Dress for success

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With graduation just around the corner, many students are about to enter the working world. This transition from student to employee can be daunting, however dressing the part doesn’t have to be! Standard advice given by mentors and managers is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have currently. Even in this day of business casual dress codes, your professional image will set you apart from your coworkers who are less concerned about projecting a professional image and serve you well when promotions are available.

More and more companies are turning to business casual dress codes, allowing employees to work more comfortably in the work place. Business casual can be fun because it allows you to put a bit of your own spunky spin on what you’re wearing; however, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Since you still need to project a professional image for customers, colleagues and community visitors, here are a few tips for dressing the part.

Fit counts.

Buying items that are too big can make you appear sloppy regardless of your actual size. This is bad news if you’re gunning for that promotion. On the other hand, clothing that is too tight or revealing is unprofessional and inappropriate for work.

Get out the iron!

(Or, if you don’t have one, buy one!) Clothing should never be wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable, as is any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to other people.

Beyond the clothing.

Looking professional in a business casual atmosphere takes more than the right clothes. Women and men should be clean and appropriately groomed.  The hair on your head and any facial hair should be trimmed and washed regularly. If hair is dyed, it should be a color that appears natural and piercings should be kept to a minimum.  Jewelry must be tasteful and classy, and perfumes should be used sparingly and not be overpowering.

If in doubt, ask!

The fact is that “business casual” dress codes vary and some businesses are stricter than others.  Look around at what your coworkers are wearing to get an idea of what is appropriate at your company or ask your human resources department for the official dress code.

So, what works?

Business casual is generally more traditional for men, including dress or khaki pants, long sleeve collared shirts, a belt and dress shoes.  Short sleeve collared shirts and polo shirts may also work, depending on your employer.  Woman should wear button down shirts (don’t forgot the camisole for the layering effect!), sweaters, dress pants, knee-length skirts and modest heels or flats.  Peep-toe shoes and capri pants are great for the summer, but may not be approved in all offices.

By following these simple rules, the next time you’re meeting new people or talking to your boss about a promotion, you can feel confident that you’ve put your business casual style to work and look the part!

Celebrate Financial Literacy Month

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April is officialliflpy Financial Literacy Awareness Month in Iowa and nationally. Too many       students still enter adulthood unprepared to make large purchases and wise decisions regarding their finances.  According to Charles Schwab’s 2011 Teens & Money Survey Findings, 75% of teens (ages 16-18) say that learning more about money management is one of their top priorities. To celebrate the importance of financial literacy, take a look at these options for fun, creative ways to implement money management skills in the classroom and at home.



  1. Get certified in financial literacy.  Iowa College Aid partners with EverFi, Inc and local financial institutions to provide the Iowa Financial Literacy Program at no cost to Iowa schools. These fun, interactive online modules cover such topics as: credit scores, banking, investing and other finance-related topics. Each module meets the financial literacy essential concepts and skills of the Iowa Core.
    Have your students complete the program to prepare them for budgeting and handling their future finances, such as paying for postsecondary education. Iowa College Aid also provides Vault, designed to teach financial literacy to students in grades 4-6. For more information, contact Iowa College Aid at 877-272-4456.
  2. Take the 30 steps to financial wellness. The experts at Money Management International have provided a list of 30 steps to achieving financial wellness. These 30 steps begin with pledging a commitment to change and cover such aspects as assessing your financial situation, cleaning up your credit report, goal-setting and more.
  3. Utilize free resources. There is a plethora of free financial webinars, worksheets and tools available online. Check out such sites as Nelnet, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, Mint.com and Credit Karma.
  4. Complete the 52 WEEK MONEY Challenge.   This challenge has gained a lot of attention through social media and encourages everyone to save a dollar in the first week, then increase the amount by a dollar each following week. Put your own twist on the challenge for your classroom and make it a contest.

College Changes Everything VISTA positions available

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An educated workforce is vital for the continued economic prosperity of Iowa communities.  Employers in all industries have an increasing need for skilled and educated workers.  Only 41 percent of Iowa’s 1.6 million working-age adults (25-64 years old) have two or four-year degrees1, while more than six in 10 jobs in the state will require postsecondary credentials by 2018.2 Iowa’s economic future depends on us producing more college graduates—a task more effectively tackled at the local level in our communities rather than by the state as a whole.

Increasing college attainment leads to stronger local and state economies. Iowa’s economic future depends on us producing more college graduates. An increase of one-percent in degree attainment leads to a two-percent increase in a community’s economic growth.3

College Changes Everything is based on the premise that sustained change is only possible through cross-sector coordination. Relationships based on shared responsibility and trust, development of a common agenda, shared measurement of goals, effective communication and mutual reinforcement of activities among all participants are key to successfully increase college attainment at the community level. Building upon the existing initiatives and resources currently available in our communities, College Changes Everything™ leverages the strengths and long-term plans of each participating organization. Ground-level legwork of VISTA volunteers, access to data and training and strategic assistance for community leaders provided by Iowa College Aid and other state and national experts fuel the movement to meet the community’s higher education goals and raise educational attainment statewide.

Initial leadership for the College Changes Everything initiative has been identified in the cities of Burlington, Council Bluffs, Marshalltown and Waterloo. To build momentum at the grass roots level, Iowa College Aid has received approval for six VISTA member positions, to be embedded in organizations in each targeted community. Each VISTA will be responsible for building support of the College Changes Everything movement, coordinating College Application Campaigns and FAFSA Completion projects at high schools in his or her respective community. Other VISTA member responsibilities will be based on the community’s specific needs.

Learn more about these six available AmeriCorps VISTA positions and apply!


[1] Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (June 2010). The Midwest Challenge: Matching Jobs with Education in the Post-Recession Economy.
[1] Lumina Foundation (June 2013). A Stronger Iowa through Higher Education.
[1] Iowa Workforce Development (2013). Iowa’s Workforce and the Economy.

Finding an internship that is the right fit for you

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Every spring, many employers begin the hiring process for summer interns. Even if your degree program does not have an internship graduation requirement, there are numerous benefits working as an intern provides. Not only is an internship a great way to test out possible careers, it is also an ideal way to take the knowledge you have gained as a student and put it into action. An internship will also provide you access to professional networks and connections that could help you land a job.

Internships can be found be found through online sites such as Internships.com, InternMatch and Linkedin, or through professional networks and college job boards. However, finding an internship that is a good fit for you and your future career goals can be difficult. Here are a few tips for finding an internship that is the right fit for you.

Determine your future career goals – Deeply consider what work you would like to do after graduation and determine your future career goals. By knowing more definitely where you want to end up, you will be better able to analyze internship descriptions and know if the work with help you get there.

Utilize your network – Tell your network of friends, family and professors about your goals and what type of internship you are looking for. A network is ideal for spreading the word and connecting you with the right people and organizations.

Volunteer first – By volunteering for an organization prior to applying for an internship, you can get an idea of the type of work you would be doing as an intern. If that work is not something you would be interested in or will not help you meet your career goals, you can begin the process of looking elsewhere.

Express your goals to your supervisor and negotiate – In many cases, an internship may not provide you with the opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the field that interests you. In these cases, explain your goals and interests to your supervisor and ask if you can assist or get more involved with projects that involve these interests. Chances are your supervisor will be impressed by your willingness to learn and find ways to involve you more in these areas.

If you can’t find one, create one – If you still can’t find an internship that is the right fit for you, create it yourself! Determine what type of work you would like to do and find an organization that is willing to allow you to do it. While you may have to volunteer your time with the organization while performing this work, the experience and skills you gain from the experience could be well worth your time.

Final Days for Submissions in the IFLiP Video CLiP Challenge

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There is still time to submit a video and win a $1,000 technology grant for your school and $250 for a team of students!

Iowa College Aid and EverFi, Inc. have teamed up again this year to sponsor the IFLiP Video CLiP Challenge! The challenge is an opportunity for students to put their creativity to work and create a short video designed to educate their peers about financial literacy concepts. Video entries may not exceed three minutes in length and must be submitted no later than Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 11:59 a.m. along with the Video Submission Form and Name and Image Release Form. Students who submit the winning video will receive $250 for the team to share and a $1,000 technology grant for their school! Submissions should be sent to julie.ntem@iowa.gov.

If you have any questions, please visit our website or call us at 877-272-4456.

Choosing an online university

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With more and more content now available online, it is no wonder many colleges and universities are turning to online programs to better serve their students. Earning an education online can be the perfect solution for students who are unable to attend classes during traditional times or reside in remote areas. However, it is important that students do their research on an institution prior to enrolling.

Follow these tips to ensure that you are doing everything you can to make your online educational experience is a positive one.

  • Make sure the college or university is regionally accredited – Accreditation tells students and employers that an institution or a program within an institution meets specific academic standards. While there are national accrediting agencies, (ACICS, ACCSC), they typically accredit technical/career schools. You can use the U.S. Department of Education Accreditation Database to ensure the institution you enroll in is regionally accredited. For more information on accreditation, check out Best practices for transfer students.
  • Verify that your credits will transfer – If you think you may transfer your online credits to another college or university in the future, keep in mind that all schools have the right to establish their own transfer of credit policies. Do your research on the school you plan to transfer to and make sure the institution will accept all credits you earn from the online school. For more information on transfer of credits, read Best practices for transfer students.
  • Curriculum and licensure – There are many fields that require workers to hold a license, such as teaching, social work, occupational therapy, mental health counseling among others. If you plan to earn a degree in a field that requires licensure, be certain that the institution in which you enroll provides curriculum that qualifies you for that license. It is important to contact the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau before enrolling in the program to determine if that education will qualify you for a license in your chosen profession. If you are interested in attending an online school to become a teacher, school principal or other school professional, your first step should be to contact the Iowa Board of Education Examiners.
  • Student support services – There may come a time when you need academic assistance, which can be tricky when you are not physically on campus and aren’t able to speak with people in person. Do your research to find out what level of student support the institution offers to online students. Contact the school and ask in-depth questions about their distance support services. Their responsive to your questions may be a good indication of the level of support you would receive as an online student.
  • Graduation rate – It is always a good idea to know the graduation rate of a school prior to enrolling. This rate will give you a better idea of how successful the school is at retaining its undergraduates. The College Navigator is an excellent source for finding a school’s graduation rate.
  • Default rate in the Stafford Loan Program – Be sure to check out a school’s default rate in the Stafford Loan Program. If graduates of the institution default, or fail to repay their student loans at a high rate, it could be an indicator that students are not finishing their programs, are unable to find employment in their fields or are not satisfied with their program. The national default rate in the Stafford Loan Program is 10%. If a school’s rate is significantly higher than the national average, you may wish to search for additional options to consider.

New financial regulations will also help to protect students at for-profit, nonprofit and public institutions by ensuring they have access to information about on-time graduation rates, cost of attendance and median loan debt of students in technical programs for specific occupations. Learn more here.

Best practices for transfer students

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With education now available in a variety of forms, it is becoming more common for students to transfer colleges. While some students opt to earn credits from a community college before transferring to a four-year institution, others may decide to transfer as they find the flexibility of an online program more conducive to their lifestyle. Whatever the reason, it is important for you to make sure your credit hours will transfer prior to enrolling in an institution, even if you don’t foresee transferring at the moment.

Here are some general guidelines for determining if your credits will transfer.

  • Make sure the school you plan to attend has the accreditation you are looking for. There are regionally accredited schools and nationally accredited schools. While both types of accreditation are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, in many cases, regionally accredited schools will accept transfers of credit only from other regionally accredited schools.
  • Keep your grades up. Many schools won’t accept transfer credits if low grades were earned. If you earned a letter grade lower than a C – in a course, chances are those credit hours will not transfer to another institution.
  • Some institutions put a limit on the number or type of credit hours they will accept. It is not uncommon for institutions to put a limit on the amount of credit hours they will allow a student to transfer in from another school. Be certain you know if there is a limit and what that limit is before you transfer.
  • Credit hours awarded for life experience, not-for-credit courses, workshops or seminars are unlikely to transfer. When registering for courses you plan to transfer in the future, be aware that credits for pass/fail courses or other not-for-credit work may not transfer. In addition, courses taken at non-collegiate institutions such as government agencies, corporations and firms may not transfer.
  • If you know you will be transferring from a community college to a four-year institution, read the institution’s policy on transfer credit hours prior to enrolling in classes at the community college. Look for community colleges that have established written arrangements with 4-year colleges and universities to accept credits earned at the community college.
  • Do not rely solely on an unofficial transcript evaluation to determine how much of a new school’s program you must complete. Some schools offer initial, unofficial transcript evaluations based on copies of transcripts from a prior school that the student has in his or her possession. You may wish to delay your registration and attendance in classes at a new school until after you receive an official transcript evaluation from the new school so you know exactly how much of the program you will be required to complete. This will provide an accurate picture of how much more it will cost you to complete that program. However, the official evaluation most often occurs after the school has received an official transcript directly from the prior institution. Keep in mind that some schools will not release an official transcript if you have any unpaid bills or outstanding charges.