The Graduation Checklist for Parents

This milestone for your student can mean a lot of work for you. Use this checklist to bring some order to the chaos.

Work with your student to be sure they’ve completed the administrative steps to officially graduate.

  • Remind your student to follow through on these tips for college students and high school graduates.
  • Your student should receive information on how and where to obtain a cap and gown—along with any special stoles, pins, tassels or regalia—for the ceremony.

Consider mementos of the occasion.

  • Your student will have the opportunity to order class rings, yearbooks and other products to mark this important milestone. Check for deadlines.
  • Graduation is also a good opportunity for family and individual photos. Many photographers specialize in senior portraits.

Make any reservations required.

  • If you will be traveling to a college graduation, you may find that hotel rooms and transportation options are booked quickly and up to a year in advance.
  • Graduation party venues may also become scarce depending on location and number of other graduates on your desired date.
  • If you will order baked goods, catering, tents or other services, be sure to start that process early.

Invite friends and family to the party.

  • Work with your student to plan a celebration everyone will enjoy.
  • If guests ask what they can gift to your high school graduate, consider suggesting contributions to a college saving account or a gift card that can be used for textbooks and materials.
  • Don’t forget to have thank-you cards on hand for your student to send shortly after the celebration.

Start planning the move.

  • Whether your college student is moving to a new job or returning home for a while, he or she may need assistance. See our moving checklist for college graduates.
  • As your high school graduate prepares to move to campus, keep a copy of the college’s suggested packing list handy. Also see some items you may want to take care of before fall term begins.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Parent PLUS Loan Features, Benefits and Drawbacks: What You Need to Know

The parent PLUS loan is a federal loan that is just one option available to parents looking to cover outstanding costs related to college attendance. Before applying for a parent PLUS loan, carefully consider its features, benefits and drawbacks.

Features of the Parent PLUS Loan

  • Availability: The parent PLUS loan is available to biological and adoptive parents, and in some cases stepparents, of undergraduate students who do not have adverse credit history. Some colleges may include the PLUS Loan in a student’s financial aid; however, just because a PLUS Loan is included does not mean that parents are required to accept it.
  • Limits: A parent can borrow up to the cost of attendance, an amount that is determined by the student’s school, minus other financial assistance received by the student.
  • Interest rate: The parent PLUS loan has a fixed interest rate, which is 7.60% for loans taken out for the 2018–2019 school year. The rate for the 2019–2020 year will be set on July 1, and it may be helpful to note that the rate for new loans has increased each of the last three years.
  • Fees: An additional loan fee is calculated as a percentage of the loan amount (currently 4.248% for disbursements on or before Sept. 30, 2019) and is deducted from each disbursement.
  • Repayment: Borrowers may choose from different plans to repay the loan over a 10-year period. Loans of more than $30,000 are eligible for an extended repayment period that allows borrowers up to 25 years to repay the loan. Repayment generally begins as soon as the loan is disbursed, but parents may request to defer repayment while the student is enrolled at least half time plus an additional six months.

Benefits of the Parent PLUS Loan

  • Pre- and overpayment: Some borrowers choose to make extra payments to pay down parent PLUS loans more quickly and to reduce the amount of interest repaid. There is no penalty for paying extra on PLUS Loans.
  • Federal repayment options: Borrowers may choose from different federal repayment plans to fit their budget, but most income-driven repayment plans are not options for parent PLUS loans. These loans also have deferment and forbearance options for borrowers who have difficulty making payments; however, interest continues to accrue daily even when payments are not required. Unpaid, accumulated interest will be capitalized, or added to the loan balance, at the end of the deferment or forbearance period.
  • Death and disability: The loan can be discharged if the parent borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled. In addition, the loan can be discharged if the student dies.
  • Cancellation: If a parent applies for a PLUS Loan, he or she can cancel all or part of the amount before the loan is disbursed to the school. After disbursement, borrowers have a limited time to cancel all or part of the loan amount by contacting the school’s financial aid office.

Drawbacks of the Parent PLUS Loan

  • Discharge: Federal parent PLUS loans are rarely discharged for financial difficulties resulting from unemployment, age-related or other illnesses and injuries, or bankruptcy.
  • Nontransferable: Parents cannot transfer the PLUS loan to their student to repay after they finish school. Parents and their students may be able to work together to refinance the loan in the student’s name through a private lender; although doing so will result in the loss of federal repayment options.
  • Timing: Many parents face high education debt burdens at a time of life when earning power generally decreases and limited income is needed for living or medical expenses. Defaulting on a parent PLUS loan can lead to the garnishment of Social Security benefits, tax refunds and wages.

Other Considerations Before Taking Out a Parent PLUS Loan

The following items could be considered a drawback or a benefit, depending on personal and other circumstances.

  • Qualification: Approval for a PLUS Loan does not take into consideration a parent’s income, other outstanding debt, assets or years until retirement, so parents should carefully consider how much they can realistically repay.
  • Interest: The fixed interest rate will not increase during the life of the loan, but borrowers also won’t be able to take advantage of lower market rates in the future unless they refinance with a private lender.

Before taking on a parent PLUS loan, you should also compare it to other options, such as our College Family Loan, which is a private education loan with a cosigner option and that features lower rates than the parent PLUS loan as well as no fees.

Interested in the benefits of our College Family Loan? Check out the details here.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Plan for Total College Costs; Enter to Win

Use the free College Funding Forecaster online tool now through April 30 and enter for a chance at one of 10 $1,000 awards.

The College Funding Forecaster helps you get a clearer picture of the total costs, aid and shortfalls over four years using freshman year financial aid award information, as well as family contributions and outside scholarships and grants.

How to Use the College Funding Forecaster

Follow these simple steps to get started:

  1. Gather up your financial aid award information from the college(s) and any information about scholarships received from schools or outside organizations.
  2. Go to IowaStudentLoan.org/Forecaster.
  3. Enter in the college’s financial information as well as information about your family’s earnings and savings and any outside awards.
  4. Review year-by-year estimates and make adjustments for your own situation. For example, living off campus after sophomore year may cost less than living on campus. Or you may be expecting to earn more after the first year of college.
  5. Review the results, as well as the informational tips on how to address funding shortfalls.
  6. Enter your information at the end of the tool to be included in the drawings.

Awards for College

Iowa high school seniors and their parents and guardians can enter the giveaway for a chance at one of 10 $1,000 awards paid to the college on behalf of the winning students.

Use the tool and enter the giveaway today! 

Learn More About the Tool

By: Iowa Student Loan

Checklist for College Prep

With your student’s final year of high school winding down, the list of things to do may seem limitless. One way to help manage the stress and emotions of the final months before your child goes off to college is to make an organized checklist.

Here are some items to include for each month between now and the start of freshman year of college:

March

□ If your student hasn’t made a final college decision, visit or revisit those that have offered acceptance and your student is still considering.

  • Use these trips to help your student envision what it would be like to attend each school and decide if it’s a good fit.
  • You may wish to help your student set up visits to specific departments or programs or to sit in classes.

□ Compare financial aid offers from the schools that remain on the list. Your student can contact a school’s financial aid office with any questions about the aid offered.

April

□ Work with your student to make a final college selection by the end of the month, as many colleges require a commitment by May 1.

  • Your student should notify the chosen school and make any required deposits.
  • Check for specific forms or actions that need to be completed, and add deadlines to your calendar.
  • Your student should also notify other schools that he or she will not attend and send a thank-you for any special assistance or offers.

□ Help your student understand the full cost of attending college.

  • Have a family conversation about what you will and won’t help with financially.
  • Encourage your student to continue looking for scholarships that can help defray the cost of attendance. You may wish to investigate how the college will apply any outside scholarships to aid already awarded, such as whether outside scholarships would replace institutional scholarships from the college or offset student loans.

□ Help your student set reminders for requesting final transcripts.

  • The high school counseling office may have required forms or processes for this.
  • Check on whether the student needs to make a separate request for transcripts for any college courses already completed, such as dual enrollment classes.

□ Check personal IDs and documents.

  • Have your student renew his or her driver’s license or passport if necessary before going to college.
  • Consider TSA Precheck and Global Entry if your student will be flying frequently or expects to travel internationally.

□ Help your student finish strong.

  • Advanced Placement exams occur at the beginning of May. If your student is enrolled in AP classes, be sure to help them understand if a particular score is needed to obtain credit for courses at the selected college.
  • Encourage your student to try to achieve the best grades possible for second semester of senior year. Disciplinary or academic issues could result in a college rescinding acceptance or scholarships.

May

□ Review the college’s timeline for completing actions and submitting forms and deposits.

  • Your student may need to sign up for orientation to enroll in classes, select a residence hall or roommates, opt in or out of college-sponsored health insurance and take other action.
  • Work with your student to set up access to a student or parent portal offered by the college.
  • Determine whether the college requires a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) agreement to provide parents with information about a student.

□ Make a four-year plan for coursework.

  • If your student has decided on a major, look for an existing flowchart or plan of required and elective classes available from the school. If none is available, look at the requirements for the major and start to plan out possibilities based on class offerings from previous years’ course catalogs.
  • Even if your student is undecided, you can look together for interesting entry-level classes, prerequisites for a particular academic college and graduation requirements to create a one- to two-year plan.

□ Plan needed transportation and accommodations.

  • Many college towns have limited hotel availability, especially on popular weekends for move-in, parent weekends, breaks and move-out.
  • Watch for deals on airfare, hotels and other accommodations and venues.

June

□ Work on life skills with your student.

  • Ensure your student can carry out the functions of everyday college life, such as waking up on time for early classes, doing laundry, arranging transportation, making appointments and preparing simple meals.
  • Discuss how your student will obtain money, such as from a job or from you, and access it for transactions. Many students use combinations of a credit or debit card, payment apps like Venmo or PayPay, cash withdrawals, and other forms of payment.

□ Encourage contact with future roommates.

  • Whether your student selected or was assigned a roommate, it can be helpful for people who will be sharing a small space for an extended time to have some preliminary conversations about preferences, habits, who is bringing what and any special needs.
  • You may want to encourage a meeting before move-in if the roommate lives nearby or can arrange to attend the same orientation session as your student.

□ Develop a network.

  • The college your child will attend may have parent associations, alumni groups or other organizations you can join.
  • Look for groups on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. These groups can be a forum for information and support now and throughout college.

July

□ Start exploring the college community with your student.

  • You may wish to find activities to participate in for future visits.
  • Your student may want to investigate student organizations, community service opportunities, events and activities as well.

□ Shop for books and supplies.

  • As soon as the class schedule is finalized, your student can start looking for assigned books. Encourage comparison shopping between the college bookstore, other bookstores and online sites. Also compare rentals to used and new purchases, and compare downloads and ebooks to printed materials.
  • Be aware that many college courses also require an electronic access code, which may not be included with used, rented or electronic versions.
  • Determine what dorm furnishings and supplies are needed and start shopping for those.

□ Talk to your student about common college student issues and how to get help.

  • You may wish to talk about drug and alcohol use, as well as other behaviors.
  • College students often face academic issues when entering college, even if they were excellent high school students. Discuss the advantages and availability of professor office hours, study groups, teaching assistants, help centers, tutoring and other resources.
  • Mental health can often be a concern for college students as well. Most campuses offer counseling and other services; encourage your student to be aware of how to reach out.
  • Your student may have specific physical, dietary, emotional or other needs. If you are unsure about the help available, contact student services or admissions for direction.

□ Consider dorm or renters insurance for lost, damaged or stolen valuable items like laptops, cell phones, bikes and other assets. Homeowners insurance may cover some losses for your student, but an inexpensive dorm policy from a specialized provider may be an option if you have a high deductible.

August

□ Make a communication plan.

  • Sometimes it’s helpful for the parents and the student to know when they will next speak to each other after the move.
  • You may want to set up a regular time and day for a video or phone chat.

□ Get ready for the big move. Be prepared for emotions to run high as your student faces a new situation and leaving behind familiar friends and family.

By: Iowa Student Loan

4 Hot Tips for Refinancing Your Parent PLUS Loans

Well they did it — they made it to college. While your children may be busy with college classes or working at the job that college education afforded them, you may be making payments on federal PLUS Loans for parents for many more years to come.

Parent PLUS loans are pretty easy to get and many schools “packaged” these loans for parents into students’ financial aid award letters. Those conveniences come with a hidden price, though. Repayment options that may be great for some but not beneficial to others and interest rates that are often higher than financially savvy consumers deserve and that vary each academic year.

Today, education loan refinance rates are often much lower than what you may be paying for your PLUS loans.

When Should You Refinance Your Parent PLUS Loans?

Although refinancing federal parent PLUS loans may not be the right choice for everyone, here are four examples of when doing so might be the right thing for you.

1. When you want a single lower rate

Parent PLUS loans are fixed-rate loans, so the rate for the school year your child used the funds is the rate that specific loan will always be. For example, PLUS loans taken out for the 2018–2019 school year have fixed rates of 7.60%.

And because rates for new PLUS loans change every year, if you have more than one parent PLUS loan, each loan likely has a different rate. Since 2006, rates have been as low as 6.31% and as high as 8.50%.

Refinancing PLUS loans is more common than ever, and it’s easy to combine multiple loans into one new loan with one rate. And, with private lenders, the rates you are offered are based on your credit, not a number set by the federal government for everyone. The better your credit, the lower the interest rate you will be offered.

Keep in mind: Many lenders offer online tools to provide you with a rate quote or pre-qualification offer. Some companies make you create an account before getting their information, so be sure they are only making a “soft” inquiry into your credit history or that their website states the information will not impact your credit score.

Want to see what rates you would get with our refinance loan?

If you don’t qualify to refinance your parent PLUS loans with a private lender, you have the option to consolidate those federal loans through the U.S. Department of Education. If you apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan, the interest rates of your current federal loans are used to determine your new consolidation loan rate, though, so you may not see a lower overall rate. Learn more about the differences between consolidating and refinancing with our Beginner’s Guide to Student Loan Refinance.

2. When you want to lower your payment

Parent PLUS loans are owned by the federal government, and, along with being fairly easy to get, they have a basic repayment term of 10 years. The federal government offers extended repayment, up to 25 years, to borrowers who owe more than $30,000 in PLUS loans. But what if your current remaining term or the amount you owe each month doesn’t work for you?

If you are looking to lower your payments, whether it’s to save for today, help other children with college costs or plan for your retirement, refinancing can get you a longer term. Many lenders have terms ranging from 5 to 20 years with multiple options in between.

The trade-off for a longer term with a refinance loan is that you will likely pay more in interest over the life of the loan. However, reputable lenders won’t penalize you for paying extra whenever you wish, which will reduce overall interest costs. You may feel like a longer-term loan, which doesn’t require high monthly payments and allows for extra payments at any time, provides a financial safety net.

If you’d like to see how repaying at a lower rate or with a different repayment term can impact your overall costs and monthly payment, or if you want to learn more about the benefit implications of refinancing federal loans into a new private loan, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Student Loan Refinance.

Keep in mind: Refinance loans with shorter term lengths typically provide the lowest rates that you see advertised. But even loans with longer terms often have rates lower than federal PLUS loan rates.

3. When you need a change

Refinancing your existing parent PLUS loans (or any other education loans in your name) lets you reset your loan; at today’s terms and on your terms.

When you and your child were reviewing financial aid award letters and trying to understand the different types of financial aid and student loans was likely a busy, stressful time. When you first signed paperwork for those loans, you may not have had enough time to fully consider the differences between federal loans for students and PLUS loans for parents and the financial impacts of taking out parent PLUS loans.

Today is a new day, and you can find that right mix of fixed interest rates and terms to set yourself up for financial success going forward. Take time to check out your different options, and determine how different rates, payments and terms will impact your short- and long-term budgets. Without the stress of making decisions quickly to pay college bills on time, you can find the right loan for you today.

Keep in mind: The better your credit, the lower rates you will be offered for the different loan terms available. The great thing with the refinance loans offered by most lenders is that you are able to select the rate and term combination that is right for you.

4. When it’s not you, it’s them. (The servicer that is.)

Education loans are long-term financial commitments, and like all long-term commitments, your partner plays an important role. With federal parent PLUS loans, you probably didn’t pick that partner, and maybe it’s just not working out. Maybe they aren’t giving you the attention you deserve. Maybe they’re a large corporation that cares more about profits than customer service. Or maybe they are constantly trying to sell you more or different financial products.

Whatever the reason, you can get away and pick your new partner. Lenders today offer a range of benefits like rate reductions for automatic payments or for military service. Many also have policies in place to forgive loans in the event of unfortunate circumstances. Now’s your chance to take a look around and make the choice your own.

Start by learning more about us and all the details on our refinance loan.

Keep in mind: Some lenders detail their repayment benefits and policies on their websites, while you may have to call and ask others for more details. Do you want to work with a lender who is transparent and provides all the information you are seeking in the manner you prefer? If you speak with representatives on the phone, are they pleasant and helpful or do they try to get you off the phone quickly without providing the information you need?

Ready to refinance?

Regardless of your situation, if you’re considering refinancing your parent PLUS loans, it’s important to spend time weighing your options and finding the right loan and lender for you. What do you not like about your current loans? What does work now? What would be ideal in a new refinance loan?

Want to know how we can help?

Iowa Student Loan offers the Reset Refinance Loan with a rates and terms to help meet your needs. We are a nonprofit business that focuses on Iowa students and families, but we proudly provide “Iowa nice” customer service no matter where you call home. Pre-qualify today and we’ll provide you with rate and term options specific to your situation.

Get Your Rate

By: Iowa Student Loan

What Your Financial Aid Award Letter Doesn’t Tell You

The daily life of a college student is filled with associated costs. Many of these are detailed in the financial aid award letters and packets colleges send out, but other expenses can add up.

Don’t forget to plan for expenses like these listed below when estimating your cost of attendance. Having a clear idea of all your expenses upfront will allow you to better plan how you will pay for college.

Class or major-specific materials and fees

Your award letter probably provides an average cost for books and materials, but depending on specific classes, you may need to budget more. For example, you may need to purchase specialty art or lab supplies, specific software or even tickets to local performances or speakers for certain classes.

Social and pre-professional dues and fees

Fraternities, sororities, pre-professional societies, clubs and student organizations often have membership fees, as well as costs associated with special events, trips, conferences and clothing.

Entertainment costs

Sporting events, concerts, movies and other entertainment can add up. In addition, you may need to pay for cable or another TV subscription service, dining outside of a meal plan, snacks, beverages and more.

Printing and photocopy fees

While the world of academics is progressively moving toward electronic communication, you may need to print materials, signs, resumes and portfolios for presentations, interviews and other occasions. You may have a printing allowance included in the cost of attendance, but watch especially for limits on color, 3-D and other specialty printing.

Clothing

Besides an initial outlay for clothes appropriate for the weather and fashions at a specific school, students often buy new clothes for theme days or holidays, special events, interviews and jobs. Don’t forget to budget spirit wear for game days.

Extra travel

Many college award letters list an average amount for transportation. This may not cover your specific costs for travel to and from a faraway home or travel expenses for study abroad, internships or co-ops, conferences, service trips or even trips over breaks. If you take a car to college, you may have parking, insurance and maintenance costs on and off campus, or you may end up paying for cabs, Uber, trains or buses if you don’t have a car available.

Bank and financial fees

If your financial institution doesn’t have a branch on or near campus, you may be responsible for extra fees for using the ATM. Colleges may also charge fees if you choose to use a payment plan or to pay your tuition bill by certain methods.

Health and fitness expenses

If a college doesn’t include membership to a campus fitness center in its fees, you may need to budget for that expense. In addition, physical therapy or personal training services may be available only at an extra charge.

Health insurance

On a related note, consider whether there are extra fees for using your family health insurance in the college area. Many colleges offer their own insurance plans and automatically enroll students. Check with the college to determine if you are being charged for health insurance and how you can avoid paying for double coverage.

Parent travel

If you don’t attend college close to home, your parents may find themselves paying to travel to and stay in the college community several times a year, either for visits, special events or college functions like orientation and family day. This may affect the amount your parents are able to provide for other college-related expenses.

Renter or dorm insurance

You and your family may want to consider an additional policy or increase current insurance coverage in case of loss or theft of personal items at college. Insurance may cover contents of a dorm room or off-campus housing, bikes and computers, as well as other items.

Storage or shipping for breaks

If you attend college far from home, items that can’t be reasonably carted home will need to be either shipped or stored when the dorm closes for the year or while you are between off-campus leases.

Student loan interest

All student loans begin accruing daily interest from the moment they are disbursed to the school or the student. The federal government will pay interest on subsidized federal loans while you are in school at least half-time, but all other student loans have that interest added to the total repayment amount, which can significantly increase the amount you must repay. Choosing to pay interest during the school years can offset the accrual; otherwise, you will need to include that added interest in financial plans for the future.

You may have additional expenses not listed here based on your personal situation. Remember, you will need to repay any student loans with interest on your starting salary after leaving school, so consider how you can pay for these expenses as they arise without borrowing too much.

Iowa Student Loan has several tools to help you plan for college and life afterward. View our smart borrowing tools here.

By: Iowa Student Loan

5 Things Parents Should Know About Award Letters

Your student filed the FAFSA and just received the first financial aid award letter from a college. Your student may be happy as this is yet another step in the process taking them ever closer to move-in day. But before accepting admission, it’s important you take a look and ensure the offered financial aid is right for your family’s situation. Here are a few things to consider when reviewing your student’s award letter.

1. Award letters can come in a variety of formats.

If your student receives an award letter from multiple colleges, they may not look the same. This can make comparing costs and awarded aid a bit tricky and confusing but there are ways to get an accurate comparison.

It’s important to compare like costs and like awarded aid. Consider additional listed costs or aid separately. If you get confused, using a spreadsheet or table that breaks down amounts might help. The U.S. Department of Education offers a shopping sheet that can provide a template.

2. Colleges often include the maximum available federal student and parent loans on the award letter.

If you have other means to pay, such as newly anticipated income, savings, gifts or a 529 college savings plan, you can decline the offered loans entirely or update the awarded loan amounts to a lesser value. You don’t have to accept the full amount of awarded loans.

3. Loans listed on the award letter could include federal PLUS loans for parents.

These loans allow parents to supplement the student’s awarded aid to better cover the cost of attendance. These loans enter repayment immediately and are entirely the responsibility of the parent — not the student. Be sure to review your student’s award letter carefully and discuss loan options and responsibilities.

4. You may notice awarded aid doesn’t fully cover all costs.

You have some options when it comes to covering the remaining costs. First, contact the school’s financial aid office and inform them of your situation. They may be able to offer monthly payment plans or suggest other options such as private student loans.

5. When reviewing your student’s award letter, keep in mind that other costs will come up during the course of your student’s college career.

Award letters often do not take into consideration additional or extra costs. Other costs that may not be included in the award letter are spending money if your student chooses to attend concerts, sporting events or other activities. Organizations your student chooses to join may also come with membership fees not detailed in the award letter. So be sure you or your student have some extra money set aside for these situations.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Minimize Your Student Loan Debt: Declining Awarded Student Loans

Colleges sometimes include the maximum available federal student and parent loans on financial aid award letters to bring the amount of awarded financial aid closer to the total cost of attendance. It’s not always clear that students don’t need to accept the full amount of all loans.

Reducing expenses or increasing earnings to offset awarded loans will mean less debt after graduation. Not only would the amount of the student loans need to be repaid, but so will interest that accrues daily on those loans. And, it won’t matter if college doesn’t result in graduation, a job or the anticipated earnings. Once the loan has been accepted, the student (or parents in the case of a federal PLUS Loan for parents) is responsible for repaying it.

If the awarded loan amount seems like more than the student will really need, it’s important to decide exactly how much to borrow.

Need some, but not all, of the awarded federal student loan amount?

Students can always accept only the loan amount they need. To take a partial loan amount:

  • Fill in the desired loan amount on the document to be returned to the financial aid office if a paper copy needs to be signed and returned.
  • Choose the electronic option for accepting or declining each applicable loan, or for taking out a partial loan amount, when accepting financial aid online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to accept a partial award.

Can all loans be declined?

Many students have the goal to attend college loan-free. Even if some loans will eventually be needed, declining all loans for one semester will save capitalized interest later on. To decline the offered loans:

  • Cross out the loan amount or select the “decline” option on the document to be returned to the financial aid office.
  • Choose the electronic option for declining each applicable loan if financial aid is accepted online.
  • Contact the financial aid office if it’s not clear how to decline loans.

Considering PLUS Loans?

Although PLUS Loans may appear to be part of the awarded financial aid, they are not automatically paid to the student or institution. Parents need to request these loans. Your family may wish to compare the terms and benefits of a PLUS Loan with those, like our College Family Loan, offered by private lenders. These loans may have different fees or interest rates. Be sure to discuss repayment expectations as a family if parents will be responsible for repaying the PLUS or other loan debt.

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

1 2 3 10