Time to Apply

It’s time to mark your calendars! Now is the time to make sure that you are getting your college applications submitted. At ICAN, we tell students to try and submit admission applications by November 1, though anytime before Thanksgiving of your senior year is best!

As many seniors are working on the FAFSA form right now and applying for financial aid, it's important to note that without an admission application, the colleges won't do anything with your FAFSA information. So focus on getting both applications completed.  

Most colleges will need the same general information from you when submitting an admission application. Keep in mind, that some colleges do have fees for their applications. In some cases, fees can be waived if you attend a visit day or a special event on campus before school begins.

Most admission applications are going to ask for the following information (see below.) So make sure that you are well-prepared. It is important to double check your work to make sure that grammar and punctuation are correct! This is important, seniors!

  • Official High School Transcript. Your transcript should be sent to the Admission office. You can request this from your high school counselor.
  • ACT or SAT scores- This year might look different due to COVID. Many colleges have waived these tests.
  • Letters of Recommendation. These should be coming from a professional source. Such as a coach, teacher or boss.
  • Activity Resume
  • College Essay
  • Fees
  • Interview
  • Any other steps required by the Admission office at the school you are applying to.
It is important for students to be in touch with the Admission office at the college(s) they are looking at going to in order to determine what they need for admission.

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  Meghan - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Moving EAST! - Familiar ICAN Face Returning to Eastern Iowa

Moving EAST!

Hello! I just wanted to take a few moments (and several words) to say that as of October 19, I will be relocated in Eastern Iowa as a Student Success Advisor in the Hiawatha Office. A short recap: I started this job with ICAN in June, 2017, in the Hiawatha office, after 34 years in public education in western Iowa. Then, after the NW Iowa Advisor resigned the fall of 2017, I moved back to western Iowa to become the NWI Student Advisor, with my main office in Sioux City. I’ve been the NW Iowa Advisor for over 2 ½ years now, and I do want to say that I have so enjoyed meeting the good people over here! I’ve been blessed to work with hundreds of students and families who are friendly, kind, caring, highly motivated people. I have also been EXTRA blessed to work with so many caring, compassionate and extraordinary HS Counselors in NW Iowa. Families of NW Iowa – do not take your HS counselor for granted. He/she really, truly cares about their students, and they are going above and beyond to help them become successful human beings.

I am very much looking forward to working in Eastern Iowa again. I grew up south of Iowa City, so I am a “born and raised eastern Iowan” at heart! I feel like I am “returning home” again, just a little north of my original home! I know there are also many wonderful students and parents, as well as fantastic school counselors in eastern Iowa, as well, and I am anxious to get to know and work with the families and counselors I will soon meet!

So – as I bid adieu to NW Iowa, I take lots of warm memories with me. And – as I begin a new chapter in eastern Iowa, I look forward to many more interesting adventures! Thanks for the memories, NW Iowa! And, Look Out …. Here I Come, Eastern Iowa.

Mary Joan  

NW Iowa Student Success Advisor/Soon-to-be Eastern Iowa Student Success Advisor

Visiting Colleges Virtually

Since last March, colleges and universities have really stepped-up their virtual visits. There are now a variety of opportunities for prospective students to participate in virtual visits as a means to connect with higher education institutions.

If you are looking to launch your college search, feel free check out ICAN’s Golden Circle College & Career Fair Virtual Lobby. The fair was held September 20th, but access to the virtual lobby will be available for a few more months: www.icansucceed.org/goldencircle. Many of the participating exhibitors in the virtual lobby have introductory videos and links to their websites. The introductory videos are usually brief, often lasting only 1-2 minutes, and they spark student interest by showcasing the campus, housing, student life, and the surrounding community.

You can learn a lot by researching on your own, but you will eventually want to connect with your admissions counselor. Admissions counselors are often assigned to specific high schools by territory, so you’ll want to visit a college or university’s Admissions webpage to find YOUR admissions counselor.

Often, you can schedule your virtual visit via an online app or form. As you schedule your virtual appointment, pay close attention to the appointment form. You might be asked several questions about your academic interests and background. Take your time answering the questions, and strive for accuracy. Before you submit your appointment form, review your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Remember, you might want to apply, get accepted, and enroll in this institution, so try to make a great first impression by accurately completing your online form. For your virtual appointment, set aside enough time so that you do not feel rushed, and find an area inside your home where your interaction with the college admissions counselor won’t be interrupted. You might also want to have your parent(s) participate in your virtual visit. That’s up to you. As you are winding down your virtual visit, remember the contact information for your admissions counselor, and feel free to keep in touch with any questions that you might have. Also, consider taking part in other potential virtual events, including events that focus on college majors/ areas of study, careers, student involvement, and student life.

After completing your virtual visit, and depending on your level of interest, feel free to contact your admissions counselor with questions about scholarships, financial aid, and next steps. If you are ever interested in setting up a virtual appointment with ICAN, feel free to schedule an appointment at www.icansucceed.org/apt

Thank you, and have a great school year! 

 Troy - ICAN Ankeny and Des Moines Centers

A New Perspective on filling out the FAFSA Form

I have filled out thousands of FAFSAs over the 22 years I have been with ICAN. It is fun to help families from year to year and get to know folks, even though it might just be once a year when I see them. Families with two or three kids have come to me for over 10 years in doing all there sons/daughters FAFSA forms.

This year is a different year for me. Still helping many families fill out the FAFSA for the first time or renewal forms only in a different way this year with most being virtual. But that isn’t the difference I am talking about.

I have a high school senior son and I had to do the FAFSA form for the first time as a PARENT. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. No way he should be old enough to need a FAFSA.

Woke up at 5:30am on Oct. 1st to complete his FAFSA form. Thought it would be a good “Practice” run before a day of helping other families do their FAFSAs. It did not take long as I knew what to have ahead of time: FSA IDs for both student/parent, 2019 tax info and W2s, Checking/Savings amounts, etc. For about the first time I can ever remember, there were no glitches!!!!

Just like most of you parents, I looked at the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and laughed/cried at the same time. As I looked over the information, I realized this wasn’t just any other FAFSA appt or confirmation page. This was MY SON’S FAFSA results. A New Perspective.

This is another chapter in not only my son’s life but my own. Just like when the kids were born, go to Kindergarten, learn to drive, etc, completing the FAFSA seems to be another milestone that makes you sit back and reflect on where you are in life. To all you parents out there with high school seniors this year- GOOD LUCK and enjoy the ride. To the parents with younger students - enjoy the time you have with your kid, because time continues to go faster as they (and you) get older.

Erick - ICAN Ankeny Center

Relieving Stress & Anxiety (Mary Joan)

Under normal conditions – normal every-day-life (if you can remember what that was like), most of us had days where we felt stressed or anxious. But the last several months, I would guess most of us have experienced more than our “normal” amount of stress/anxiety. Stress and anxiety are a part of life; for most people there is no completely escaping it. I even know people who think they perform BEST under some level of stress and anxiety. But if you find it is getting in your way or creating other negative issues in your life, it’s time to take control of it.

For some of us, simple things to relax us can do the trick. Taking a walk, watching a favorite TV show, resting/taking a nap, baking, running, cooking – the possibilities are endless because we all have different activities that help us relax and help to lessen those stressful, anxious feelings we get. I have no one set way of lessening my stress level, but throughout a particularly stressful period in my adult life, I found that watching episodes of the TV show, “Friends,” took my mind off of all that was bothering me. Watching “Friends” swept me into their fun and entertaining relationships and experiences, and it never failed to make me laugh. Laughing REALLY helped me feel better. And fortunately, I could still keep my focus on real life, remembering that my life was never really going to be as life is on “Friends!” It was still a fun distraction, and it truly did help me relax and forget about my woes when I became too tightly wound. I have also found that getting outside – whether it’s to do some yard work, take a walk, or just sit on my deck and listen to the sounds of the outdoors – also helps me forget what is stressing me and makes me much more relaxed. If you haven’t yet, find things to do that you enjoy that take your mind off of the stresses of your life. It can be remarkably helpful!

For some, it may take more than that. I also believe in talking things out. For some of us, a good friend or a trusted adult can be that person. Often just verbalizing the things that are stressing us – whether or not there is a “fix” for them – can relieve some of that internal anxiety. Having someone else merely validate what we are going through can also be very helpful. Sometimes we may need to find a trusted confidante to help us figure out a solution for whatever is stressing us. And sometimes, we need a professional to help us through the difficult times of our lives. There is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a professional – whether that is a psychiatrist, therapist, counselor or pastor – to help us sort through the anxiety or stress we are feeling. In fact, it is a very intelligent thing to do and shows a great deal of strength to reach out for professional help. The main thing is – IF you need someone, you must find someone to help you. One of the worst things we can do is internalize that stress and anxiety. It is definitely better to talk to someone who can help.

I had a coworker at MVAO High School who celebrated all sorts of “Special Days” with her students. One of my favorites was National Chocolate Day, especially if I got to participate in the treats that went with that particular day! I noticed online recently that October 7 is World Smile Day. What a great day to celebrate! Did you know that there is much research that says smiling truly can elevate your mood, and, when you smile, it’s often infectious for other people, who then smile back – and pretty soon, you have a positive domino effect of smiles and elevated moods! I am not saying this will do the trick for everyone in every situation – certainly not. But I do find that if I am a bit blue or anxious, if I force myself to smile and to think and speak positively to myself and others, pretty soon I do feel better. And hopefully, through my smiles and positive words, I have helped lift someone else’s spirits as well. Then they will be smiling and emanating more positivity, which may help someone else, and then… well you get the idea of how quickly that could spread! So – celebrate October 7 – National Smile Day - and share those smiles with as many as you can! You may find that it is a simple little bit of medicine that reaps some pretty good benefits, doesn’t cost a cent, and may help relieve some of your own stress and anxiety, as well as others’!

  Mary Joan - ICAN Northwest Iowa Centers

DACA Students and Financial Aid

Financial Aid season is here. Many high school seniors and their parents are currently getting ready to file the FAFSA or are currently working on the form. Unfortunately, students with DACA status are not able to do the same. 

Currently in the state of Iowa, students who are under DACA are not able to receive federal or state funding to help pay for college. I mention “in Iowa” because there are states in the USA that offer state funding for students in this situation. 

With that being said, this does not mean that the student is not able to get any financial aid. Colleges have foundation scholarships available that don’t ask about immigration status or don’t require a student to be a US Citizen. Talk to the college’s financial aid office about potential scholarship opportunities. 

Another place to seek funding for post-secondary education is your community. Many local groups, organizations and businesses have scholarships that don’t require a social security number. These scholarships usually become available starting in December and are usually due in the spring. Pay attention to emails from your school counselors because they will send out information about local scholarships when they become available. 

There are national resources available as well: unitedwedream.org is a good website to start off with. I’d also recommend looking at national scholarship websites such as fastweb.com and scholarships.com

Another option to pay for a college education under DACA status is to set up a payment plan. By setting up a payment plan with the college you will be able to pay on a monthly basis vs. paying a lump sum at the beginning of each semester. If you want to set up a payment plan, please talk to the billing office first. You need to understand how much you can afford based on how many credits you’re taking. 

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call me at 319-423-7702.

 Lupe - ICAN Coralville and Davenport Centers

529 College Saving Plans Can Be Used for Registered Apprenticeships

Qualifying educational expenses covered by 529 savings plan have expanded to include registered apprenticeship programs. 

On Dec. 20, 2019, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement (SECURE) Act was signed into law as part of the federal year-end spending bill. In addition to changes to retirement planning, the new law allows tax-free 529 college savings plan withdrawals to be used to pay for registered apprenticeship programs bringing new flexibility to 529 plans.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald announced in July 2020 updates for College Savings Iowa, including that Iowa taxpayers who are 529 plan account owners can now use funds to pay for qualified apprenticeships.

Iowa has extended the favorable Iowa state tax treatment to qualified withdrawals for apprenticeship expenses and loan repayments from College Savings Iowa accounts. The plan update permits withdrawals from a College Savings Iowa account for fees, books, supplies and equipment required for participation in an apprenticeship program registered and certified with the Secretary of Labor under the National Apprenticeship Act. 

To learn more about the College Savings Iowa changes visit https://www.iowatreasurer.gov/media/cms/SECURE_Act_Fact_Sheet_12_20B8B569CDBAC.pdf

For a list of certified apprenticeships go to https://www.apprenticeship.gov/apprenticeship-finder.

  Jessica - ICAN Ankeny Center