A Chat with Hawkeye Admissions

For the last several years, ICAN has had the privilege of partnering with Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, in providing services and information to families as they prepare for life after high school. For most Fridays from October through mid-May, I have office hours on Hawkeye’s main campus and am available to meet with students and parents as they visit the campus and also those that have made appointments for financial aid and career and college planning assistance. 

Through this partnership, I also have the opportunity to participate in Hawkeye’s Experience Hawkeye Visit Days, where students and parents come to learn more about what Hawkeye has to offer.

I've asked Jason Streed of HCC’s office of admissions to share some insights on what kind of trends he is seeing and also to get some tips for students as they consider their post-secondary plans.

What kind of trends are you seeing at Hawkeye CC as far as college majors that students are enrolling in (voc-tech/gen ed, etc.)?

That depends. For many years, the most popular majors for recent high school grads have been transfer majors like Liberal arts and Business Administration. That continues to be the case. Among our Career & Technical (CTE) programs, health science programs like Nursing and Dental Hygiene always attract many students. Also popular are Police Science, Early Childhood Education, and Ag-related programs.

Adult students often pursue transfer majors, as well, but they are more likely to choose CTE programs. They typically need short-term programs that deliver immediate job prospects. As a result, programs with a high proportion of older students in Medical Lab Technology and Industrial Automation, especially since many high schoolers are basically unfamiliar with the excellent opportunities in those areas.

Has enrollment at HCC been on the increase, decrease, or staying level, in recent years and in what areas?
Typical for the state. Over the past five years, our enrollment has decreased about 2.40% per year; the state average across all 15 community colleges was -2.30% per year. (Eight had greater declines.) This trend reflects many factors, including the demographics of the state in general, as well as the economy, which has been at nearly-full employment for several years.

Please give your thoughts on students taking college credit classes in high school (should everyone take them? How many classes are recommended? What happens if they fail?)
I’m a believer. That is, I believe students should get the chance to “level up.” Students who are ready for Comp 1 or Stats, or who want to build job-ready skills in welding or coding or health care, can really benefit from the jump-start college courses can give them.

There’s no easy answer to which classes or how many a given student should take. Making those choices depends on each student’s situation, what their school offers, and so on. Students should work with people they trust – family members, teachers, counselors, college-level academic advisors – as they decide which opportunities best fit their needs.

As for the risks, yes, they exist, and we make students aware of them. Failing or withdrawing from classes can have significant effects on GPA, academic standing, and financial aid eligibility. When high school students enroll in college classes, we make it clear they are beginning their college transcript, and we spell out precisely the impact poor performance can have on their educational future.

How important is it to be involved in activities in college?
Extremely! Activities connect students to each other, to faculty and staff, and to the community outside the college. Students who only report to class, do the work, and pass the tests might get their degree, but they’ll miss a vital part of their education. Every college graduate I know can tell a story about a club, organization, or activity that opened the door to people, places, and opportunities they’ll never forget.

Activities don’t have to fill every blank space in a student’s planner, of course. I usually recommend students choose something related to their program or career and something that mostly just fun or social. As an English major, I was an editor for UNI’s literary magazine, but I also helped with an environmental action organization. Both led to experiences and connections that I treasure to this day. That’s what I want for all students

How important are college visits and when should students take them?
Very! And they should take them as soon as they can after they decide which colleges are on their short list. We sometimes see students and their families as late as the July and August before their fall term begins. That’s not quite ideal, but we’re always happy to help them get personally acquainted with campus.

Really, the time to begin for most students is spring of the junior year. That gives them and their family time to map out the next year of admissions, scholarship, and financial aid steps. A quality visit, whether individual or event-based, will give them information that’s both school-specific and general. And simply walking around campus with a knowledgeable guide allows students to begin comparing schools for overall fit, as well.

Does HCC offer any classes or services to help students explore careers?
Yes! Our Career Services Center is open to everyone – even prospective students who have not yet enrolled. Many, many students are either entirely undecided or have doubts about their first interest. The Career Services staff can help students explore options based on their personal interests, skills, priorities, objectives, and the job market.

We also offer Career Exploration, an entire class devoted to increasing students’ knowledge of themselves, career planning, and their options. It’s designed to follow the National Career Development Guidelines and is offered both in classroom-based and online formats.

Is it wise to work, either work-study or off campus, for college students?
Sometimes! Every student needs money – for school, of course, but also for things like food, their car, and a social life. Also, every student has limited time and energy. These two facts are usually in conflict.

Most students work, often out of absolute necessity. To be successful, they must be realistic about the job’s hours (How many? Which shifts?) and its physical and psychological demands (CNA? Welder? Cashier?). On-campus jobs, work-study and otherwise, often don’t require extra commuting, and departments are mindful their employees are students first. But sometimes they’re in short supply, or the hours are not ideal, so students seek off campus work. That’s manageable, as well.

As usual, it’s all about managing time and maintaining balance – two life skills students need to work on anyway. The right job, approached in the right way, can give students financial support and add substantially to their college experience.

John - ICAN Waterloo and Hiawatha Centers