Summer is Over, School Begins

Attention all Freshmen- NOW IT COUNTS!

It never ceases to amaze me how fast time goes especially when you get older. It just seems like yesterday the kids got out of school and swimming pools were opening. Summer was beginning! Now we are starting a new school.

With the start of the new school year, it means we have a new crop of Freshmen going into high school. While all grades in high schools have to focus on certain things, Freshmen are who I want to talk to directly today. This is a topic that really hits home this year as my son will be a Freshman.

Here are a few things that I think Freshmen should know and concentrate on this year in high school:

1. Get off to a good start with your grades -You might hear the saying “NOW IT COUNTS”. When Colleges look at your high school GPA (Grade Point Average) they are going to be looking at all 4 years. So the grades you get as a Freshman do matter

2. Start an Activity Resume - Keep track of all your extracurricular activities and work experiences throughout high school. Many college and scholarship applications will require one.

3. Take Assessments that will help you Explore Careers- You might have done this in middle school but exploring careers should be a continuous process. is one website that allows you to do this.

4. Explore College Options- Even though you are just starting your high school, it is a good idea to check out college options. is one website to explore your options. Learn about types of degrees, admissions requirements, major programs and more. Never too early to begin gathering information on colleges.

5. Talk to Parents/Trusted Adults about your Future Plans – You can ask them about their careers and college experiences. There are many families that don’t start this conversation until Senior year in high school. Start early! The more time you prepare, the better prepared you will be. But also the more time you give yourself to be prepared, the less stressful it will be.

These 5 tips are not the only things Freshmen should do this year. Here is a link to our Freshman/Sophomore calendar that has more tips month by month to help students and our Freshman Transitions Guide that goes into more detail to get Freshmen off to a good start in High School:

Freshman/Sophomore Calendar-

Freshman Guide -

Good luck to all the Freshmen (and Freshmen parents). Hope you get off to a good start and have a wonderful Freshman year!

Erick - ICAN Ankeny Center

Student Loan Advice

Student loans.  Nobody wants them, but most people need them.  The information can be overwhelming and confusing.  Subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS – what does it all mean?
Regarding interest rates, ever wonder why the interest rates are the way they are?  I recently read a good article that helps summarize how interest rates are set, and why they change.  Here is a link to the article:

And, in case you’re wondering, interest rates will be going up next school year.  For the Federal Stafford loans, undergraduate students borrowed at a 3.76% fixed rate for the 2016-2017 school year.  For the 2017-2018 school year, rates will jump to 4.45%. 

Rates are going up, but we still would recommend for students that need to borrow for college, federal loans are probably a better option than most private loan options.  The federal Stafford loans offer relatively low, fixed rates, and do not require a co-signer.  Most private loans for students will require a co-signer, and rates may even be higher than federal rates.

If you have loan questions, give us a call and set up a time to come in and talk about your options.

Shea- ICAN Hiawtha Center

Heading Back to School

Whether you are heading back to high school or college, August brings about an exciting opportunity for a fresh start and new experiences.
As you start planning for your new academic year it’s good to set goals for the year – similar to a New Year’s Resolution. These goals can focus on academics, social, or personal – anything that helps you get closer to your future.

An important aspect of the new school year is ensuring that the courses you are taking are still in line with your ultimate goals.
If you’re in high school you want to make sure your classes following your four-year plan and are preparing you for your next steps – either college admission preparation and requirements or suited to the career field that interests you.
If you’re in college you want to make sure your classes are meeting your program or major requirements for graduation.
Talk with your school counselor or academic advisor to make sure you’re on track or to make adjustments.

Job Shadows & Internships
Now is a great time to make some plans for a job shadow or internship. This will help guide you through your career preparation and exploration, and provide you with great experiences. In high school these experiences can tell you if a career is a good fit. In college these experiences can lead to networking connections and potential job offers, not to mention the hands-on experience you gain before graduation.

All work and no play is never a good idea. Make sure you are getting involved in school life. In high school extracurricular activities will boost your resume for scholarships and admissions and provide you with experiences that enhance your social skills. In college you need some time outside the classroom to decompress and try new things. Campus activities are the best way to explore new interests and try new things. Look into campus clubs, intramurals, and events and join in the fun.
All these things lead to a well-rounded year and a step closer to your future. Reflect and pick goals for both your academic and social life and welcome this new year with open arms.

Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center

College Selection

The college selection and admissions process can seem overwhelming, but don’t worry, because help is only a phone call, email, or social media post away. Chances are, there is a particular admissions counselor assigned to your high school. Regardless of your high school grade level, feel free to find and contact your assigned admissions counselor. Your admissions counselor can answer both general and specific questions about the college admissions process. You can often find your assigned counselor on the institution’s admissions website, or feel free to call the admissions office directly. When you contact the admissions office, identify yourself as a prospective student, share the name of your high school, your grade level, and ask about the best way to contact your admissions counselor.

If you are starting your college career at a community college and plan to transfer to another institution, consider connecting with transfer admissions counselors early in your community college career. Transfer admissions counselors can provide valuable timeline, course selection, financial aid, and scholarship information about their respective institutions.

In conclusion, high school students, if you are interested in a college, university, or career school, feel free to reach out to the admissions office and find your assigned admissions counselor. They can help you to navigate the college admissions process.

Troy - ICAN Ankeny Center

Things Every 18 Year Old Show Know

It seems like everywhere you look, there are “top 5 or top 10” lists of everything. For example, there are lists of the top 10 colleges/universities in the U.S., the top 10 party schools, the top 10 best value schools, and the lists goes on. While these lists can be somewhat helpful and informative, and may be based on surveys or statistics, it is important to remember that some of these lists are formed as an opinion by the writer and you must make your own decision as to what is relevant and what to believe.

A year ago or so, I came across a list that I tend to agree with. It is geared towards parents; however, students could benefit by understanding the importance of the information as well. It is not rating anything; however, it is a list put together by a former university dean that lists the 8 skills that she feels everyone should have by the age of 18. Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford University dean, included it in her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” (Henry Holt & Co., 2015).

Below I have summarized her list and added a few comments of my own.

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers.

Faculty, deans, advisors, landlords, store clerks, coworkers, bank tellers, mechanics, etc. We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching them how to discern the few bad strangers from the good ones. Kids end up not knowing how to interact with strangers they come across in the real world.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around.

A campus, the town in which their internship is located, etc. We drive or accompany our children everywhere when they are growing up, whether by car, bicycle, or even walking. I know when my daughters started riding a bicycle or driving on their own, I asked one of them to go the public library. They didn’t know how to get there even though it is only 1 mile (2 turns) away and they had lived in the city their whole lives!

3. An 18-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines.

We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it. Kids end up not knowing how to prioritize tasks or meet deadlines without regular reminders. I know sometimes as a parent it is hard to see the consequences that can occur when deadlines are not met, however, sometimes that is how a child learns.

4. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household.

We don’t ask kids to do much around the household because they are so busy with outside activities. They end up not knowing how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, and not doing their fair share for the good of the whole.

5. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems.

We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings. Kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs.

Courses and workloads, college level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, etc. Kids need to know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.

7. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money.

Sometimes, kids don’t have part-time jobs, they receive money from parents for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don’t develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn’t love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8. And finally, an 18-year-old must be able to take risks.

Parents have laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them. Kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (grit) or the thick skin (resilience) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

John - Waterloo and Hiawatha ICAN Centers

A New Advisor in the House - Getting to Know Mary Joan

Hi! As a newbie at ICAN, I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself and how I got to this place in my life. I grew up in a small town in SE Iowa and graduated from a small high school and a small private college in SE Iowa. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. The type of teacher changed over the years: elementary, band, vocal, special education, but I truly can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a teacher. I loved school (I know – most people don’t like to admit that), and I wanted to help students love school as well, or at least be successful! Deep down, I wanted a career where I felt I could make a difference!

I decided on music education (vocal) early in my college career, and I spent 16 years teaching vocal music in western Iowa. The rewards were enormous! Even though some of the days were trying and some of the weeks were long, the final performances, whether they were concerts, contests, musicals, swing choir events, or any other of the numerous musical activities we did, were exciting and fun! Even when things didn’t go exactly as planned, the hard work and dedication always paid off, and the progress and excitement I saw in my students made every minute of preparation worth it!

Later in my career, I decided to work on a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. Interestingly, my cohort group working on this degree (from Wayne State College in Wayne, NE) was the first group at Wayne State to earn a degree completely through distance learning. Internet was new to the small schools in western Iowa at that time, so we had a lot to learn about using the Internet for research and using technology in many ways while taking our classes entirely off campus. In fact, although it is difficult to believe now, Wayne State felt very uneasy about giving an entire degree to students who had never stepped foot on campus (think about all of the online degrees awarded these days – but this was 1998). So, one Saturday we all had to spend the day on the Wayne State campus so they could say that we had at least seen and been on campus!

I decided to take a job as a high school counselor after finishing my master’s degree. It was a tough decision, because I loved teaching vocal music, but I thought it was time for a change. I also felt that I might be more successful in really making a difference in students’ lives as a school counselor. I was a school counselor for 18 years. I enjoyed helping students apply for scholarships, explore colleges and careers, choose appropriate classes, and work through social, academic, and personal issues, and I also really enjoyed knowing what was going on in the entire school environment, rather than just what was happening in my end of the building. Did I make more of a difference as a school counselor? I don’t know that I did. I think both careers were equally worthy and valid in trying to make a difference. Both careers involved helping students see their talents and abilities and encouraging them to strive to do their best. I did feel that I got to know individual students better as a music teacher, but I still developed some good relationships with students as a school counselor as well.

I retired from education in mid-June, and I came to ICAN to be a student success advisor in Eastern Iowa. There are new things to learn, but my experience in the field of education, especially in my school counseling career, have helped me a great deal in this new position already. I’m still helping students and families, and that is something I really love!

My point in all this? Good question! My point is to let you know a little bit about me and to drive home the fact that I believe you can make a difference in the lives of others no matter what your career, if that is something that is important to you. Find something to do for which you have a passion, then work hard and be as dedicated as you can be, still giving yourself time for a personal life. You can’t go wrong with doing something which you believe to be important and dedicating your life to making a difference for others. Best wishes!

Mary Joan - ICAN Hiawatha Center

First Things First

You are going to be busy in college.  You will have classes, studying, possibly a job or work study, relaxation, and social activities.  As I have talked to college freshmen through the years, one of the biggest challenges they have is managing time in college.  In high school, the high school schedule will manage a lot of your time for you.  But college is a whole new game.

Colleges will advise students that for every hour they are in class, students need to spend two hours outside of class preparing.  A lot of college freshmen don’t believe this, but eventually they realize that the rigor of college is a lot harder than high school.  What are some of the tips to help with time management?

First, understand that everyone has 24 hours in a day.  Some people get a lot done and some people are always pressed to meet deadlines and be productive.  People that get a lot done don’t have more hours in a day.  What is the difference?  Productive students realize that time management is a matter of priorities.  This means doing first things first. 

Second, productive students develop a system to organize their time and accomplishing tasks.  A planner with a calendar is still a great tool.  There are free apps for smart phones that help you keep track of meetings, due dates for papers and assignments, and notes.  Whatever you want to use, the bottom line is you need a system.

In my career serving high school students as a teacher, coach, athletic director, school counselor and many other roles, it was vital that I keep track of events, due dates, and tasks.  Keeping my events on my phone or computer is a huge help.  But I still used paper to keep track of what needs to get done first – a matter of time priorities.

This system might be of help to you.  I have used this system in the past, and I still use it today.  First thing when I start my day, I make my to-do list.  Then I prioritize.  The system I use is a letter system:

A = must get done today

B = needs to get done in the next week

C = needs to get done in the next month or two

So here is an example of one of my to-do lists:

A   Email school counselors on spring presentations
A   Email school counselors on presentations for next week
B   Did Mrs. Jones email me back about a presentation date?
B   Email XYZ College on a regional presentation date
A   Record mileage from presentation last night
C   Work on ICAN blogs
B   Update inventory numbers
B   Enter financial aid alert sign-ups

So the way this works is: A items need to get done today; B items need to get done in a week; C items can wait and are primarily keeping those things on your radar.  A items go off your list as you get them done, B items can become A items, C items can become B items.  New C items may be added for down the road.

As things get done that day or the next morning, I evaluate my list using this system:

√ checked it off – got it done!

→ carry it forward to the next day

  in progress but not done

Del  delegated it to someone

So here is what I got accomplished one day:

    A   Email school counselors on spring presentations
    A   Email school counselors on presentations for next week
    B   Did Mrs. Jones email me back about a presentation date?
    B   Email XYZ College on a regional presentation date
    A   Record mileage from a presentation last night
  C   Work on ICAN blogs
  B   Update inventory numbers
    B   Enter financial aid alert sign-ups

Whatever doesn’t get done, is carried to the next day.  Then I add tasks that come up for the next day, or to keep things on the radar such as add things on future dates for assignments/research papers that are due, date you need to start a project or paper, personal items like call mom.  It also serves as a good record to keep track of what you have finished. 

First things first!  Hope this helps!

Steve - ICAN Council Bluffs Center