Take Advantage of College Visits

Have you been on any college visits yet? If you are a junior or older, I hope the answer is “yes!” If the answer is “no,” you really need to start planning some. Because the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can now be started on Oct 1 of your senior year, and some colleges have moved their priority date for submitting the FAFSA to an earlier date (mid-November, early December, maybe January), it is more important than ever to begin visiting colleges early. How do you make a college visit, you might wonder.

First, you need to research some colleges, if you have no idea where you want to attend. You can research online, meet with college reps who visit your school, or go to some college fairs to visit with college reps about their campuses and programs. When you have found some colleges that seem to fit your needs, it’s time to think about a visit. There are group visits and individual visits. Group visits are set up on a particular day for a particular group of students – think Junior Day, Health Care Day, Business Day, etc. You register online or with a call to the school to attend the visit day. Most of the day will be planned for you, and you will be there with a medium to large group of students, typically. Individual visits you set up for yourself. Again, you can usually schedule this online through the admissions website of the college, or you can call the admissions office and set this up. You should take a parent with you to all college visits. Parents will think of things to ask that you, as a student, may not think of. Parents need to see the school, as well. Be sure to find out how your high school handles college visits. Do you have a set number that are excused? Can you go any time as an excused absence? Regardless of their policy, I’m sure your parent/guardian will need to contact the school and excuse you for the day.

When setting up an individual visit, be sure to ask to speak to someone in any academic program(s) in which you have interest. Also, if you have an extra-curricular interest, such as a sport, music, dance, cheer, radio, newspaper, for some examples, be sure to ask to talk to someone in that department as well. Your visit will likely include a campus tour, which will include dorms, class rooms/class room buildings, the library, and any other parts of the campus the college feels are important. If possible, eat a meal in one of the cafeterias. When I took my three sons on campus visits, we nearly always were able to have a free meal in a regular cafeteria. It was great to see what types of foods they offered and to experience the atmosphere in the food service area – usually lots of college students were around when we ate. If you feel they are only showing you really nice dorms, which may or may not be available to freshmen, be sure to ask about the freshmen dorms. I will never forget when my oldest son first moved in to his dorm. We all looked at each other and said, “They didn’t show us THIS one!” J (We were certain they only showed us the really nice upperclassmen dorms and apartments.)

When I was a high school counselor, one thing I asked my students was, “If you make a college visit and don’t like the campus, is that a waste of time?” We nearly all always agreed that it was not. If you don’t like it, that is very valuable information. Maybe you can pinpoint what you didn’t like and maybe you can’t, but either way you can take it off of your list of possibilities, and that is ok and even good. Regardless, after every visit, you should come away with some type of feeling. You may think it felt absolutely great! You may think it was ok. You may think it just didn’t feel right. Regardless of the feeling, trust your gut. Often you can’t explain why you did or didn’t feel “right” on a campus, but your gut does know.

Keep track of your visits. You might even want to jot down things you liked or didn’t like and anything else you want to remember about the college and the campus. Make note of the town/city in which the college is located. If it matters to you what is available in the town, be sure to check and see what amenities are there. See what you might be able to do off campus for fun. To some students, the town/city matters a lot, but to others it doesn’t. Also make note of how far away it was. Again, to some students distance matters and to some it does not.

Each student is different and has different wants and needs. You shouldn’t usually take someone else’s opinion of a college or campus; just because a good friend or close relative did or did not like a specific college doesn’t guarantee you will feel the same way. The only way to know for sure is to visit the campus yourself and see how it “feels.” If it has what you need and want for programs, activities, living quarters, and anything else that seems important to you, AND you just feel “right” on campus, chances are it is a possible good choice for you.

Campus visits can be tons of fun! I enjoyed every one I’ve ever been on, and believe me, I’ve been on many! Take the time to visit the schools in which you have interest. You won’t regret that time spent, and it will definitely help you make the best decision for your post-secondary educational experience.

Mary Joan - ICAN Hiawtha Center

Estimating Yearly College Costs

Estimating Yearly College Costs

Here’s a quick overview for estimating yearly college costs. 
  • First, look up the Cost of Attendance (COA) for your institution of choice on their website, and write those figures down on a sheet of paper (see below): 
    • Tuition & Fees
    • Room & Board
    • Books & Supplies
    • Transportation
    • Personal Expenses/Miscellaneous 
  • Next, subtract scholarships and grants, which are funds that don’t have to be repaid. 
  • After that, consider the amount you must finance per year, before considering loans. 
  • Finally, utilizing potential loan options, estimate your finances. Keep in mind this is an estimate only.
For more specific information, contact the institutions that you are considering.  Another resource that you might utilize is Iowa Student Loan’s College Funding Forecaster, which is a free tool to help estimate college expenses:  www.iowastudentloan.org/forecaster 

Tuition & Fees:                  $8,500
Room & Board:                 $8,500
Books & Supplies:            $1,000
Transportation:                 $1,000
Miscellaneous:                  $1,000
Total COA:                          $20,000 - 

Take the TOAL COA ($20,000) and subtract scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants are funds which don’t have to be repaid
Minus (-)
Academic Scholarship   $3,000
Federal Pell Grant           $1,500
Equals (=)
Cost Per Year                     $15,500 - How do you plan to finance this amount?

Federal Student Loan     $5,500 - Remember, if you are considering loans, they must be repaid with interest.  Check out our helpful guide to student loans - download Student Loan Facts from the ICAN materials library
= Cost Per Year including utilizing loans:  $10,000 - How do you plan to finance the remaining amount?  Federal Parent Loan, Private Loans, Payment Plan, etc.

The above calculation is a way to get a quick estimate of college costs.  Keep in mind it is an estimate only.

If this all seems like a lot to take in, you can always call ICAN and talk things through. We are here to help - 877-272-4692 or even better, visit one of our offices and we'll walk through your award letters together and help you create a budget and a financial plan for your college costs. Visit www.icansucceed.org/apt to schedule an appointment.

Troy - ICAN Ankeny Center

Take Advantage of Colleges’ Visits to Your High School

Did you miss the fall college fairs? Not to worry! College admission reps are still making their way around the state stopping at your high school.

Contact your counselor for the list of colleges popping in. Your high school may post this information on the counselor bulletin boards, on the website, your schools social media accounts, or include them in the daily announcements.

Unlike a college fair, an admissions officer’s visit to a high school typically involves a much smaller group of students and is far less hectic. The visit is led by the rep, usually in the counselor’s office or meeting room, starting with general information about the school and then you may ask follow up questions. In this relaxed and familiar setting you will have a chance to meet face-to-face with a rep and feel comfortable asking specific questions. So, have a list ready to go.

Think about topics and concerns that are important to you. For example, programs and majors offered, typical class size, residential life, student activities, scholarship availability and deadline.

Colleges may divide their admissions counselors by region, so chances are that the person who comes to your school will be your contact for the college. Take the time to introduce yourself, especially if you’re a senior who’s planning to apply. Please take advantage of these visits. You want to keep the reps coming back to your high school every year. Make it worth their time as well!

Jessica - ICAN Ankeny Center

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018!

It's an exciting time of year with resolutions and a new calendar year of adventures ahead. Here at ICAN we are dedicated to making sure you have all the tools and resources you need to be successful this year and far beyond.

So today I'm going to talk to each class a little bit about what you can do in this New Year to stay on track for future success.

We're starting with you because you have the most to do! I don't say this to stress you out, but more to make sure you're organized and on top of your career and college planning list.

First - have you filed that FAFSA yet? This is the most important step to securing financial aid for college so if you haven't filed yet, make that your number one New Year's priority. ICAN offers all kinds of help either through one of our centers or through FAFSA Ready Iowa community-based events. Make an appointment at icansucceed.org/apt or visit icansucceed.org/fafsareadyiaevents to find a location near you.

Next up - make sure you are working on scholarship applications. Visit icansucceed.org/scholarships to get started on your search. Last but not least, look into housing for next year. You should complete housing applications for all colleges you are considering so you have everything in order. If you wait until May there may not be housing choices left open. Most colleges refund your housing deposits once you determine you won't be attending.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about where you want to visit. Spring semester is a great time for campus visits and now is the time to starting planning and scheduling your trips. Make a list of your top interests and then check out the website for visit days. Contact the admissions office to schedule your visit and make it personal - in addition to the general tour ask to sit in on a class or talk to a professor from the area you're interested in studying. Download the ICAN guide to campus visits in our resource library - icansucceed.org/materials.

Now is also the time to look into the ACT and SAT tests. Think about the dates in late spring and see what fits your schedule.

Consider attending a college fair this spring and start learning more about the different traits a college has to offer. Now is also a great time to take a career assessment. Career assessments will help you determine what type of education and training you should seek after high school and knowing where your interests lie will help in determing which colleges have what you're looking for and where you might think to visit when you're a junior. Your assessment might also lead you to think about a job shadow. Talk to your school counselor about your options.

Stay focused and kick second semester off strong. In your first year of high school you should be focusing on getting a solid academic foundation, doing well in your classes and starting to explore extra curriculuar activities. Be involved and start exploring classes that interest you in addition to your core academics. Soon you'll be registering for sophomore classes and you'll have some elective options open. Electives are a great way to explore new topics and find out if a pathway could lead to a future career interest.

New Year's is a great time to set goals and plan our your hopes for the year. Take this moment and reflect on what you'd like to see in your future...then map out a way to get there!

Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year -

I have always loved the Holiday season. Starting at Thanksgiving, then to Christmas and New Year, it is truly the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.   

During this time, I listen to  as much Christmas music  and  watch as many Christmas movies/shows as possible. Like most people,  I have my favorites/least favorites. I wondered what some of my colleagues had for favorites/least favorites for Christmas movies, Christmas programs and Christmas songs.

Last week I took an informal poll from ICAN employees and here are our results:

Favorite Christmas Movie -   Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street (the original). We had a tie. I can’t argue between those two. Definitely classics. If you never seen the scene in Miracle on 34thStreet where Santa Claus is able speak Dutch to the orphan girl that just came over to the United States,  do yourself a favor and watch - https://youtu.be/ibDD8Y3IJrg. Warning, have a tissue nearby.   

Favorite Christmas Song-  O Holy Night  -   I know most of my colleagues had trouble choosing just one. There are so many good ones but this song got the most votes and personally it is my favorite. If only I had a good singing voice to sing it well…….

Favorite Christmas Program/Show- Charlie Brown Christmas - No surprise here, another classic. The music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is what puts it over the top for me. 

Least Favorite Christmas Movie-  Christmas Vacation - This movie was polarizing in our office. It had the most votes for least favorite but had some votes for Favorite Christmas Movie as well. 

Least Favorite Christmas Song-   Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer-  This was the only song that was listed more than once.   Most colleagues had a hard time naming a song they just didn’t like.   

Least Favorite Christmas Program -  The Grinch who Stole Christmas -  This vote was also polarizing.    It had the most votes for least favorite, but it also was just one vote shy of winning for Favorite Christmas program/show.

I know there are many movies, songs and programs/shows that we haven’t mentioned.   Rudolph, Frosty, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, etc that may be your favorite. We haven’t even talked about favorite Christmas treats.   That might be a topic for next year.   J 

From all of us at the Iowa College Access Network, we hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season with family and friends!   

Erick - ICAN Ankeny & Des Moines Centers

Winter Break Tips

Winter break is fast approaching and while it’s tempting to use your time off to veg out and binge your favorites on Netflix there are a lot of things you can do with your break that will help you prepare for your next steps.

Get involved in your community through volunteering or community service projects. The holidays always seem to bring out our communities spirits and highlight areas of need. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate things to a charity or food shelter, or pick a family from a gift tree and provide gifts to those in need. Donating your time not only helps those in need, but can go on your activity resume as a service project. There are many scholarships that are based on service and involvement and your service to the community could help you earn cash for college.

Gather Advice
You are going to be around family and friends for days over break. Take the opportunity to ask questions of your relatives. What life experiences helped shape their careers and choices? Where did they go to school or how did they pick their career? Gathering advice and learning about experiences, both good and bad, can help you shape the way you plan your own future. Start a conversation and learn from those around you.

Take some time and read a book or two. Reading is a life-long skill and increases your vocabulary and communication skills. Pick up a book for fun and spend some time reading. On the days spent with family take some time to read to younger family members. They’ll appreciate the attention and you’ll have some fun too.

If you’re a senior or current college student at least part of your break should be spent on scholarships. Every application you submit is a chance at reducing the cost of your education and covering expenses without incurring debt. Get organized before break and figure out which scholarships you want to work on. You’d be surprised what a day or two of dedication can accomplish.

Explore the Future
No matter your age you can spend some time exploring your future options. Use the Internet to explore college websites or learn about careers that interest you. Take the ACT Profile career inventory assessments (www.actprofile.org) and learn about career pathways that fit your interests, skill, and values. This activity is well worth your time and can give you an idea of things to fit into your spring schedule like job shadows, internships, and classes.

Take a Needed Rest
While you shouldn’t spend your whole break doing nothing, do make some plans for nothing once in a while. Everyone needs time to rest up and relax and winter break is just about perfect for that. It’s cold outside so grab a blanket, some holiday snacks or leftovers, and your favorite movie and spend an afternoon doing nothing. It will be everything you always thought it could be.

Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Summer Employment

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 Christmas 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