A few years ago the U.S. Department of Education replaced the PIN with the FSA ID to serve as your electronic signature on the FAFSA. It consists of a username and password that YOU create. Just like the old PIN both student and parent will need a FSA ID. When you chose your username and password, write it down and keep it in a secure location. You will need this every year to electronically sign your FAFSA. At the time you chose the username and password, you will be asked to tie the FSA ID to an email account. If you lose your FSA ID you can retrieve your username and reset you password with a 6 digit code that will be sent to your email. High school students DO NOT use your high school email account. Your high school will probably deactivate your email after graduation.  Use a reliable email that you can access on a consistent basis.

You can now include a mobile phone with your FSA ID.  Providing a mobile telephone number is the fastest way to use self-service and allows you to retrieve your username or reset your password without answering challenge questions or going into your e-mail account.  Your mobile phone may be more accessible than your e-mail account

You will also need to answer four challenge questions. Choose one word answers that will not change.

Once your information is verified with the Social Security Administration (one–three days from the date you apply), you will be able to use your FSA ID to access your personal information on any of these ED websites, depending on what you need to do:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) at www.fafsa.gov:
•             Electronically sign your (or your child’s) FAFSA® form.
•             Prefill data in this year´s FAFSA form if you filed a FAFSA form last year.
•             Make online corrections to an existing FAFSA form.
•             View or print an online copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR).

My Federal Student Aid at StudentAid.gov/login or the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) site at www.nslds.ed.gov
•             View a history of any federal student aid that you have received.
•             Look up your loan servicer’s contact information.

•             Complete entrance counseling, the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool, or exit counseling

•             Electronically sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN).

Jessica - Ankeny ICAN Center

College Application Time

You’ve been considering colleges for a while now; visit booths at college fairs, pursuing websites and pamphlets, and even venturing out on campus visits – all the while looking for that perfect campus that says home away from home.

Well, the time has come to start applying, if you haven’t already that is. October is College Application Month  and now is the time to make some decisions about what colleges interest you enough to fill out that application and hit submit.

The application process is actually a lot easier than most people think, but depending on where you decide to apply there can still be some steps to the process.

Step 1:
Narrow your choices. You should apply to 3-5 schools to keep your options open. You want to apply to your top schools, but you also want to make sure your final list includes a safety school. What is a safety school? It’s a school that you know you’ll get into and that has your program of interest. You want to always have a back-up plan and your safety school is your admissions back-up plan.

Step 2:
Review each school on your list and determine their application process and requirements. Are the applications online free? Is there a benefit to applying on campus? What pieces of information are required such as ACT score, GPA, letters of recommendation, or essays? Make a list for each school and then begin compiling everything you need.

Step 3:
Fill out the application. Be thorough and don’t leave anything blank. If you have to submit additional information be sure you proof read everything and check off each item as you submit it to the school.

If there’s an essay make sure you are following all the instructions. Some schools will provide a prompt or topic they want you to write about. Others may simply ask for a personal statement. Remember that you can reuse certain parts of essays but be sure to tailor each essay to the specific school

Once you’re organized the application process is pretty straight-forward. Just remember to take your time and be yourself on your applications. Try and submit your applications by early to mid-November so you have plenty of time to focus on scholarship applications at each college. And remember, you can also be working on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.)

That’s about it. Now get out there and submit those applications.

Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center

How do I know what college to choose?

How do I know what college to choose?  This is a frequent question that comes up during my advising appointments from students who know they would like to attend college. How do you make a college choice when there are so many options and such little time to decide where you want to go?

I can personally relate to this question. This is the same question I had several years ago when I was trying to decide what college I wanted to go to. Although I do not have a perfect answer for students, I can give some helpful advice from my own personal experiences.

Here is my best advice:
  • Research, Research, Research!
  • College websites give a lot of great information. Make sure you do your research on cost, school size, class sizes, campus activities/events that you can get involved in, etc.
  • Make sure to follow the colleges you are interested in on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. This will help give you a good picture of the school culture and what you can get involved in when you arrive on campus.
  • Make a college visit! Several schools have an overnight option- take them up on this! This will give you a real feel of what campus life will be like.
  • Look into the town you will be living in! If you are going to a school that is in a town you are unfamiliar with, get familiar with it- learn what restaurants, shopping, businesses and other amenities they have that might be important to you.
  • Talk to those who know you well. They might have some great advice for you that you wouldn’t have thought of before.
  • Most importantly, always follow your heart!

Meghan - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Post-High School vs. College: What’s the Difference?

We throw a lot of terms around in regard to career and college information.  And, it can be confusing sometimes.  What do we mean by post-high school education?  What do we mean by college?

Post-high school education is a more general or inclusive term.  It would apply to any kind of training that a person would receive after they graduate from high school.  It’s kind of like the term trees includes different types of trees like oak, ash, evergreen, apple, etc.  College is a specific type of post-high school education.  It involves going to a college institution like a public or private university, a community college, or a technical school.  There is a prescribed academic program to follow and take classes which leads to a degree.  There is tuition to pay which pays for the costs of the education like salaries of the instructors, equipment, etc.

But why do we use the term post-high school education?  There are forms of post-high school education that does not fit in the category of college.  Examples are: apprenticeships, the military, on-the-job training at a company.  There are distinct advantages of these forms of post-high school education.  In apprenticeships you actually earn money while you train or otherwise known as “earn while you learn”.  You will take classes frequently at no cost to you, and you work with certified and trained workers who teach you the craft as you work alongside them.  You will take a certification exam, and you will be ready to work.  The military has a lot of great programs that you can be trained in and that will roll into civilian employment.  No tuition and Uncle Sam pays the bill.  There are also G.I. benefits available for college after the military.  On-the-job programs associated with various companies train you to work in that company and you are employed by the company.  For example, a law enforcement officer will be hired and then be trained at a law enforcement academy.

Another option is be trained in a skill in a career and technical program and develop it into a business of your own.  Culinary arts, construction technology, auto or diesel technology, HVAC, etc. can all roll into a business of your own.  You are then your own boss, although a friend of mine who owns a business will tell you are not your own boss, but you actually have 200-300 bosses.  They are called your customers!

All of these are options within the category of post-high school education.  The important thing to remember is that by the year 2025, 68% of jobs will require some type of post-high school education.  It could mean college, but it could mean the other options as well.  Not everyone has to get a bachelor degree, but it is in your best interest to invest in yourself and acquire some type of post-high school education that will help you meet your goals for earnings, benefits, employability, and self-satisfaction.  ICAN would love to help you do that!

Steve - ICAN Council Bluffs Center

What Questions to Ask in a Financial Aid Appointment

The college process is an exciting and stressful time. The biggest question is how you are going to pay for it. Being a parent of two boys that have since graduated, you want them to be successful in their college decision, but also try to be realistic about debt. Listed below are some questions you can ask when sitting down with your ICAN advisor during a Financial Aid Appointment.

What Questions Do I Ask in a Financial Aid Appointment?

1. Time line?

2. How am I going to pay for college?

3. I filed my FAFSA what’s the next step?

4. I have two students in college how is that going to impact their financial aid?

5. I have a business/farm what do I report?

6. I’m divorced who files the FAFSA

7. Other than the Parent Plus Loan what are other options?

8. Do colleges negotiate price?

9. I have a rollover that shows up on my taxes what do I do?

10. What is a CSS profile and do I have to fill it out?

11. My student is going into a 9 month vocational-technical program can they still get financial aid?

12. Are there scholarships for minority students?

13. Can I use financial aid money to go on spring break?

14. I how much money can I borrow from the Department of Education each year?

15. I haven’t lived with my parents for three years can I file the FAFSA as an Independent?

16. Can I start paying off my loans while I’m in school?

17. How are assets looked at on the FAFSA?

18. I have a vacation home in Florida do I have to count it on the FAFSA?

Good luck!

Cindy - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Dealing with college roommates

I’ve been working for ICAN for 10 years! And, I’ve been out of college for much longer than that. Class of 2003. One thing that I’ve noticed about younger people now-a-days is that they’ve never had to share a room…like, ever! I’ve always shared a room. First I was roomies with my brother and when we got too old for that I was roomies with my younger sister. Many young people now never had the “privilege” of fighting with their sibling over closet space or what they wanted to watch on TV. I think that not having roomies at an early age made things difficult for some when they went off to college and had to share a room with a total stranger.

When I was in college, I loved being in the dorms. I loved the comradery, the activities, the bonds you build, but it also had its negatives. Being roommates with someone, even if it’s your best friend, can be tough. I remember a particular night I got locked out of my room. Needless, to say my bf and I stopped talked for a while after that, but it all worked out.

People will have different personalities and different study habits and different sleeping habits. You need to learn to accept people for who they are and be considerate, but there are limits.  If you have roommate issues you need to address them right away. This was my problem, because my roommate was my bf I didn’t say anything because she was my friend and I didn’t want to ruin that. But you need to speak up, if you’re intimidated to bring it up on your own, talk to your RA. They will give you advice on how to deal with the problem or help you deal with the problem.

If the problem persists and it’s a situation that you cannot stay in you can request for a new roommate, but definitely try to talk to them first and deal with the problem head on. Maybe they’re not aware that they’re being inconsiderate or rude. They need to know that there’s a problem so they have the opportunity to fix it.  

Lupe - ICAN Coralville and Davenport Centers

Being Truthful on the FAFSA

The time for completing the FAFSA is getting closer and closer.  The earliest that a student can apply for financial aid for the 2018-2019 academic year is October 1, 2017.  This is the time of year where reality can start to set in for high school seniors and their parents.  As students are applying for admission to colleges, applying for scholarships (hopefully), and completing financial aid applications, many families are just now realizing how expensive college can be.  Some families are wondering if they will be able to afford the college that their student wants to attend.

It might be tempting for families to misrepresent their income or asset information when completing the FAFSA in order to receive more financial aid. Here are some reasons why this is not a good idea…
  • It is illegal.  When the student and parent sign the FAFSA, they are “certifying that all of the information provided is true and complete to the best of their knowledge, and, if asked, will provide information that will verify the accuracy of the completed form”.  This information could include tax returns, bank statements, and investment records, and must be provided to the financial aid office at the college the student will attend.  The certification statement also states that “If you purposely give false or misleading information, you may be fined up to $20,000, sent to prison, or both”. 
  • If a student receives financial aid with false information, that money will have to be returned and the student could face suspension or be expelled from the college.
Sometimes, parents are worried that the money they have in cash, savings, and checking will keep their student from receiving financial aid.  They worry that because they got paid the day before they complete the FAFSA, it will negatively affect the student’s eligibility.  Or, they worry that the $10,000 they have in an emergency fund will be held against them.  In reality, only a portion of the parent’s assets will be looked at in determining the student’s eligibility.

For example, in a 2 parent household where the age of the oldest parent is 45 years old, if the parents have $60,000 in assets, only $4,824 of that is included in the EFC (expected family contribution).  Most of the EFC (used in determining the student’s eligibility for aid) is from the parents income.  Anyone can view the exact EFC Calculation to get an understanding of how their income and asset information is looked at.  You would go to
www.ifap.ed.gov and do a search for the 2018-2019 EFC Calculation.

There are honest ways to maximize the student’s eligibility for financial aid. Here are two articles that provide another view on this topic:

It provides some excellent methods parents and students can use to increase financial aid eligibility while not misrepresenting their information.  Please remember that the staff at ICAN is happy to assist you as you go through this process.


John - ICAN Waterloo and Hiawatha Centers