Types of College Degrees

This article intends to enlighten students and parents about the various types of college degrees.

Certificates and Diplomas – Many community colleges offer more short-term training for those students who do not want to spend much time in training. A certificate or diploma program may last 1-2 semesters and zeroes in on a very specific skill set.

Associate Degree – there are two types of associate degrees.

1) Associate of Arts or Science. This is commonly a transfer degree that enables a student to take the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college or university.

2) Associate of Applied Science. This is a degree offered at community colleges and some private colleges. It usually involves career and technical programs which focus on a narrower skill set and finishes after about two years. The intent of this degree is to offer a two-year degree that enables a student to be job ready and will not require transferring to a four-year college. Many of these programs involve hands-on learning.

Bachelor’s Degree - This is well known as a “four-year degree”. The program of study consists of one to two years of general education courses in the areas of math, science, English, social science, humanities, foreign language, physical education. This is the “liberal arts” education of a bachelor program which helps a student to be well-rounded in all areas of academics as the student learns to be a critical thinker. In the final two to three years, a student specializes in their major area of selected academic study to be trained to work in a career in that field. It is called a bachelor’s degree in that by finishing the academic program the student is now able to “work on their own” having the skills necessary to work in their chosen field. Many colleges offer a “minor” program which in addition to the major, the student will have knowledge and skills in a connected field. For example, a student might major in business but minor in accounting. In finishing a bachelor’s degree, a student will commonly meet state or professional standards for professional licensing. Completing this degree completes a student’s undergraduate education.

Master’s Degree – This degree is part of graduate education in which the student has graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and the student seeks to enhance their knowledge and complete professional standards for higher positions. The master’s degree enables the student to understand and apply research. Written and oral exams may be required along with a graduate research paper.

Professional Degree – This is a degree that trains the student in specific professions such as, but not limited to, law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, etc. Usually it will require a bachelor’s degree as an undergrad and then law school, medical school, pharmacy school, dental school, etc. Some colleges do offer combination programs such as 3 + 3 for undergrad and pharmacy or law school.

Doctorate Degree (PhD, EdD, ThD) – This graduate education trains the student to do original research to discover knowledge never known before. As an example, Dr. James Van Allen discovered the radiation belts surrounding the earth and this was knowledge not known before. After research methods classes, the student will finish with a written dissertation completing an original research project and passing oral and written exams.

If you have questions about a degree or career path, reach out to ICAN at (877) 272-4692 or visit www.icansucceed.org.

 Steve - ICAN Council Bluffs Center

What Have You Decided?

It's the first week of May and the end of another school year is so close we can almost taste it. But we're not there yet and it's important to stay focused, despite the beautiful weather, until the very last test is taken and the very last paper is handed in.

Seniors - this is especially important for you. You have to submit a final transcript to the college you've selected and so everything you do until the very last day will count. Don't fall behind or let your grades slip. 

  • If you have been given an academic scholarship and your GPA slips, you could lose it. 
  • If you fall below admission requirements in your final semester, your admission offer can be revoked. 

Yes, it's that important to stay focused and vigilant through the very last day of senior year.

Now that I've gotten the doom and gloom out of the way - let's talk about decisions for the future.

This is the time of year for seniors known as Decision Day or Decision Week - where seniors decide what their plans are for next year. 

It's important to note if a college has a decision day deadline - a day by which you have to let them know you plan to attend. You don't want to miss this deadline and lose out on any financial aid.

Making a decision about a college or university is the first step toward next Fall and your future education and training, and your future career. Once you've made a decision on where you are headed, you'll have the opportunity to sign up for orientation where you sign up for classes, learn about on-campus programs and housing, and sign up for a roommate.

You'll also find out about any additional deadlines and important things to note before getting to campus next Fall.

The final weeks of high school are full of things to do - make sure you have list that keeps you on track so you don't miss any of the things we've talked about. 

Be sure to also take time for the final fun things too - thank your favorite teachers, seek out your freshman year locker or old haunts and reflect on your high school days and accomplishments. Above all, just take it all in and enjoy these last few busy weeks of high school. While the best is yet to come, it's always good to stop and enjoy yourself in the moment too.


 Brittania - ICAN Hiawatha Center

Planning Ahead for Summer Break

Personally, I like to plan ahead. This personality trait sometimes back fires on me because the things I plan do not turn out how I want them to. But there’s one thing about planning ahead, you’ll be prepared. 

Let’s look ahead into the summer. You’re out of school, now what? Are you planning to work? This is the time when recreation departments in cities and towns are posting summer jobs at the pool or their parks. Are you planning to work at a coffee shop, grocery store or retail store? 

Right now is when you should start to look into job openings, the application and interview process. Do you want to volunteer? Again, look into what organizations in your community are looking for summer help. Are you going to summer camp or education camp or athletic camp or bible camp during the summer? What do you want to get out of it? 

If you’re not planning on working or volunteering, then let’s talk about next fall. Depending on your grade level in high school, what are some things you can do during the summer to prepare academically for your next level in education? Maybe have a summer reading list or study for the ACT/SAT or make a list of what colleges you’d like to visit. Academic year 2020-2021 will be over soon and summer will come soon after, let’s start planning now.

P.S. look into www.volunteermatch.com for volunteer opportunities near you.


 Lupe - ICAN Coralville and Davenport Centers

Will This Class Transfer?

When I was a high school counselor, the eternal question, “Will this class transfer?” was very common. It is an important question in these days of dual enrollment as high school students take college credit courses in high school and have it transfer to another college they intend to enroll. This is even more important if the course to transfer would satisfy an academic program requirement or a program prerequisite.

What does it mean to transfer a class from one college to another? It means that College A has a class that can transfer to College B which will essentially be the same content. For example if College A has a course entitled “Psychology 101”, this course will probably transfer to College B which has a course “Introduction to Psychology”. The two courses would need to be essentially the same content. If College A has a course entitled “American Economic History” but College B does not have a course related to that topic, the College A course would probably not transfer to College B. For College B to accept a course as credit, the transferring course needs to largely represent content to a course that College B already has.

Other components to be considered in course transfer are what is the number of credits for the transferring course? A three credit course at College A may not transfer as a three college course to College B if the College B target course is four credits. Also, some colleges may require that the student’s grade in the transferring course must be a C or higher or whatever the grade standard is. A college like Notre Dame may not accept an English composition course for transferring. Notre Dame may require that all writing credits be taught on the Notre Dame campus. Some colleges may limit the number of credits that they allow to be transferred in. Another consideration is whether the institution the credit is being transferred from is an accredited institution.

One unreasonable expectation that high school students and parents have of their high school counselor is that the school counselor will know with 100% certainty that a course will or will not transfer. Why is this unreasonable? The high school counselor is not the registrar of the college. The college registrar is a college official who makes the decisions on whether a course will transfer and be accepted as credit. There is no way a high school counselor can know off the top of their head with 100% certainty that a course will transfer. Nor is it fair for a student or parent to expect them to know that. A high school counselor will probably have a good idea, but they are not the college registrar and can’t give a ruling with 100% certainty.

The surest way to answer the transfer question is for the student to call or email the potential receiving college registrar’s office and ask. The receiving college may need the originating institution name and address, a course number, possibly a course syllabus, and course description, and the number of college credits the class is worth.

Another good resource is the Transfer in Iowa website, but that is a topic for another blog in the future.


 Steve - ICAN Southwest Iowa Advisor

Being Prepared to Pay for College

I have a birthday coming up this month! I’m not going to say how old I will be other than to say it ends in a “0”….I tell you this, not because I expect to receive any presents from anyone (feel free, though) but because I want to relate this to being prepared financially for major expenses.

The older I get, the more I consider retirement and what that looks like. While it is kind of exciting to think about, it is also kind of scary! Questions pop into my head:

Did I save enough? Where will I live? Can I afford to move an exotic location? Can I afford to travel? Did I save enough? How many cars can I afford? How much will health insurance cost? Will I have to work to make ends meet? Did I save enough? How much will retirement cost and how will I pay for it? I think you get the picture…

Ever since I started working as an adult, I knew in the back of my head that retirement would come at some point. The thought was always there. I really did not think seriously about it, though, until I was in my 30’s. At that point was when I started to put money away for my future expenses. I wish, like a lot of people I think, that I would have started saving money for retirement sooner…

I bring all of this up because I think a lot of parents are in the same boat when it comes to paying for college for their children. They know the expense might be coming but it is easy to put the thought in the back of their mind until the time actually arrives.

They complete a FAFSA for their high school senior to be considered for financial aid, receive financial aid offers from colleges telling them how much they need to come up with out of pocket for the first year of college, and wonder how they will pay for it?

They start to have some of the same questions that I have as I get closer to retirement:

Did I save enough (or any)? Where will my student live? Can we afford the college my son or daughter wants to attend? Did I save enough? Will the student have to work to make ends meet? How much will college cost and how will we for pay it?

I get a lot of calls this time of year from parents asking me some of these questions. Many of them are considering student and parent loans to help pay for college. It is important to remember that financial aid is not meant to pay for all of a student’s education, it is supposed to supplement what the family has in order to offset the cost of education.

To me, setting aside money for college (for either a student or parent) should be just as important as setting aside money for retirement. Just like retirement plans, there are many plans that can be used to save for college (529 plans, IRA’s, savings accounts). These plans can be used by parents, students, grandparents, relatives, etc. The earlier you start saving, the better. The money set aside in these plans may not pay for all of the out of pocket costs of college, but it can certainly help keep student and parent loan debt down.

Before considering borrowing for paying for college, I suggest considering the following for the student:
  • Apply for more scholarships. Any scholarship money received is money that will not have to be borrowed in a student loan.
  • Work during high school and the summer before college to save money.
  • Live at home and attend a nearby college or university.
  • Be a resident assistant at a dormitory to save money.
  • Consider attending a less expensive (out of pocket) college.
  • Know what your first year’s starting salary will be after college graduation and make sure you do not borrow more than that throughout your college career.
For parents, I suggest considering the following:
  • Have discussions with your son or daughter about what the family can realistically afford and what the expectations are. For example, having the student pay their own living expenses.
  • Help the student in locating scholarships and be supportive.
  • Set money aside monthly for college expenses (the sooner the better).
  • Do not tap into your retirement plans to pay for college.
  • If you do decide to borrow, look into private loans as compared to the PLUS loan.
If you get financial aid offers from colleges and you would like some help in going over them and trying to figure out what your options are, the staff at ICAN is here to help! You can either call our toll free number, 877-272-4692, or schedule an appointment at www.icansucceed.org/apt.

Happy saving!!


John - ICAN Advisor - Northeast Iowa

Next Steps As You Begin Receiving Scholarships

As a high school senior, you are definitely entering or in the home stretch of your final year of high school. Hopefully, you are continuing to apply for scholarships and finishing strong in your classes and your activities. Since we are into Spring now, you probably have or soon will be finding out which private scholarships you have been awarded. As those scholarship notifications come through and those awards presentations occur, something you and your parents might not think about it making sure you keep track of every scholarship you have been awarded. Why, you ask? Because it is truly your responsibility to make sure that you do receive the money you have been awarded. Make sure to create a list of the names of the scholarships – who is awarding it (donor, organization, etc) – amount of the award – whether it will be awarded 1st Semester or 2nd Semester or be split between semesters – and if there is any information you have to submit to the donor/organization to make sure you receive the money.

It IS important to keep track, because you do want to know make sure the money does come through for you, especially because chances are that the scholarship will go directly to the college in your name. The donor/organization may need to have an update on where you are going to college, once you’ve decided. Some scholarships may ask for “proof of registration” of classes before they will send the scholarship. I’ve seen private scholarships that were partially awarded on financial need, which then asked for proof that the student still owed money to the college after the other “gift aid” was given. Some scholarships might not be awarded until 2nd semester, and even then, they may want proof that you successfully completed your 1st semester and are enrolled for the 2nd. So, keep a list of every private scholarship you are awarded, and make sure you follow through on any instructions that you need to follow to ensure you receive the money next school year.

What should you do if next year you don’t ever see the scholarship come through at the college? Politely and respectfully contact the donor or organization. If you don’t know for sure who that is, your school counselor or the counseling administrative assistant or whoever gave you the information for the scholarship may be able to tell you who the contact is. If you did forget to give them some information, let them know you will get it submitted as soon as possible, and then do that!

Lastly – as you receive these private scholarships, keep an attitude of gratitude! Individuals, families, and organizations do not have to award money for students to help them attend college, but they do because the think it is important, and they want to assist young people in their post-secondary pursuits. Be sure to write a Thank You to the scholarship donor and even the selection committee if you know who to send that to. Also – remember to send a Thank You to all of those good people who wrote recommendation letters for you for the applications. Again – they do it because they want to help, but it’s important that they know that you appreciated their efforts.

Best wishes to all of you! I hope the scholarship awards have already begun to roll in and continue to arrive in a steady stream!


 Mary Joan - East Central Iowa Advisor

The Importance of Summer Jobs

Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner. For many students, that means some fun in the sun or perhaps looking for a part-time summer job! Although I believe students should really cherish their summer days (Afterall, many of you will never get those days back!) I do believe there is value that goes along with summer work.

To begin, I am a full believer in BALANCE. I think it is especially important to make sure you are balancing work with fun. After all, life is too short not to enjoy it! If you can afford working a few days a week and still give yourself a few days off this would be ideal. The world of work can help students in so many ways.

Such as:
  • Confidence Building
  • Time Management Skills- This is a crucial skill for the workforce and in college!
  • Organization Skills- These skills are so important to have!
  • Helps students understand what they like and dislike. Both are equally as important!
  • Communication Skills
  • The Ability to work in a team and with others who might be different from you
  • Problem Solving Skills
Learning the above skills early on in life will help students be more prepared for the workforce and college. Colleges and employers are looking for students that have these qualities as they make them more successful. The world of work can really help students with these skillsets. Please remember, it is important to include summer jobs on your activity resume as well. Do not forget to balance work with a little fun. Balance is key in all of life! The earlier you learn this particularly important lesson, the better off you will be! 😊

If you have not started an Activity Resume yet, we have a template you can download from our website by going to: www.icansucceed.org/activitiesresume.

Enjoy your summer break!


 Meghan - ICAN Hiawatha Center