2nd Semester! Time for College Visits!

Second semester is a great time to do college visits! If you are a junior, definitely take advantage of this time to explore colleges in which you have an interest. If you are a sophomore, it wouldn’t hurt to make a few visits as well.

Why should you visit colleges before your senior year, you might ask? Well, fall of your senior year you will be busy applying to colleges, doing your Financial Aid Application (FAFSA), and starting to apply for scholarships, so it is best to have the bulk of your college visits done before that time.

To make a college visit you just contact the college’s admissions office and set up an appointment. You can usually set up a visit online through the college website, but you can definitely set a visit up with a phone call. You can choose to do an individual visit or you can look for dates when the college has a group visit day. Either one can be helpful and beneficial. When making a college visit, you will be given a tour of campus, but you can also ask to speak to someone from a program (or from programs) for which you have an interest. You can ask to sit in on a class, speak with a coach or activity sponsor, eat in the school food service, meet with financial aid, and/or attend a sporting event or other activity while you are on campus. Make sure a parent goes on the visit and take a list of questions with you, so that you remember the different things you want to ask. Make sure you find out about college scholarships available to you – automatic ones and others for which you may be able to apply. Tailor the visit as you want and be sure to try to go at a time when school is in session, as you will get a much better feel for the campus when things are going in full swing!

Remember that besides the college wanting to make a good impression on you, YOU should want to make a good impression on the admission staff and other campus people you meet. This is not a time to wear your scuzziest clothes – present yourself well and put your “best foot forward!”

If you decide you didn’t have a good feel for the school, that’s ok! Then you can take that college off of your list of possibilities. If you did like the school, make notes about things you want to remember and consider making a 2nd visit some other time, if possible.

My sons used to say “all college visits were the same,” and they would begin to balk after we visited just a couple of colleges, but I think it’s best to visit as many as you can, if you have an interest in them. Each school has a different “feel,” and you can’t know how it feels to you unless you are on campus. You will do some of the same things on each visit, but it’s good to have the chance to compare. Just be sure to spend your time exploring schools that have the programs/majors you want!

In the end, you can apply to several colleges, but in that application group, it is always good to have at least one college that has what you need and that you can afford no matter what. Don’t be afraid to visit a variety of schools – schools that vary in the selections process, size, price – just always keep in mind how far away you are willing to go, how you feel when you are on the campus, and, again, make sure they have the program/major (or at least career pathway) you want.

College visits can be a lot of fun and very interesting, especially when you start early enough that you are not pressed for time and stressed out trying to get your visits done. Find out what your high school’s policy on college visits is, if you don’t know, and also remember you can visit on days your high school is closed for spring break or teacher professional development or other scheduled days off. Then you don’t have to worry about making up homework or being excused for the visits.

Get busy this semester and Happy College Visiting!


Mary Joan - NW Iowa ICAN Student Success Advisor

Student Profile: Makayla's Job Shadow Experience


*This blog entry is a student feature on job shadow experiences in high school.

My name is Makayla Bueltel and I am currently a senior at Carroll High School. I recently had a job shadow at Iowa State University with the football athletic training department. 

When setting up my job shadow, I got a hold of one of the Iowa State athletic trainers, a former Carroll High grad, through email. He made the process of setting up the job shadow easy and was able to provide me with all the details leading up to my visit. 

During my job shadow, I was able see the behind the scenes of athletic training but also was able to help during practice. I spoke with some of the student athletic trainers at Iowa State about the classes and how they balance their schedule. It was cool to experience the relationships that players have with their athletic trainers and the lively environment. By being able to see athletic training first hand, I was able to identify some of the positives and negatives of the job. 

Some of the biggest positives is the reward of helping players recover so they are able to reach their full potential, the relationship that is built between athletic trainers, and that it is a hands on job. But with every job there are downsides for athletic training, I would have to say it would be the early mornings, late nights, and also having to work on weekends. Immediately after completing my job shadow, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in athletic training. 

By going on my job shadow, I was able to figure out if this is what I wanted to do before committing to my major. I encourage all high schoolers to go and job shadow someone in a field of interest and figure out if that is a career in which you want to pursue. It is an awesome experience that no one will ever regret. 



Makayla @makaylabueltel - Carroll High School Senior

529 College Savings Plans - New Law Expands Benefits

Good news for individuals who have remaining 529 plan funds. The SECURE Act, which became law on December 20th, expands the benefits of 529 college savings plans. Now families can use the plan for student loan repayment as well as pay for costs associated with apprenticeship programs. These are now categorized as qualified expenses. 

The aggregate lifetime limit is $10,000 in qualified student loan repayments per 529 plan beneficiary and $10,000 per each of the beneficiary's siblings. Principal and interest payments toward a qualified education loan will be considered qualified 529 plan expenses. The change in policy provides families with greater flexibility in spending their 529 plan money. 

To learn more about 529 plans in Iowa, or to start an account, visit https://www.collegesavingsiowa.com/.


Jessica - ICAN Ankeny Center

College Navigator - Researching Programs & Majors

One of the free college and university research tools that high school students and parents should check out is College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/. College Navigator breaks down college and university information into 14 different categories.

 I especially learned a lot by researching the PROGRAMS/MAJORS category breakdown per institution, where I was able to look up majors and review them by total number of degrees granted, most popular majors chosen, and degrees granted by level including BACHELOR, MASTER, DOCTORATE, and POSTGRADUATE CERTIFICATE. 

I was surprised at the number of degrees that I was not previously aware of, as well as degrees that were unique and specialized. If you are researching colleges and universities, I recommend using College Navigator in addition to researching institutional websites, connecting with an admission counselor from the office of admissions, and visiting your prospective institutions. College Navigator is search tool can that really help your college search!

Thank you,


Troy - ICAN Ankeny and Des Moines Centers

Want a Summer Job? The Time to Start Looking is Now!

Summer employment. It’s Christmastime. Why are we talking about summer employment? Take my advice, if you wait until later in the spring to start looking for a summer job, chances are many of them (at least the good ones) are already going to be filled. So use this time off over your winter break to start doing some research and exploring summer job opportunities. You’ll thank yourself if you do.

Where do you start? Well, if you had a job in high school, are you interested in checking with your employer to see if they could use you over the summer? Or, do you want a different experience? Maybe you want to try something different, or find a job or internship related to the field you’re hoping to get into.

Here’s a website I came across that can help you start your search: https://www.snagajob.com/student-jobs/

Bottom line: don’t wait to start looking! Securing a job can be a time-consuming endeavor.


Shea - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Be Productive Over Holiday Break!

While you should definitely take some time to relax over winter break, it's also a great time to check some things off your to-do list. Don't be afraid to be a bit productive over your holiday break.

As for ICAN, we are signing off for the year. We'll meet you right back here on January 6, 2020. Have a very merry break and Happy New Year!

1. Make a list of what you want to accomplish over break.

2. Scholarship search and essay writing for scholarship applications. Check out ICAN’s scholarship database at https://www.icansucceed.org/ican-scholarship-database ; also look for scholarships on your schools website, parents employers, private companies in your career field, Church, School Counselor, City’s Foundation, Iowa College Aid Commission, and Fastweb to name just a few.

3. Get your Activities Resume up to date. What’s that? Check this link out to see what you need to do to get started, https://www.icansucceed.org/about-ican/services/the-resource-zone/materials-library/activities-resume

4. Need to add to your activities resume? Check out volunteer opportunities, here’s a website for some ideas in your area, https://volunteeriowa.org/

5. Work on your communications skills such as your interview and presentation skills, https://www.icansucceed.org/career-planning/finding-a-job/interview-skills ; you can also see what YouTube has to offer on some tips on interviewing.

6. When with relatives over break, ask about their career path and how they chose it. Set up an account on https://my.act.org/account/signin?location=https://my.act.org and take the interest inventory to see where you’re at in the process.

7. Work on a fun project that you didn’t have time to do. Build, create, paint, write, and use your talents to create a masterpiece.

8. Read a book not related to school.

9. Exercise-keep your mind and body active, swim, walk, workout, sign up for an exercise class at your local YMCA or Fitness Center.

10. Last but not least, relax, reenergize, and REJOICE with family and friends!


Cindy - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Keeping Students Involved in the Process: Observations and Suggestions

“FAFSA Season” is in full swing for students who are considering attending college for the 2020-2021 academic year and would like to be considered for financial aid. Since October 1st, we at ICAN have been busy assisting high school seniors and their parents, as well as new and continuing college students, with completing the 2020-2021 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other financial aid applications. We have also been busy talking with families about scholarships and loan options. It has been a very busy couple of months!

I would like to share a few examples of what I have experienced over the past few months during office appointments and FAFSA Completion Events. My point in sharing these examples is to stress the importance of a couple things. One is the importance of keeping the student involved in the process and the other is not doing EVERYTHING for the student.

I think it is important that both the student and the parent try to have an understanding of the process of preparing for college and applying for financial aid, not just the parent. Whether I have been helping families in my offices or at high school events, I have been noticing a few trends over the years. One trend is that a lot of students seem to be oblivious to the financial aid process. I have heard several comments similar to: “I don’t even know why I am here”, and “What is this FAFSA thing for?”

Before I began my career at ICAN, I worked in a financial aid office at a community college. I recall asking a student if they completed the FAFSA and the student said, “I don’t know, my mom does everything for me.” Please remember that the student will be the one on campus and working with the financial aid office. Even though a parent’s information must be provided on the FAFSA, it is a student application and the student is responsible for the payment of the bill at the college (regardless of who actually pays). Many times, it is a student that might be borrowing thousands of dollars in student loans which they will eventually have to pay back. I’m not saying the student has to do everything, I just think it is important that the student be involved and try to have an understanding of the process.

Another example is when I was assisting families at a high school and a senior and her parent were there. The mom was doing the typing on the computer while the student was staring at her phone. It came time to list the colleges the student was interested in attending. I looked at the student and asked what colleges she was interested in. The student just stared at me and said nothing. After a short time, her mom told me she was looking at two colleges and I told her how to list them. I then looked at the student and asked if she had visited any other colleges and did she want to list any more on the FAFSA. The mom just shook her head as if the student had no clue and then the mom told me her daughter was looking at various colleges to play sports. The student did not say a word and went back to her phone. She did not seem interested in what we were doing and did not seem to have any input in the process.

Many parents bring their student in to the FAFSA appointment that way the student can actually see how the process works and what information determines their eligibility for financial aid. It is also an opportunity to get scholarship information.

I think it is important that high school students begin to see what “adulting” is all about and that they learn to interact with people, ask questions, and try to understand what applications need to be completed and why. Remember, for a lot of high school seniors it won’t be very long until they leave the house to go to college and will have to do a lot of things on their own.

I already mentioned that we are busy at ICAN assisting families with applications but we have many other resources as well. We provide information to both students and parents about the complete financial aid process, as well as career and college planning, through various methods. We can do this in our offices in one-on-one advising appointments, through presentations at high schools, virtual presentations and webinars. We also have many resources on our website that families can interact with or download and print out. We answer many questions through our website chat, via telephone or email.

I urge both parents AND students to take advantage of our resources and knowledge. It can be a confusing and complicated process but ICAN is here to help!

Contact us at www.icansucceed.org or 877-272-4692.


John - ICAN Waterloo and Hiawatha Centers