Financial Aid & Scholarship Searches

High school seniors, now is the time to focus on financial aid and scholarship searches! Here is a quick checklist of important things to do to maximize your potential for financial aid.

  • File the FAFSA. This form, found at www.fafsa.gov, gives students access to need-based grants, student loans, and scholarships. It is an important step in the financial aid process, and becomes available on October 1st.
  • Apply for aid through the state. The state of Iowa offers various scholarships and grants for college students. Visit www.iowacollegeaid.gov to see what types of aid are available.
  • Check out scholarships through the college or university. The college or university that you’re attending will be your best bet for scholarships. Ask an admissions counselor for information about scholarship applications, or visit the school’s financial aid website.
  • Look locally. Check with your school counselor about local scholarship applications through your community. Ask you and your parents’ employers if they have scholarships available. If you are involved in a faith community or volunteer experience, ask there as well.
  • Looking for an Apprenticeship program? Visit www.icansucceed.org/careertraining to learn more about career training and registered apprenticeship programs…Earn as you Learn.
  • Search online. ICAN has a database of scholarships and you can search sites like www.fastweb.com, www.scholarships.com, and www.raise.me have nationwide scholarship databases. Check regularly to see if there is anything that meets your criteria.
  • Save. Any amount that you can save now will help in paying for college. Put away money whenever you can. 


 Cindy - ICAN Hiawatha Center

What to Do if You Are Selected for Verification

FAFSA filing has been going strong since October 1. Hopefully, you’ve already completed your FAFSA for next school year. If not, there is still time to get it completed and we would love to help. Give us a call at 877-272-4692 to schedule an appointment or visit www.icansucceed.org/apt.

Many of you may start to hear from your college financial aid office(s) that you’ve been selected for a process called verification. Verification is the process schools use to confirm that the data you reported on your FAFSA form is accurate. Your school has the authority to contact you for documentation that supports the information you reported.

If you’re selected for verification, don’t assume you’re being accused of wrongdoing. Some students are selected at random, and some schools choose to verify all students’ FAFSA forms. All you need to do is provide the documentation your school asks for. Try to do so in a timely fashion, so that the school can process your Financial Aid and get an award letter to you.

With the current government shutdown, that may create a few additional headaches when trying to get a tax transcript from the IRS for verification. We would suggest reaching out to the college financial aid office for additional instructions about what you can do if you find yourself in that situation.

Being selected for verification can seem daunting or scary, but it doesn’t have to be. And we’re here to help if you’re just not sure what you need to do. Schedule an appointment and bring in any paperwork so we can help get you pointed in the right direction. Call 877-272-4692 or visit www.icansucceed.org/apt to schedule an appointment.


Shea - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Happy New Year - Resolutions and Reflections


I’ve never been a big fan of new-year resolutions. However, I am a fan of taking time at the end of each year to reflect on the year’s triumphs and defeats. The triumphs remind me of how far I have come from the previous year. The defeats remind me that persevering through the tough times have made me a stronger and better-rounded individual.

I struggled for many years after college to find my “perfect job.” I felt defeated over and over again as I really struggled to find something that I was passionate about. I went to four years of college thinking I would come out rich, successful and happy. I was beyond disappointed when my life was the furthest thing from being happy.  I still remember sitting in my car after my first full week of work, drenched in tears wondering to myself, “Is this how the rest of my life is really going to be?”

As I sit here typing and reflecting on this past year, I am so blessed to have a job I absolutely love coming to each day. I never thought I would be able to say that.  I am very fortunate to have such a great support system full of family and friends who have always had my back and pushed me to pursue my dreams.  When I look back at all of my defeats, they have lead me to some of my greatest triumphs. Each of my jobs after college landed me where I am today. It truly was through those difficult moments in my life that I discovered what I was capable of. Each of those set-backs have turned into some of my greatest comebacks.

If you are reading this today and can relate, I encourage you to meet with one of our success advisors to discuss career and college planning options. There are so many options out there, and each of us at ICAN have one thing in common- we truly enjoy helping others be successful!


Meghan - ICAN Hiawatha Center

End of the year Asset Questions


One of the FAFSA questions I have received over the years from friends, relatives and parents at our ICAN presentations has been about assets that they have, and if they have to do something with them by the end of the year so it doesn’t hurt them on their FAFSA.    Since we are at the end of 2018,  I thought this might be a good topic to hit before we get into 2019.  

First thing, I would say when answering this question, would that the FAFSA asks about your assets “As of today” which means the day you are filling out the FAFSA.    For FAFSA purposes,  you  don’t have to do anything by this Dec. 31st to have it not be counted on the FAFSA for 2020-21 (which will ask for 2018 Tax info).   

For example,  if a student had money in their savings to buy a car,  they wouldn’t need buy the car by this Dec. 31st for the money not to be included on their FAFSA.  They would just need to buy the car before the day they were filling out their 2020-21 FAFSA  next October, November, December, or whenever they were going to fill it out.  

Secondly,   when I get ask this question by parents or just a question in general about moving their assets so it doesn’t hurt them on the FAFSA,  I will ask them what their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is on their taxes.   Why do I ask this?   It isn’t just to be nosy about what they make.    The reason I ask this is because many times parents that have many assets also have a higher AGI  and that is going to make the families already have a higher Expected Family Contribution (EFC),  which the amount of money they are expected to be able to contribute towards a student’s education.  Getting this EFC number is the reason families need to fill out the FAFSA so colleges determine what a student’s financial need is and how much financial aid they can receive.  

In many cases, even though the family would have a higher EFC number if they had to count those assets on the FAFSA, it will already be a high enough EFC just based on their AGI that they won’t have financial need at schools the student is looking at anyway.   In these cases,  it isn’t going to help the student get any more financial aid by moving the assets.    So families should only move them if they were going to do it anyway, like putting money from their savings into retirement or paying down on their primary residence. 

The last thing families should consider if they going to move assets from one place to another, would be what tax ramifications that will have for them.   This is an area where I like to joke around that we are “just dangerous enough” to know a few things about some situations and the tax ramifications for them.  But we are NOT tax experts.    Families should check with a tax preparer to find out those ramifications before moving those assets.  

I realize as I am writing this,  this question can be very confusing to families.   So if you do have any questions about this please give us a call at ICAN:  877-272-4692.      We will answer those questions you have or guide you in the right direction to get them answered.  

Happy New Year!   

Erick - ICAN Ankeny and Des Moines Centers

Winter Break - A Great Time for Job Shadow

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 also 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 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

Time To Grow Up

A few months ago I had to explain to a college sophomore how to send a document through the mail. True story. I thought the student was joking. It was serious. I had to explain that they had to go to the post office (we had to google the closest location), buy a stamp and put it in the mail. 

I was shocked that this college student really had no idea how use the US postal system. That reminded me things that young people should know how to do in order to thrive and most importantly so someone doesn’t write about them in a blog.

  1. Make an appointment and refill a prescription – mom and dad won’t be there forever to make doctors’ appointments for you and get your medication.
  2. Basic apartment, dorm or house maintenance – for complicated things you need to call the maintenance office at your dorm or your landlord, but if all you need to do is replace a lightbulb, please know how to do that.
  3. Laundry – I have ruined many clothing items thinking that I can just stuff everything in one load. Most recently, I put a fuzzy blanket in with a towel…the towel was ruined. Fuzz everywhere.
  4. Use public transportation – leave Uber or Lyft alone every once in a while and find out what the bus schedule is and use it.
  5. Networking, start a conversation with someone of any age – you will meet so many interesting people if you just know how to start a conversation with someone. Overcome your shyness and talk to people.
  6. Answering email and voicemails – people send you emails and leave you voicemails for a reason: they need to get in touch with you. When you answer an email, please remember to be professional, courteous and remember that you’re not responding to a friend’s text. Listen to your voicemails and respond to them as soon as you can, the person calling can be a potential job or internship or your mom.
  7. Keep important documents – tax returns, w2’s, bank statements, check stubs. Keep all these documents, you never know when/if they’re going to be needed.
  8. Basic car maintenance – I personally, am guilty of not knowing much about car maintenance other than putting gas and taking it in for an oil change. Knowing how to change a tire or putting air in a tire is useful information.
  9. Learn to be alone – find peace in your solace. Being alone is the best way to get to know yourself. Enjoy your time by yourself.

Lupe Hernanez - ICAN Coralville and Davenport Centers

ICAN FAFSA Appointments: You Get More Than a FAFSA Done

For twenty years, ICAN has provided an invaluable service to students/parents providing FAFSA assistance free of charge. Our appointment numbers for this great service continues to grow. When out presenting at high schools, I advertise this service to students and parents. But I also include other information about this type of appointment. You get a FAFSA completed, but you get much more than only a FAFSA. If you have your Federal Student Aid IDs completed before the appointment, we will probably have some time to cover a few topics. What else do you get?

1. What is the follow up process after the FAFSA is filed? We can explain Student Aid Reports, the verification process, and how to get tax transcripts, if needed, from www.irs.gov.

2. How do the student loans work? We encourage students to borrow as little as possible. We get this question in many of our appointments. We can direct you to the www.studentloans.gov website to get entrance counseling and the loan agreement completed.

3. Are there other loans available along with the federal loans? The Stafford Loan will continue to be the best student loan going in regard to interest rate, but we can give you information on private student loan information. We also have handouts on what to consider in the area of private loans.

4. What is the Parent PLUS Loan? We can explain the difference between the Parent PLUS Loan and private loans. We also have handouts available on this topic as well.

5. We remind you that the next FAFSA cycle will begin on October 1 of the next year.

6. Many, many miscellaneous questions that don’t fall into a particular category.

We schedule basic FAFSA appointments for 45 minutes, and the FAFSA must be the priority, but most of our advisors are skilled enough to be done well within the 45 minute appointment. We are more than glad to help you. Also go to: http://www.icansucceed.org/en/about_us/services/personal_advising_sessions/ to schedule other types of advising sessions so that we can help you even more. Remember, you get much more than just a FAFSA completed in our FAFSA appointments with a whole wide array of other various appointments available. ICAN services are fee to students and parents.


Steve - ICAN Council Bluffs Center