or incorrect and why.
  • Be sure to practice in timed test-taking situations.

ACT and SAT

Most colleges require you to attain a specific minimum score on either the ACT or SAT before admittance. Once you have narrowed down your college choices, review their scholarships pages. Many academic scholarships are based either entirely or partly on those test scores, and one or two more points may push you into a category for a more substantial award.

How to Cross the Line

Many of the same techniques above for the PSAT apply when taking other standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Keep these additional pointers in mind:

  • While the PSAT and SAT are both offered by College Board and have many similarities, the ACT comes from another provider and the format and content areas may be quite different. Use specific practice tests for the SAT or the ACT, depending on which test you plan to take.
  • Check to see if the colleges you’re applying to require or recommend that you take the optional essay portion.
  • You may retake either the SAT or ACT to try to improve your score.
    • Concentrate on preparing for the areas in which you want to improve, but continue to practice all parts of the test so your other section scores don’t fall.
    • Consider your options for sharing your scores with colleges. You may want to wait to see your new score before you submit it to a college, but an additional fee could be required.
    • If your score improves in some parts of the test, but you have a lower composite score because of lower scores in other sections, see whether your college will superscore, or consider your best score for each section of the test separately.

High School Grades

While you’re checking the test score requirements for scholarships, pay attention to the required high school GPA as well. Will bumping up your overall GPA a fraction of a point move you into another scholarship category and make you eligible for hundreds or thousands of additional dollars?

Increasing your GPA may also make you eligible for increased money from outside scholarship sponsors. When you search for scholarships, try a search with an additional 0.1 or 0.15 added to your actual GPA to see if you get more results. (Don’t lie on scholarship applications; improve your GPA before you apply.)

How to Cross the Line

Increasing your GPA may take some extra effort, but if it nets you additional cash for college, it’s worth the work.

  • Don’t wait. Take steps to improve a specific grade early in the semester or year. Later, you’ll have fewer opportunities to earn points, and a perfect final test can only offset so many earlier mistakes.
  • Take advantage of every extra credit opportunity.
  • Ask your teachers how you can improve your grade. Some may be willing to provide credit for an extra project or paper if you explain why you need the grade boost. (This is most effective if you’re an engaged student who generally completes all work on time, even if you don’t always get an A.)
  • Improve your study habits. See these tips for studying smarter.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Getting Involved: 9 Reasons Why

Opportunities to become involved in extracurricular activities, athletics, and work activities abound. Here are nine reasons high school students should take advantage of at least a few of those opportunities.

1. Discover new possibilities.

Involvement in an activity could spur a lifelong passion, introduce career options and help define identity. For example, many students first find a love for debate or technology through school activities

2. Ease transitions.

Moving from elementary to middle school, or from middle to high school, can be a big change in routine, relationships and environment. Continuing or discovering activities can help make the change go more smoothly.

3. Relieve boredom.

Being involved in an activity often means hours of practice, preparation and, sometimes, travel, which leaves less time for boredom or less-desirable activities.

4. Relieve academic pressure.

As the school work load increases, it may seem counterintuitive to spend more time on other activities, but the outlet is often a needed break from homework and studying.

5. Increase academic performance.

Education Next reports being involved in activities outside the classroom may play a role in improving grades and standardized test scores.

6. Build important skills.

No matter what the future brings, skills like teamwork, cooperation, creative problem-solving, decision-making and leadership will always be important. Many extracurricular activities allow the development of these skills that are transferrable to school, family and future life.

7. Make connections.

Whether it’s a coach, a teammate, a parent or an event judge, involvement in many extracurriculars brings students into contact with others who may become valuable connections later.

8. Improve college applications.

If college is the next step after high school, a record of involvement over several years can demonstrate a continued interest in a particular cause, activity or event. Colleges and universities appreciate seeing applicants who demonstrate that they are successful outside the classroom and will become active members of their academic communities.

9. Find others with similar interests.

A variety of activities are available for students of all backgrounds and circumstances, including:

  • School, club or community sports teams
  • Special interest clubs like card or chess clubs
  • Academic-related activities such as competitive math or science teams
  • Fine arts groups, like newspaper or social media, drama, dance or music
  • Student government
  • Volunteering for nonprofit and service organizations
  • Career-related internships and jobs
  • Other jobs such as retail, babysitting and tutoring

By: Iowa Student Loan

Before Applying for a Student Loan

So, awarded financial aid isn’t enough to cover the full cost of attendance and you know you or your student will need additional student loans to pay for college. Before filling out loan applications, consider future repayment for any loans. Here’s what you need to know.

Federal student loans are limited.

Undergraduate students can take out only so much in federal student loans each year. If additional student loans above that limit are required, you may need to consider private student loans or parent loans.

Undergraduates need adult assistance.

Students need to have a creditworthy cosigner for any private student loans, unless they can meet underwriting criteria on their own. If parents are willing to consider a federal Parent PLUS Loan, the parents will need to borrow that money and be responsible for paying it back themselves.

The debt will need to be repaid.

Student loans are not usually dischargeable for bankruptcy or other financial hardship. When you think about a future repayment amount, remember:

  • The repayment amount will be more than the original loan amount. Student loans accrue interest on a daily basis. At certain times, unpaid accrued interest may be capitalized, or added to the principal balance, and begin accruing interest as well.
  • Payments may come from a limited income. Carefully consider how much a graduate with the same major can realistically expect to make in an entry-level position. Add anticipated student loan payments for all the undergraduate years, including any federal loans in the financial aid package, to anticipated expenses for a realistic budget based on a starting salary. If all your expenses can’t be covered with a realistic starting salary, student loan debt may need to be reconsidered.

Interest and other payments can be made during college.

Most lenders allow early or extra payments on student loans at any time without penalty. In addition, paying interest as it accrues during school can reduce the amount of interest that will need to be repaid after graduation.

Private student loans vary.

Every lender has its own underwriting criteria, qualification requirements, loan terms and repayment schedules. Before you sign for a loan, research your options. Consider:

  • Variable vs. fixed interest rates. A variable rate may go up or down according to market conditions, while a fixed rate remains the same throughout the loan term. A low variable rate is often appealing, but remember that it may change drastically over the loan term.
  • Actual interest rate. Many lenders offer different rates based on the applicants’ and cosigners’ credit. If you are unable to determine your rate upfront, consider the highest rates.
  • Repayment assistance and benefits. Some lenders or loan servicers offer assistance if a borrower is unable to make required monthly payments. Some loans also offer special benefits, such as a reduced interest rate for making automatic electronic payments. Consider these features carefully.
  • Managing repayment. Will additional loans be needed for future years? Should all loans be obtained from a single or limited number of lenders to make repayment easier? Will consolidating multiple loans later be important, and does the lender offer that option?

College choices matter.

If you find that you or your student cannot afford to take on enough debt to pay the full cost of attendance, a new plan might be essential. Some options students have include:

  • Earning more. Increase the ability to pay college costs as they occur by earning more income during school terms and on breaks.
  • Reducing expenses. The full cost of attendance may include expenses that can be cut. Can living off campus without a meal plan save money? Are the book and fees and transportation costs realistic for you or your student?
  • Asking for help. Are relatives willing to help pay for college? Are additional scholarships, either through the school or outside entities, available?
  • Attending a less-expensive school. If the cost of attendance is still not affordable without taking on unmanageable debt, you may need to consider attending a less-expensive school, at least for a year or two.

Visit Student Loan Game Plan for more information and tips.

By: Iowa Student 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.
  • 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

Iowa Families Can Win Cash for Educational Expenses – Register by May 11

Iowa high school students and their families can enter weekly drawings for two $250 awards, and Iowa high school seniors can enter a grand prize drawing for two $1,500 awards by completing a free online tool that helps them estimate the total cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Learn more and enter the giveaway today!

Iowa high school students, and their parents or guardians, can enter their information for the drawings after completing the College Funding Forecaster until May 11. The free online tool provided by Iowa Student Loan uses information from students’ freshman year financial aid award packets, as well as outside scholarships and grants and family savings and earnings, to project estimated costs, funding gaps and potential student loan debt over four years.

“We want to help families make the connection between first-year costs and the total financial investment in a college education,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “This tool helps them see how their costs might increase, what happens when one-year scholarship awards are exhausted, and how the family and student contributions can play a role in reducing overall costs.”

The tool allows families to customize both expenses and available funding to adjust results for changes in students’ situations over the four years. The results show yearly and total estimated costs of attendance, available funding and projected funding gaps. The tool also provides informational tips on how to reduce costs and potential debt.

After viewing their results, users have the opportunity to enter the drawings. Two names will be drawn each week to receive $250 awards for educational expenses. In a grand prize drawing, two names will also be drawn to each receive $1,500 for the students’ college expenses in fall 2017. The grand prizes will be paid directly to the students’ colleges.

For details and complete rules for the giveaway, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Giveaway. Or, to begin the College Funding Forecaster and enter the giveaway, go to www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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