Get the Most Out of College - Go to School Sponsored Events

College is fun! During your time in college you will meet people who will become lifelong friends. You will have good and bad experiences and you’ll learn from both. College is also expensive, you’re paying thousands of dollars every year to get a good quality education, but all your time shouldn’t be spent in the library or in your room studying. Take care of your academics, of course, but also leave some time to have fun. Free fun is even better.

Most colleges do an amazing job of planning very fun campus events. College have various activities for students to take part in such as lectures from famous artists/writers, art showings, hypnotists, formals, color runs…just to name a few. Your Student Activities Office is the office in charge of planning these events, so make sure to read their emails and promotional posters all over campus. If you’d like to be a part of the group that organizes these events you can join the student activities organization. There are also inter-murals that you can take part in and Greek life as well.


During your first few weeks in college resist the urge to go home every weekend. I know you’ll be home sick and you’ll miss your friends, but give your college campus a chance. The weekend is when the fun stuff happens and if you leave every Friday and return every Sunday afternoon, you don’t know what you’re missing. And again…it’s FREE. 



Lupe - ICAN Coralville & Davenport Centers

Car Tips for Iowa Students before Traveling in Winter Conditions

It's starting to get cold out there and it's important to be prepared, especially for winter driving conditions. Here's your checklist so you don't get caught off guard.

1. Be sure to have an ice scraper & jumper cables.

2. Carry a blanket, hat, gloves, socks, winter coat & coveralls in case your car craps out.

3. Remove all snow and ice before you drive. You can’t just clear a peep hole and hope for the best. That means windshield, back and side windows. Snow on top of your vehicle can fly off and hinder other drivers.

4. Make sure you can see out of all your mirrors!

5. Start your car and let it run for a while before you leave.

6. Fill your car up with all necessary fluids before you travel home for break, exp. Windshield washer, gas, antifreeze.

7. Have a shovel and some rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter that can get you unstuck if needed.

8. It’s always nice to have AAA or someone to call in case of emergency.

9. Make sure your phone is fully charged.

10. Download the 511 App for Iowa road conditions before you take off.

11. Let someone know your travel plans before you start.

12. Remember don’t text and drive! Be Safe



Cindy - ICAN Hiawatha Center





Financial Aid Awareness Month

We are a little over a month into the college financial aid season and many students are firming up their thoughts about college selection and working hard to finish up the fall to-do lists. Financial aid is one item that never really ends – you can continue to work on financial aid until the day you graduate college. With that in mind, there are steps to take and ways to ease the pressure of seeking and earning different types of financial aid.

Step 1 – What is Financial Aid? Understanding that financial aid is both free money and student loans is an important first step to understanding the financial aid process and all that is involved. Go into the process with your eyes wide open. There will be out-of-pocket costs for almost every student and your financial aid package will probably include loans. That doesn’t mean you have to take the loans, but they will be part of the package. Many families misunderstand financial aid and think it will cover all the costs and the reality is it probably won’t. It’s best to approach this with a clear view and expectation.

Step 2 – the FAFSAThe FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is by far one of the most important steps toward earning financial aid for college. The FAFSA became available Oct. 1 so if you haven’t filed yet you should make that your top priority this month.

The FAFSA is the gateway to federal and state aid, and can open doors for institutional and private scholarships and grants as well. No matter what you should ALWAYS file the FAFSA, and file it every single year you will attend college.

Step 3 – ScholarshipsScholarships are step 2 but this is where the process can continue on and on in infinity. The scholarship step actually has many mini-steps.

  1. Institutional Scholarships – every college you apply to should have a scholarship program. Talk to the admission and financial aid offices and ask about the process. Is it one applications are there several applications? Is there a special scholarship day or event on campus you should attend? Garnering scholarships from the college you attend is huge because most are renewable each year you attend as long as you continue to meet the requirements. Talk to the schools, understand the process and complete the application.
  2. Private, Local Scholarships – If you are a senior in high school your very next visit on the financial aid tour of applications should be your school counselor’s office. Check out the listing of local scholarships that are available and start filling out applications. There are many local businesses and organizations that want to help seniors get a good start on their post-high school education. Apply for every single scholarship you can!
  3. Private Scholarships – Use online search engines and databases and look for scholarships you qualify for. This will take a lot of time but can be very rewarding. And every scholarship you earn is money you don’t have to borrow to cover the cost of college. Start with trusted sites such as www.icansucceed.org/scholarships and then branch out from there. Never pay for help with scholarships. You want organizations to award you scholarships; you should never have to pay to earn a scholarship.
  4. Continue searching for scholarships every year you are in college. Scholarships aren’t just something you do senior year. Keep working throughout college. Look for department scholarships as you declare a major, or internships or special programs as you advance through your degree and edge closer to graduation.

Step 4 – Award Letters
Each college will give you an award letter outlining your financial aid eligibility at each school. Part of being aware of financial aid is making sure you are aware of the cost of college and how much of that cost is covered by financial aid. This goes back to Step 1 – there will be out of pocket costs and student loans. The question is, is the package manageable or will it be too much for you to take on? If you aren’t sure just remember a good rule of thumb – if you have to borrow for college, your responsible borrowing limit is your intended career’s first year starting salary. Don’t borrow more than you will make your first year out of college.

Example: If you will make $25,000 your first year out of college that is your borrowing limit for your entire college experience. If you are looking at a traditional four-year experience that means you have a first-year borrowing limit of $6,250.

If you need help analyzing and comparing award letters you can talk to the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) at 877-272-4692. They offer free appointments to discuss award letters.

Step 5 – Student Loans (maybe)If you do find yourself in need of student loans just remember to go back to Step 4 and calculate your borrowing limit before making any decisions about loans. Then compare and consider your options. Look at interest rates, repayment rules, and borrowing limits. All students are eligible for Federal Direct Loans. These loans have fixed interest rates and can be deferred while you are in school.

Private loans are loans that are financed and managed by a private loan company or financial institution, not the US Department of Education. Each private loan can have a different rate or set of terms. It’s up to you to compare your options and make the best choice for you. Again, ICAN is great at explaining your options if you need help.

Understanding the different facets of financial aid will make you aware of all your options and help you make informed decisions. And remember – if you start to feel overwhelmed by this process, there are always people willing to help – just don’t pay for it.



Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center


The “Ultimate Way” to fill out the FAFSA - IRS Data Retrieval Process (IRS DRT)

FAFSA filing season has begun. Starting on Oct. 1st  students going to college in the 2018-19 school year could begin filling out a FAFSA Form. This is the second year that the FAFSA started 3 months earlier in October instead of January.

The other big change involved the tax year that needed to be used on the FAFSA form.Two years prior tax year is being used on the FAFSA which means for the 2018-19 FAFSA form you use 2016 tax information for both the students and parents.Taxes that for the majority of families have been completed for some time.

One of the big advantages to these changes is more families were able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Process. The IRS DRT as it is called, allows you to bring in most of your tax information directly from what the IRS has on file and populates that information in the FAFSA. There are still some tax questions that may need to be filled out manually but when it works for families, it really makes filling out the FAFSA easier. You are also less likely to be selected for Verification and have to provide more paperwork to the college(s) you listed on the FAFSA. I like to call it the “Ultimate Way” to fill out the FAFSA form.   

Last March, the IRS DRT was shut down for the 17-18 FAFSA form due to some security breaches.  It is still down for the 2017-18 FAFSA but it is available for 2018-19 form. To make it more secure,   the information that is transferred into the FAFSA from the IRS is encrypted. Instead of showing the numbers,  it just says “Transferred from IRS.” At first this looked a little odd,  but I think it is worth it if the information is more secure. Having the IRS DRT available should mean less families getting selected for Verification.  

I want to encourage all families that are filling out the FAFSA form, please use the IRS DRT if you are able too. Families that are married filing separately or those that file a Puerto Rico or Foreign tax return would NOT be eligible to use the IRS DRT but most families now are eligible and remember by using it, you are filling out the FAFSA in the “Ultimate Way.”



Erick Danielson - ICAN Ankeny & Des Moines Center


Rooming with Your BFF

As a high school counselor for many years, I was often asked for advice on various aspects of college life. These requests came from parents and students both, and sometimes in the same family, the parents were hoping for one answer and the student another!  J One question which seemed to come up often is the question of whether or not to be roommates with a good friend. Of course, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question. It is definitely a matter of opinion. But I would probably tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to this topic, and I will attempt to explain why I have this opinion.

Many times, just because two people are friends doesn’t mean they are necessarily compatible as roommates. Sometimes too much of any one person is not a positive thing. If you room with a BFF, you spend time together as roommates, but you also spend time together as friends.  It is highly possible you could get very tired of each other and the idiosyncrasies you each have. Often, maybe even usually, it is better to have a roommate you don’t know. First of all, you automatically have one new person that you meet. Then you can meet the friends of your roommate, too, and that immediately increases your social circle. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate; you just need to be able to share a room. So, if you don’t hit it off well enough to be bffs, that is absolutely ok. Also, if your bff from high school is in another dorm room, you always have a place to go – another place to hang out. Plus, you will meet the people that he or she is rooming with and living among. Again, it increases your social circle automatically.

My freshmen college roommate was a good match for me, at least on paper. We got along well, but we never really became great friends. We were friends, but not great friends. I had other friends in the same hall and in other dorms, and this gave me many places to “hang out.” My sons all had different situations, and one of them did room with a very good friend from high school. I think both of them would tell you that it was more difficult than they expected, even though they’d known each other since 6th grade. It didn’t ruin their friendship, luckily. The other two had roommates they didn’t know. One got along really well with his roommate, but they didn’t really become “friends for life.” The other didn’t really care for his roommate, and he ended up basically living with other friends he made in another dorm, even though he never officially moved!

College roommate situations can be tricky, but they are truly excellent opportunities to meet new people. It is important, in life, to be able to meet and get along with all sorts of people, whether or not they become good friends. Making yourself room with a new person will challenge you in many ways, but it will also help grow as a person and in your tolerance of people who may be different than you. And who knows? It could turn out that this stranger could become a very good friend, and it might preserve the relationship you already have with a very good friend. Take a chance and meet someone new! Worse case scenario - it just doesn’t work, and you end up finding a new roommate, but at least the friendship you already had with  your bff is still intact!



Mary Joan - ICAN Hiawatha Center

$5 a Day Can Go A Long Way

Do you have any vices?  We all do, right?  Maybe it’s Mountain Dew, Starbucks, your favorite burrito place, you name it.  Let’s say you spend $5 a day on whatever your vice is.  Some days you spend a little more than $5, some days a little less.  Maybe you started this around the time you got your first job as a teenager and actually had a little spending money, let’s say at age 16.  It’s only $5 a day.  No big deal, right? 

$5 x 365 = $1825 per year

Ok, that added up a little bit. 

Hmm…  Ok.  $1825 per year.  Whatever. 

I’m 34, so let’s say I spent $5 a day from age 16 to 34. 
$1825 x 18 years = $32,850.

Wow!  That’s a lot of money.  I could use an extra 32,000 bucks!  Hmm…  Maybe that vice isn’t worth it, so I stop spending that $5 every day.  Whatever that vice is, by giving it up we’ll probably be healthier and have more money to boot.  Win-win!

WHAT IF…?  What if, when I was 16 and I got my first job, rather than spending $5 per day, I saved $5 per day?  So, instead of spending $1825 per year, I save it.  And let’s say rather than just throwing it into the old Savings account that basically earns me no interest at the bank, I open a Roth IRA and invest that $1825.  If you don’t know much about a Roth IRA, that’s ok.  Google it.  Research it.  Ask me about it.  For the purposes of this exercise, all you need to know is that a Roth IRA grows tax-free. 

If I invested $5 every day from age 16 to 34, I would have invested a total of $32,850.  Let’s say that Roth IRA averaged an 8% return over that 18 years.  At age 34, my Roth IRA would have $73,814.

Inputs
Current Principal:
$
Annual Addition:
$
Years to grow:

Interest Rate:

 %
Compound interest  time(s) annually
Make additions at  start  end of each compounding period


Results
Future Value:
$

That’s pretty awesome.  If I could use an extra $32,000 I definitely like the sounds of it growing to almost $74,000.  But, at age 34, I grow tired of saving $5 every day.  And so, I quit.  If I never contribute another dollar and just let that money sit in the Roth IRA grow until age 65, how much do you think I would have?

Inputs
Current Principal:
$
Annual Addition:
$
Years to grow:

Interest Rate:

 %
Compound interest  time(s) annually
Make additions at  start  end of each compounding period


Results
Future Value:
$

$800,000!  Tax free.  Chances are if you were able to save $5 per day from age 16 to 34, you probably wouldn’t quit.  Assuming you kept saving $5 each day, you would have well over $1,000,000 by retirement age. 

Inputs
Current Principal:
$
Annual Addition:
$
Years to grow:

Interest Rate:

 %
Compound interest  time(s) annually
Make additions at  start  end of each compounding period


Results
Future Value:
$


Do yourself a favor and don’t waste $5.  Every financial decision you make, no matter how small, is potentially a HUGE decision on your future.  



Shea - ICAN Hiawatha Office

FSA ID TIPS

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