Seniors: The End of One Chapter

WARNING: Sentimental blog ahead!

Seniors – as you read this, you are likely on the final downhill slide of your high school career. Hopefully, downhill slide does not include a slide in your attitude and work ethic toward school, activities, or anything else! But as these weeks fly by and you perform in your last concert, attend your last prom, go on your last field trip or maybe “organized senior skip day,” or compete in your final track or golf meet, it is also likely that you may be hit with a plethora of emotions.

In my years as a HS counselor, typically at the end of the senior year, even the students who had been the most “ready to be done with this place,” began feeling sentimental as they began turning in books and checking out for the final time with each teacher. I had many seniors over the years tell me they really were going to “miss this place,” and when I read the required Senior Surveys I had to collect and compile, it was obvious that most of them had formed quite an attachment to people in their high school lives.

It will be 40 years ago this May that I graduated from high school! (I know – that makes me old, but please don’t stop reading just because I’m old!) When that last bell rang, I still remember the odd, overwhelmingly sad/bittersweet wave of emotion that came over me. I realized I was done with a very huge chapter of my life, and although I was very excited about what was to come, I was also fearful. Would I be as successful in college as in high school? Would I make friends as dear to me as those I’d know for the past 13 years? Would I be ok living away from home? That last high school bell really hit me hard, and I know it hit many of my classmates the same way.

So, I guess what I want to say to you is this:  Enjoy these last weeks with your classmates and your teachers/coaches/activity sponsors. Do your best to leave high school knowing you gave it your all and set a good example for others. If you feel sad – give yourself permission to feel it. If you want to cry – let yourself. If you feel giddy and excited one moment and close to tears the next – embrace it. If you are completely excited, good for you! Embrace that as well! Tell the people you will miss that you will miss them. If there was a special teacher or other adult at school who had a particularly positive impact on you, let them know! I guarantee they will cherish that piece of information forever! Most of all, I wish for you that  you will be able to look back at your high school career and know that you made a positive impact on the school and the people around you. I hope that you will be proud of yourself and your classmates, and that you will always feel that pride in the coming years, when you hear about something good that students in your high school have accomplished. I hope that as you move forward to whatever chapter is next, you have many good memories of the people you spent time with and those who helped you learn. High school graduation is the end of a large piece of your story, but it is also the beginning of another chapter that will hopefully be even better! Enjoy these last days and weeks of high school! Happy Graduation!

Mary Joan - NW Iowa ICAN Center

How Can I Help You? The Role of an ICAN Advisor

I generally get asked the question, “What is it that you exactly do?” At my presentation this afternoon, I had a student  ask me that exact question. So, for those of you who are curious, I thought I would fill you in on what we do as Student Success Advisors at ICAN. I believe we have an important and unique role.

As I am sitting here typing this blog post and reflecting on my job, I can’t help but feel so blessed to be in a career that I love. My career did not happen overnight. It was through much trial and error that I discovered my passion. I am writing to you from a quaint and comfortable little restaurant called Potters Mill in Bellevue, Iowa. Bellevue is a small, friendly Iowa town. It is one of my favorite places to travel to! 

As a Student Success Advisor, my top priority is not to find the best local food finds (although, that is a perk!) J I am in my role to help educate students on all college and career options that are available to them. There are so many great opportunities for students- some in which require 4-year degrees, and other options that only require a short amount of training time. I believe each student is uniquely different. For that being said, there is something out there for everyone. I am deeply passionate about helping students find what makes them tick. One of the ways we help students figure this out is by scheduling one-on-one advising sessions where we can help with college and career planning. We often start by taking the ACT Profile which links students to different careers and majors that individually fit their interest, abilities and values. From there, we talk about all of the options available to them.

The other big part of my job is helping students and families file the FAFSA form. This really helps get the entire financial aid process started for college. I travel to schools across the state of Iowa to help educate parents and students on College & Career Planning and Financial Aid. It is not only fun getting to meet all kinds of people, but I love knowing that I am helping so many students and families across the state of Iowa!

Meghan - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Job Shadow During Summer Break

First, what is a job shadow? It's exactly what it sounds like. Job shadowing is an opportunity for you to spend a day or more with a professional in order to learn about a career and observe daily work activities. Basically you are trying to find out if this career is right for you. Can you see yourself working and succeeding in this profession? Not only does a job shadow help you find the right career fit, it will also help you weed out careers that may not live up to your expectations.

A job shadow will help you improve your interpersonal skills. For example, do you have effective communication skills? Take note of the employees exhibiting effective problem solving skills or how they work proficiently in a team environment. There are many interpersonal skills that as a new employee, you may not have, when entering the workforce. A job shadow experience can help you realize the importance of those skills and provide you with the opportunity to improve upon them while in high school.

Job shadows will help you make connections and network with professionals in your career of choice. This could help you down the road when looking for an internship during college or even a job after graduation. It’s important to start building relationships with these individuals so you feel comfortable asking for a letter of recommendation or a reference for a job application.

A job shadowing experience is a valuable detail to include on your activities resume, especially if you don’t have a part-time job. This entry on your resume will show college recruiters that you researched your intended major and made an informed decision. It will also show employers that you observed a company’s day to day operations and have a better understanding of the career and what is expected of employees. In today’s competitive job market, employers will see you have a sincere interest in the career which makes for a good hire!

Jessica - ICAN Ankeny Center

Understanding Work-Study

Recently, I visited a classroom of high school seniors who had questions about their award letters. We talked about students loans, payments, when the interest will start accruing and other student loan related issues. But a couple of students had questions about the Work-Study offered as part of their aid package.

Work Study is a federal aid program that allows students to earn income through work while in college. This isn’t an automatic type of financial aid. Students have to have financial need and the schools will let students know if they qualify for Work Study and for how much.

College Raptor has put together a great information page on their website about common Work Study questions which you can access here:

One student in the class had asked whether or not they should accept the work study award. They were leaning towards not working the first year at school and not accepting the award.

This is a decision that every individual will need to make and I know everyone’s circumstances are not the same, but I would encourage every student who is awarded work study to at least give it a chance. Accept the award and find a job at the college that intrigues them.

I have heard students/parents in the past who didn’t want the student to work the first in college because they wanted them to get acclimated to the school. A work study job can be one way to help get acclimated and meet other people. Also the students who have held a part-time job and done well in high school might benefit from keeping a similar schedule in college.

In fact, most studies show students who do work part-time in college (20 hours or less) have higher GPAs than ones that don’t work at all. Those students are doing well with their time management. There is an argument that students who don’t work part-time while going to school may have TOO much time on their hands throughout the semester and good time management decisions may not always be made.

One other benefit of money earned through work study, is that even though it can be taxed, the FAFSA form will ask how much a study earned in a given tax year so they can EXCLUDE that money from the calculation to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number in future years.

If you would like to discuss work study or your award letter offers in general, please contact us at ICAN at 877-272-4692 or schedule an appointment on line at

Erick - ICAN Ankeny and Des Moines Centers

Activities Resume and College Fair Registration

An Activities Resume can be a useful tool for high school students to utilize in multiple areas:

  1. Completing College Inquiry Forms / Recruiting Forms
  2. Completing College Visit Forms / College Fair Registration Forms
  3. Completing College Applications
  4. Completing Scholarship Applications / Scholarship Essays
  5. Completing Job Applications
  6. Requesting References: When requesting a reference, you might consider providing your reference with a copy of your Activities Resume.
Here’s an idea to help jump start your Activities Resume: Plan to attend a college fair and register for a barcode at By creating a profile and registering for a college fair bar code, the student is also listing information that can be useful in creating an Activities Resume.

  1. Start at, scroll down, and select the orange button, “Register Now! It’s Free!”
  2. Select your state of choice, select a college fair to attend, and select “Register Now!”
  3. Create your profile: Take your time while completing your registration form, and please make sure the information that you enter is accurate.
  4. After completing your registration form, but before printing your barcode, print out a paper copy of your registration form, or save a “.pdf” copy of the form. Use your registration information to help you in building your Activities Resume.
         a. Some of the registration information on the form includes: Student contact information,
         H. S. graduation year, academic areas of interest/ intended majors, ACT/SAT scores, GPA,
         ethnicity, extracurricular activities, varsity sports, and class rank. The information on your barcode can help you get your Activities Resume started. However, it won’t provide “all” of the information needed to build an awesome Activities Resume.
  5. Finally, select “Print My Barcode,” and take the barcode with you to the college fair you are planning to attend. Your barcode from will also work at other affiliated “automated” fairs. While at the college fair, share your barcode with institutions of your choice.

Troy - ICAN Ankeny and Des Moines Centers

Today is Decision Day - Is Your Plan Complete?

Today is May 1 which means for college-bound seniors it's decision day.

Decision Day is the day you finalize your plans for next year and there are some concrete steps you need to take to ensure you have officially decided your future.

Tell The School
Each school that you applied and were accepted to provided you with a financial aid award package and instructions on how to accept. You need to return this paperwork to officially sign on as a student for next year. Typically schools want to hear back by May 1 to secure your position, and financial aid awards.

So if you haven't sent in your paperwork, today is the day!

Once you have completed your paperwork for the school you plan to attend - be sure to let any other colleges that offered you aid that you won't be attending. This is a common courtesy so they can reallocate your spot to someone else. This is also your chance to complete paperwork for reimbursements on housing deposits that you may be refunded.

Make Your Plans
Once you know where you're heading you can begin to make plans -

  • Where you're going to live?
  • What items do you need before you move in?
  • Will you have a roommate? Have you completed the roommate matching application?
  • Figure out your final financial plan
That last one can be a big one. If you have a gap in your financial aid funding that you have left to fill, now is the time to make a plan. Talk to the financial aid office about a payment plan or consider student loans. ICAN can help in this area and we're happy to talk to you about your needs and help you create a plan to cover your costs. Get in touch with an ICAN advisor at (877) 272-4692 to get started.

Watch for information about upcoming orientation sessions and be sure to register for an early session. Freshmen are the last to register for classes, so if you are in the last orientation session, you are getting the last available classes which may not give you the best schedule for next Fall.

Good luck and enjoy your final month of high school.

Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Communication Habits for Students

This topic is something that I mention at my presentations all the time. It’s something that is a “pet peeve” of mine when it comes to student and adult communication habits. In this blog I will focus on the students.

When students enter their senior year in high school they should start using their personal email accounts when applying for admissions, financial aid, scholarships, jobs, internships, job shadows etc. Reason for this, is because many school districts de-activate school assigned e-mails when the student graduates and they will no long have access to their school emails. I highly recommend having a professional email address. In my many years of working with young people I have seen many silly, goofy and inappropriate email addresses. Make sure you make a good impression by having a professional email address. It’s very important to check emails often. By often, I mean once a day, especially when the student has sent in admissions information, financial information to a college. The college might be asking for additional information from the student and email is the most likely way that they will communicate. Stay on top of those emails and respond to them quickly. If assistance is needed you can call the college or you can call ICAN and we can try to help.

Another thing to stay on top of is your cell phone and voicemails. Just this week, I had a message from a student I’ve been assisting since February, when I called them back I heard “I’m sorry but the person you’re trying to reach has a voicemail that has not set up”. Annoying. Set up your voicemails and when you do, make sure that they’re also appropriate “Hello, sorry I missed your call, leave your name and number and I’ll return your call soon”. That is appropriate, short and to the point. Sometimes I’ve heard voicemails where there’s cussing or there’s a song playing and I have to wait to leave a message. You never know who’s calling, it could a potential job opportunity, an admissions representative, a financial aid office, a military recruiter…who knows. You want to put your best foot forward and having appropriate forms of communications is key.

Lupe - ICAN Coralville and Davenport Centers