Two Years Before Four: More Students Starting At Two-Year Schools Before Earning Four-Year Degree

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Education news headlines in recent months have prominently featured community college and two-year programs, due to the call for increased enrollment and opportunity for educational options. But for current students, the value of two-year degree is well-known. Not only do community colleges offer students an Associate’s Degree and valuable career training in two years, but an increasing number of students are using community colleges as a springboard to four-year programs. A recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, shows that the number of students graduating from four-year programs after taking courses at a two-year program increased in the 2013-14 school year.

The report showed 46% of students who completed a degree at a four-year institution were enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years. So not only are students using two-year programs as a stepping stone to a four-year program, the time span of the study suggests that students balancing work and school can still use a two-year program to help prepare, and eventually achieve, the goal of a four-year degree.  Of the 46%, the study states that 10% of the students had a gap of 8-10 years between courses at a two-year program and completion of the four-year degree (the majority of students, 38%, completed their four-year degree within 2-3 of years of attending a two-year program).

Many states exceeded the 46% average, with Texas leading the way with 70% of their four-year graduates having spent time in a two-year program before moving on. Iowa was also above the average at 56%. As students continue to look for efficient paths to a four-year degree and the national conversation places the importance of community colleges front and center in education, these numbers will certainly increase as students realize and embrace two-year programs as a vital and viable tool in achieving their educational and career goals.

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Five Iowa Loan Forgiveness Programs Can Help Healthcare Students and Communities

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While financial aid and scholarship options abound for students as they enter college, few may know of loan forgiveness programs. Designed to encourage students in certain career fields to assist in geographic areas that need their assistance, loan forgiveness programs are almost like scholarships for students after they’ve completed their schooling.

Across the nation loan forgiveness programs exist allowing careers to reduce or cancel Perkins Loans or assist in paying back student debt through volunteerism. Iowa offers a number of loan forgiveness programs designed specially to meet the needs of underserved areas of the state. Five different programs are available for students entering the healthcare industry in Iowa:

NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program. This Federal program enables dedicated registered nurses committed to caring for underserved people to serve in hospitals and clinics in some of America’s neediest communities, improving the lives of their patients and transforming their own.

Iowa Registered Nurse and Nurse Educator Loan Forgiveness Program. Registered nurses employed in Iowa and nurse educators who hold master’s, specialist’s or doctorate degrees and are teaching at eligible Iowa college and universities are eligible for this repayment assistance program.

Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program. Graduates of Des Moines University can apply for this loan repayment assistance program serving osteopathic doctors, physicians assistants, podiatrists and physical therapists practicing in high-need communities in Iowa.

Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. This loan repayment incentive program is available to medical students at the University of Iowa or Des Moines University who agree to practice as physicians in rural commitment areas in Iowa for five consecutive years. The area must be an Iowa city with a population less than 26,000 located more than 20 miles from a city with a population of at least 50,000.

Rural Iowa RN and PA Loan Repayment Program. Similar to the Primary Care Loan Repayment Program, this program provides a loan repayment incentive to advanced registered nurse and physician assistant students enrolled at eligible Iowa colleges and universities who agree to practice in a rural service commitment area in Iowa for five consecutive years. The area must be an Iowa city with a population less than 26,000 located more than 20 miles from a city with a population of at least 50,000.

As with all scholarship or financial grant opportunities, take the time to read the details of each loan forgiveness program to make sure that students are both eligible for the program and that they are fully aware and willing to undertake the commitment of each program. By taking on a loan forgiveness program, students can achieve their postgraduate goals while helping to better their community in return for financial relief from student debt.

Think College Planning and Admissions is Just a Game? In This Case It Is!

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When people talk about preparing for college as a “game,” it usually comes with a cynical tone (“Applying for college is just a game with admissions counselors where you have to know the rules”). One company, though, has taken the idea of college planning as a game literally, creating a series of games that educates students on what to expect from the college application process, while encouraging them to plan and prepare for the next step in their education.

Game designer FutureBound Games offers four different games where college preparation takes center stage, spanning cards, computers, mobile devices and even Facebook. At the core of each game, students learn about not only what it takes to become a well-rounded student that colleges want, but also how to prepare financially.

In the card game “Application Crunch,” students must manage cards for academics, extracurricular activities, work and service, all while applying for schools and scholarships. The Facebook game “Mission: Application” takes the time-management of games like “Farmville” and places the player in the world of a high school student who must build skills in different areas (academics, service, athletics and more) to create essays and applications before deadlines for contests, scholarships and school admissions pass on a real-time calendar.

Desktop/Mobile game “Graduate Strike Force” takes an action approach to educating students about financial aid and college fit by creating a team of elite fighters who battle invading monsters after finding the right school and financial aid packages that match their needs. The company’s namesake game, the desktop/mobile “FutureBound,” expands the timeline taking players from transitioning from middle school to high school all the way through graduation. The game encourages the player to develop their characters interests and prepare for college not only academically, but emotionally, as the character will have to overcome insecurities and doubts about their choices to succeed.

While the graphics will never be confused with an XBox One or Playstation 4, FutureBound’s games give students who would otherwise spend their time crushing candy or cultivating virtual celebrities games that are both fun and beneficial in the long run.

5 Tips To Make Your College Resume Stand Out

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You know you’re a great catch for any school, but how can you let schools know? Putting together a killer college resume is an important step to making all the hard work you’ve done in and out of the classroom pay off when being considered by college admissions officers. And just like you, your college resume is a living thing, able to be changed and updated at a moment’s notice. Having a strong resume doesn’t just give schools a clear picture of what makes you you, but will also help you find new roads to potential scholarships based on your interests and experience.

Instead of putting off creating your resume until you’re under the gun of filling out your college applications, take some time to start chronicling the things that make you shine now and update it each semester. Here are 5 tips to help make your resume stand out.

Start Early
Even before you start high school, you can rack up experience that will reflect well on your resume. The activities done in the summer before 9th grade count as high school (summer is considered part of 9th grade). Make sure that your summer activities correspond to the appropriate upcoming year.

List everything and edit later
High school (and later college) is a time where students explore different options and frequently change their interest. This will most likely happen (or already has happened) to you. Don’t give in to the temptation to change your resume to reflect your interests of the moment, but instead let it reflect the wide variety of your experiences. Not only does it show schools that you have a diverse background, but also that you are inquisitive, open to trying new things and expanding your view of the world.

Extracurricular activities aren’t just for school
Outside of the classroom activities doesn’t just mean sports, clubs or programs connected with your school. The things that make you unique can be as diverse as playing in band with friends, starting your own community service group or doing work with your church. The more a college sees that you are working outside of your school and engaging with the world around you, the more they will see you as an ideal candidate

Take pride in your achievements
No one likes a braggart, but a resume is not the place to be humble. You don’t have to be winning State Championship trophies, though, to list your accolades on your resume. Make sure to point out any achievement from dean’s list, honor roll or team MVP to Eagle Scout, high honors or first chair. Even awards like “most improved,” “most inspirational” or regional qualifier will stand out because it shows that even though you weren’t a “champion” you still worked hard and excelled.  Don’t have many (or any) items in this category? Don’t worry. Just make sure you have items to list in other sections.

Hobbies and interests can be just as important as work
Colleges know that students can learn a lot from working in either paid or unpaid jobs during school and/or over summer vacation. Getting real world experience putting the skills learned in school is invaluable. But don’t be afraid to also include the things about you that make you unique, especially if they don’t fit into other categories. Like to help rebuild classic cars? Add it! Never miss a cooking show and have a knack for making a mean souffle? Let them know. Sometimes you may be using your interest in volunteer situations without even knowing it. So consider the things that you love doing as things colleges will love about you, too.

Keeping your resume up to date each semester is a great way to not let any of your experiences slip through the cracks. Over time, your resume grow and give you the opportunity to whittle it down, removing some things and letting the things that are the most important stand tall.

Everfi and ICSAC Team Up For Monthly Financial Literacy Student Blog Contest

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Iowa College Aid and Everfi have teamed up to recognize students who are making financial literacy a part of their education. The Iowa Financial Literacy Program Blog Contest rewards students who submit a blog post of 300 words or less detailing how financial literacy has impacted their life, decision making and future educational goals. Monthly winners receive a $50 Amazon gift card.

Savannah Wiedow of Spirit Lake High School took the prize in February. Here is her blog post:

In the future, I wish to attend college to become a physical therapist. After having worked my fill, I wish to eventually retire. The Iowa Financial Literacy Program helped prepare me for this in many ways. I now know how to correctly save and invest my money so that I might be able to pay for my furthered education. It also has taught me the different ways I can begin saving for my retirement fund. The importance of saving early in life has revealed itself to me, and I plan on starting a retirement fund as soon as I begin my career. As well as saving, the program also helped me to understand everyday aspects of finances such as banking or even writing a check. Before this program, I wasn’t sure what I should look for when choosing a bank or even just the type of account I wish to have. Even though saving money is important, insurance is also crucial. Insurance protects you, the things you own, and other people who may be harmed by your actions. It helps to cover the costs that you may accumulate from causing harm to any of the previously listed items. Not only is it essential to have good coverage, the right insurance plan is crucial. I never knew there were so many different types of insurance before taking this course. Now, I could list the different types, and even pick which plan is best for different situations. I have learned much from this course, and I feel better prepared for life after having participated in it.

Entries for March’s contest continue now through March 31. Students can submit their blog entries at Everfi’s website.

Good luck!

Getting The Most of Your Campus Visit

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Spring and the promise of warmer weather can put a wanderlust in families looking to find the perfect vacation. For those families with eyes on college for their student, making college visits a part of their vacation itinerary can be fun and productive at the same time.

College visits not only offer the single best way for college-bound students to see potential colleges fit with their educational plans, but these trips can also introduce a college-going mindset to younger students or siblings who can see what college offers and begin aspiring to the academic goals to get there one day. College visits are hardly daunting and can add a brief, and fun, addition to the family vacation.

Scheduling the visit
While it may be tempting to “drop in” on a campus just to take a look around, families with students who are truly interested in learning more about a particular college will benefit from scheduling an official visit. Most colleges will allow online scheduling and will usually include a guided campus tour, an information session and often a chance to speak with professors in areas of academic interest..

Another advantage of scheduling the visit can come at admissions time, as some colleges track “demonstrated interest” and may consider the fact that a student visited campus when making admissions decisions. Informational sessions might also include information about financial aid or scholarships which might sway interest about applying to the school.

Seeing the campus
While an official visit will give students a good idea of what to expect in the classroom, taking time to tour the campus and ask questions will give a sense of what to expect from the daily campus life. Tour guides are expected to be asked, and answer, questions from perspective students. But visitors might find that taking time to ask other people they meet about life at the campus will result in a variety of answers that provide a much more rounded sense of what it means being student at that particular school. Picking up a copy of the campus newspaper or other publications will introduce prospective to issues and other voices that might not be represented on the official tour. Don’t be afraid to ask about both the positives and the flaws about life on campus. It’s always better to know what to expect ahead of time.

Exploring the areas of campus not on the tour will also give students a fuller sense of the daily experience the campus will offer. Knowing the distance between the freshman dorms and the classes or finding where amenities like health services or the gym can help students prepare for the types of things that would otherwise not discover until they were on campus.

Taking the next step
If taking a campus visit to a school as a junior or senior in high school, it will be worth the extra time to dig a little deeper while visiting. Speaking with professors in areas of student interest will start to give an idea if pursuing a particular major will be more or less difficult. Meeting with an admissions counselor will not only provide useful information for the application process, but counselors will note the added interest which might benefit a student’s chances of acceptance when their application is reviewed. Many campuses also offer overnight stays. Seeing the full day (and night) of a college student will provide a much more thorough perspective of college life than a shorter visit.

Skip The Madness: Four (But Not Final) Tips For Finding The Right College Fit

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The matchups are set, school taking on school. Individual attributes have been analyzed and compared to find where one school has an advantage over the other. Now it’s time to put a gameplan into action. But this tourney doesn’t end with cutting down nets. The true prize is finding the perfect “college fit.”

While a different kind of March Madness storms basketball courts around the country, college-bound students looking to attend the school that will best meet their academic and social goals can narrow down their options by comparing potential schools over a number of factors.

So how do students whittle the field down to the one school that will help them find their “one shining moment?” Line up those brackets and make choices based on some of the following keys to success:

Eyes on the Prize
Keeping a long view will help students not get caught up in where they think they want to be right now. Instead, compile a list of potential colleges based on where they want to be four years from now. Even if students don’t have a slam dunk idea of their future, having a vision of a general career path will help. Figure out which schools have programs that best suit your interests in potential careers.

Scout other students
Sure, everyone looks happy when they’re in the crowds of televised basketball games. But student life might be more than game time. If a student knows current students or alums of a prospective school, they should talk to them about their experience. Campus tours (on-site or online) also give opportunities to observe student life or ask current students about what to expect in the day-to-day routine.

Have a Financial Gameplan
Students that see themselves as financial “bubble” teams, might not have to worry about getting into their target schools. Financial aid options abound, from scholarships to Pell Grants and other financial aid from schools. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will allow schools to pair students with financial aid options that can be the difference in a school making it to the next round.

Knowing the financial expectations of college will also help students prepare. Net price calculators can provide an estimated cost for the four years of school based on the published price (full cost) to attend a specific college or university, minus any grants and scholarships for which students may be eligible.

Keep An Open Mind
Every tournament has upsets. While students may have an early idea of which school will run away as the College Fit Champion, gaining more information about different schools, programs and costs can open the door to schools that were otherwise Cinderella picks. Students who have strong ideas of what they are looking for in a school, but stay flexible to new ideas have a better chance of finding the perfect school they may have never even had known existed.

Take your best shot
These tips are far from the final four that students should follow. But by taking the time to create a gameplan for deciding on schools, students won’t have to settle for last-second shots when deciding on a college. Review the pros and cons of each school to make the choice that is the best match of academics, finances, environment and preparation for life after graduation. With the right information, students will feel more comfortable about committing to a relationship with a school that will create a winning four-year dynasty.