Want to Make An Immediate Impact in College? Get Involved!

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You’ve made the trip, moved into your dorm, met your roommate. Mom and dad are gone and you’ve survived your first day of classes. What’s next for a new college student? The habits you start in your first days as a freshman will lay the groundwork for your success throughout college. The best part? It’s easy to take advantage of one of the greatest opportunities available to help college students grow and succeed: getting involved with your campus or community.

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Much of your college career will happen outside of the classroom. Although your studies should be top priority, getting involved on campus is a great way to ease the transition into college and help you gain experience for your resume. Studies show that those who are involved in activities outside the classroom are more engaged and have greater academic success in college. In addition, many employers indicate that they look for real-world experience when interviewing recent college graduates. So, what are you waiting for? The reward that you can gain from getting involved in part-time jobs, volunteer work, campus organizations and industry-related groups will follow you well beyond college graduation.

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An obvious advantage to getting involved is the opportunity to meet new people. Joining a club or organization allows you the benefit of making friends and networking with those who share your similar interests, goals and values. This can be especially helpful for commuter students who would otherwise leave campus as soon as class is dismissed. Students who are involved in campus activities often feel more connected to the school, campus and people, increasing their satisfaction with their college experience and reducing the likelihood of transferring schools or dropping out all together.

Real-World Experience

Employers want to see college graduates with real-world experience. Getting involved in a campus or career-related organization can help you gain leadership experience, improve communication skills, and provide you the opportunity to work as a team to solve problems. Helping your organization achieve its goals, such as increasing membership or organizing a special project or program will help you stand out to potential employers in the future. Your school’s campus serves as a representation of life after college, where the concepts are ever important to your future success. On campus, you can apply these skills to real-world situations in a safe environment.

Part-Time Job

Few extracurricular activities can beat the experience gained through a part-time job. Working while in college demonstrates your ability to manage time, communicate with supervisors, take direction, work as part of a team, and manage stress. Look for part-time jobs related to your major. For example, a job on campus in a lab for a student majoring in chemistry, or as a counselor in an after-school program for an elementary education major provides that real-world experience employers are looking for. As a plus, you will have a greater chance of meeting professionals in a field of work that interests you, therefore building your network of people. After all, there is some truth in the saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Volunteer

Volunteering is great way to explore a potential career field while building on your existing skill sets. In addition, it demonstrates to potential employers that your time management skills have enabled you to fit an unpaid position into your busy schedule. Opportunities on campus can include things such student government involvement, working as a campus tour guide, or helping with a campus-wide event. You can also volunteer with local organizations in the community. Check out www.VolunteerIowa.org to find organizations seeking volunteers. Even if you don’t find a volunteer opportunity that matches your major, you can probably find one that will use skills you hope to develop in the workplace. Keep track of the things that you learned from each experience so you can use that information later. If you stay in touch with the people in charge, they may be willing to be a reference for you during your future job search.

Extracurricular activities can be just as important to potential employers as your GPA, but that doesn’t mean you can let your grades fall. The key to successful campus involvement is finding balance between your school work and activities. A more structured day can help to decrease procrastination; however having too much on your plate can become overwhelming. To find ways to get involved on your campus, visit your student activities or campus life office, stop by your academic department, check out the school calendar, and search the school website. Most come at little or no additional cost to you, but can add plenty in the way of college and work experience.

Hit Senior Year Running With These College Prep Tips

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All that hard work is about to pay off! Senior year is the last, and most important, year of high school. Those students and families who have followed our “Your Course to College” tips on preparing for college during their freshman, sophomore and junior years will be ready to roll right into senior year preparations.

For those who haven’t… Fear not! There’s still time to put together a senior year checklist that will help students and families plan for education after high school without getting overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help stay on the path to college in this crucial year:

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  • Review coursework with your school counselor to be sure you have taken (or are scheduled to take) all the courses you will need for admission to your preferred colleges.
  • If you plan to take the ACT or SAT again to improve your score, make sure to register for a date that is at least two months ahead of the application deadlines for all of the colleges and scholarships you are considering.
  • Prepare a final list of colleges and submit admission applications. Most early decision and early action college applications are due in October 1.
  • Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at
    www.fafsa.gov as soon after October 1 as possible. The FAFSA is the first step in the financial aid process. Check with your school of interest for its priority financial aid deadline.
  • Ask your high school to send your official transcripts to the colleges where you are applying for admission.
  • Compare acceptance letters and financial aid awards. Upon admittance, each college or university listed on your FAFSA will send you an award letter that will include the financial aid that you are eligible to receive.
  • Take AP exams for any AP subjects you studied in high school. Some colleges may
    award college credit for the course work based on your exam score. Go to www.collegeboard.org for AP exam information.
  • Decision time! Choose your college and notify them by mailing your commitment deposit check.
  • Talk to those who have been there! Iowa College Aid’s “Education Empowers” video series provides testimonials of students who faced (and overcame) challenges in getting to college.

For more tips and advice to help prepare, plan and succeed in college, check out Iowa College Aid’s “Your Course to College.” This free guide offers advice on everything from finding the right college and narrowing down a major to showing families the steps to finding financial aid and even loan repayment programs for after graduation. “Planning for Our Futures” is a publication produced by Iowa College Aid, Treasurer of State and the Iowa Department of Insurance that takes a closer look at the financial options for families looking to prepare for education after high school.

Put Your College Plan Into Action With These Tips for Juniors

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Planning can make all the difference between calm and panic. That certainly holds true for putting together a plan for getting to college. We’ve already discussed the easy ways that freshmen and sophomores can be set on the path for college.

Come junior year, it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. With only two years before high school graduation, students and families can put their college plan into action early enough to not find themselves scrambling come senior year. Iowa College Aid’s “Your Course to College” offers tips that will help families in their junior and senior years of high school execute their college plans to perfection.

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Here are a few things to get on the calendar for junior year to help with college planning:

  • Now is the time to really focus on your career and college research. Determine which colleges offer programs that interest you.
  • Take the PSAT in the fall of your junior year to be considered for a National Merit Scholarship. Plus, it’s good practice for the SAT!
  • Attend college fairs and go on college visits. Call ahead to schedule appointments with financial aid and admissions offices.
  • Take the SAT or ACT in the spring and have the official scores sent to the schools that interest you. Download a free ACT preparation booklet from www.act.org. Find free official test prep for the SAT through the College Board and Khan Academy at www.khanacademy.org/sat.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation. Identify teachers, counselors, employers or other adults who can attest to your academic achievement and abilities and ask that they write letters of recommendation for scholarship applications or admissions applications, if needed.

For more tips and advice on planning for, applying to and succeeding in your education after high school, check out “Your Course to College.” Iowa College Aid also publishes a guide for families looking for more information on financially planning for their student’s education. “Planning for Our Futures” is produced in conjunction with Iowa Insurance Division, Treasurer of State and the Iowa Department of Education. Both publications are free to families.

Get Ahead of The College Prep Game With These Sophomore Year Tips

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For many students, college preparation kicks into gear starting during their junior year of high school. But as yesterday’s post showed, students who know that college is in their future can work toward their goals as early as freshman year. But what happens during sophomore year? Besides maintaining the good habits established during freshman year, there are a number of options available to sophomores looking to keep their momentum going toward college.

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Putting in the effort now with some of these tips will take the pressure off come junior and senior year:

  • Keep those grades up. It’s important to stay focused on your schoolwork. After all, colleges will look at more than your grades during your junior and senior years.
  • If you plan to take the SAT, take the PSAT in October. It’s good practice for taking the PSAT in your junior year when the scores will count towards National Merit Scholar consideration.
  • Investigate concurrent enrollment options for your junior and senior years. Concurrent enrollment, sometimes called dual enrollment, enables students to take college-credit courses in their high
    school setting.
  • Research financial aid options and begin searching for scholarships. Make a list of those that you think you would be eligible for, including deadlines.

For more tips on preparing for college, check out Iowa College Aid’s “Your Course to College.” This guide helps students and families not only prepare for education after high school, but offers step-by-step advice for financial aid, finding the right college and profiles of every postsecondary school in Iowa.

Another Iowa College Aid publication, “Planning for Our Futures” offers families further information on financial aid and options on how to prepare for your student’s education.

Yes, You Can Prepare for College as a Freshman!

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Starting high school can seem like the beginning of a whole new world and, certainly, one where college seems far away. But the truth is that in four short years, today’s freshmen will be the graduating Class of 2020.

We’ve already talked about ways that students can start thinking about college by taking college visits or researching scholarships early. Once the school year starts, though, it becomes important to think for the future, but also take the steps necessary to succeed in this new transition to high school. Iowa College Aid’s “Your Course to College” guide not only offers tips and information for students preparing to start their final year of high school, but also gives advice for those students just starting high school.

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Here are some tips from “Your Course to College’s” Student Checklist for freshmen looking to succeed this year, while still planning for future success.

  • Meet your counselor. He or she is there to help you succeed in high school and to help set you up for success after graduation! Set up a meeting to talk about your plans for high school and the future.
  • Get involved. Many admissions officers look for well- rounded students who participate in school activities and are involved in their communities throughout all years of high school.
  • Set up a college savings account, if you  don’t already have one, or continue to add to an existing account. College Savings Iowa is sponsored by the State of Iowa and can be started with as little as $25. Find more information at www.collegesavingsiowa.com.
  • Choose the right class schedule. Find out about college entrance requirements for the schools you’re interested in.
  • Find out about Advanced Placement (AP) and other honors-level courses. If your high school does not offer AP courses directly, they may provide online access to courses through the Iowa Online Academy.
  • Fill your summer with volunteer activities and work opportunities that can give you a better idea of what type of career you would like to pursue.

Check out the full Four-Year Student Checklist here and sign up to receive the 2016-17 edition of “Your Course to College” here. Iowa College Aid’s “Planning for Our Future” (produced in conjunction with Iowa Insurance Division and Treasurer of State’s office) offers more detailed information and advice on financial planning for a student’s education at all ages (even starting in elementary school or earlier). Order a copy here.

Find A School That Fits Your Needs During Iowa Private College Week

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Though Iowa Private College Week concludes today, Iowa’s private, not-for-profit colleges continue to offer opportunities to students from around the world to benefit from small class sizes and focused programs that lead to more students graduating in four years than larger Regent universities.

Today, we finish our week-long look at the schools participating in Iowa Private College Week, featuring a sneak preview of each school’s listing in Iowa College Aid’s upcoming 2016-17 “Your Course to College” publication (review earlier posts from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). This annual guide helps students prepare for college with academic and financial tips to put together an effective plan for education after high school. The guide also includes informational listings for all of Iowa’s colleges and universities. For more information about “Your Course to College” visit Iowa College Aid’s website.

St. Ambrose University, Davenport, IA

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Enrollment: 3,300; Tuition & Fees: $28,870; On-Campus Room & Board: $9,000 (varies); Est. Books & Supplies: $1,200; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: March 15; Types of Programs: Engineering, Nursing, Teacher Education, Physician Assistant, Engineering, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Pre-Law, Graphic Design, Speech- Language Pathology, Business and Healthcare Sales

Rated among the top universities in the region by two national ranking publications, St. Ambrose University is a coeducational, liberal arts university affiliated with the Diocese of Davenport. Students received more than $48 million in financial aid last year and the new BEE Finished in Four Years Plan guarantees timely degree completion. Maintaining an 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, St. Ambrose offers professional and liberal arts undergraduate majors, master’s and doctoral programs. No classes are taught by graduate assistants.
In addition to strong academics and a growing study-abroad program, students enjoy a dynamic campus that features some of the nicest residence halls in the Midwest, a wide range of varsity and intramural sports, more than 80 student clubs and organizations — and a reputation for amazing personal attention. A new Wellness and Recreation Center is scheduled to open fall, 2017.

St. Luke’s College, Sioux City, IA

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Enrollment: 245; Tuition & Fees: $19,960; Est. Off-Campus Room & Board: $8,180; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,253; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: March 1; Types of Programs: Health Science, Nursing, Radiologic Technology, Respiratory Care and Clinical Lab Sciences

St. Luke’s College has a 113-year history of educating health care professionals with bachelor’s degree programs in nursing and health science; associate degree programs in nursing, radiologic technology and respiratory care; certificate programs in medical laboratory science, phlebotomy and clinical pastoral education; and advanced specialty programs in CT, MRI, sonography and mammography.

Located on the campus of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s, the College provides programs with experience-based clinical learning in a hospital environment. The curriculum is designed with a foundation in the biological, physical and social sciences, integrated with theory and experience in the clinical lab setting. The College emphasizes hands-on, patient care learning. Student involvement with patient care begins early in the first year of study.

University of Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

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Enrollment: 2,200; Tuition & Fees: $28,700; On-Campus Room & Board: $9,124; Est. Books & Supplies: $950; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: April 1; Types of Programs: Accounting; Aviation; Biology; Business; Computer Graphics & Interactive Media; Health, Wellness & Sport; Nursing; Philosophy; Psychology; Religious Studies; Sociology; Speech Communication

The University of Dubuque is a private, coeducational professional University with a focus in the liberal arts. Our commitment to nurturing the mind, body, and spirit, as well as encouraging students to explore their fullest potential, is part of a rich Christian heritage that dates back to the University’s founding in 1852.

UD’s welcoming interfaith community comprises one of the most diverse campuses in the Midwest consisting of students from 35 states and 20 countries. Over the last 15 years, the University has invested over 200 million dollars in renovations and new construction to academic buildings and residence halls. The University awards more than $15 million in student scholarships annually. Students are academically focused, technologically motivated, and professionally prepared to meet 21st century needs. Opportunities are experienced through nationally recognized programs in Aviation, Business, Computer Graphics/Interactive Media, Education, Environmental Science, Nursing, and a new Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.

Wartburg College, Waverly, IA

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Enrollment: 1,537; Tuition & Fees: $38,380; On-Campus Room & Board: $9,460; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,110; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: February 1 (Prospective Students), March 1 (Current Students); Types of Programs: Liberal Arts and General, Teacher Preparation

Wartburg is a private, Lutheran, liberal arts college with an enrollment of 1,537 students, including 132 international students from 55 countries. Dedicated to challenging and nurturing students for lives of leadership and service as a spirited expression of their faith and learning, Wartburg focuses on a traditional curriculum enriched by a variety of learning opportunities. Through travel, study abroad, experiential learning, service learning, civic engagement, community service, undergraduate research, and close work with individual faculty, Wartburg students embark on a journey of discovery to embrace their passions, unlock their potential, and realize their purpose.

Notably, 93 percent of Wartburg graduates complete their degrees within four years, and 98 percent are placed in jobs or graduate schools within six months of graduation.

William Penn University, Oskaloosa, IA

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Enrollment: 1,921; Tuition & Fees: $24,510; On-Campus Room & Board: $6,667; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,206; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: July 1; Types of Programs: Liberal Arts, Nursing, Pre-Professional, Teacher Preparation

William Penn University offers a quality liberal arts education that is firmly rooted in leadership development. Professors who care about your personal goals, combined with opportunities for campus and community involvement, build an educational foundation that will prepare you for success!

Founded by Quaker pioneers, William Penn University embraces traditional values of integrity, simplicity, compassion, ethical practice, acceptance, tolerance and service. It is also one of the most diverse campuses in Iowa, with students from 42 states and 20 countries.

Take Virtual Tours, Learn More About Iowa’s Private Colleges

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Iowa’s diverse group of private, not-for-profit colleges and universities offer students an educational option after high school that can present smaller classes and a greater likelihood of finishing a degree in four years. Iowa Private College Week celebrates these schools and showcases the unique qualities of each of the 25 campuses throughout the state, while encouraging virtual or on-site campus tours to learn more about what each campus uniquely offers students.

We’re honoring Iowa Private College Week by highlighting the participating schools and featuring a sneak preview of each school’s profile from Iowa College Aid’s upcoming 2016-17 “Your Course to College” publication (previous posts from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). “Your Course to College” gives students and families a gameplan for preparing for education after high school, including identifying possible areas of study, determining what to look for in a school, important steps for financial aid and more. Profiles of each Iowa college and university give families a snapshot of each school. Here are five more of the private colleges participating in Iowa Private College Week.

Mercy College of Health Science, Des Moines, IA

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Enrollment: 800; Tuition & Fees: Full time $8,460 per semester, Part time $586/credit
(Fees vary by program, please see mchs.edu/tuition for complete details); Est. Off-Campus Room & Board: $5,430; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,528; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: July 1; Types of Programs: Nursing (AS & BS), Physical Therapist Assistant (AS), Radiologic Technology (AS), Surgical Technology (Cert/AS), Cardiac and Abdominal Sonography (AS), Medical Laboratory Science (Cert), Health Care Administration (BS), Health Science (BS), Medical Assisting (Cert/AS), and Emergency Medical Services – Paramedic (Cert/AS)

Mercy College of Health Sciences is on the forefront of health science education; it’s our focus and what we do. Our students major in subjects that lead to high demand careers in healthcare. While you’re here studying, you’ll be challenged to get involved and make a difference on campus and throughout the community. Health science majors make a difference in lives every day – while in school and once they translate their major into a career of service.

In fact, as healthcare undergoes dramatic change, the demand for the skills you acquire at Mercy College will only grow.

As a Catholic educational institution, we want to help you discover the gifts God has given you and help you prepare for a career of service to others. There are endless possibilities in healthcare to use your gifts and we’ll not only prepare you for licensure or certification in your eventual career field, but help to transform your gifts to bring relief and healing to some and comfort and spiritual support to others. Mercy College can help you to get started.

Morningside College, Sioux City, IA

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Enrollment: 2,824; Tuition & Fees: $29,094; On-Campus Room & Board: $9,190; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,253; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: December 1; Types of Programs: Liberal Arts, General, Teacher Preparation & Professional

The Morningside College experience cultivates a passion for lifelong learning and a dedication to ethical leadership and civic responsibility. Morningside College offers a total experience. Students develop various dimensions of themselves through the liberal arts core curriculum, a complete range of majors, internships, independent study and career and graduate school advising services.

Within six months of graduation, more than 98 percent of graduates are employed or admitted to graduate school.

Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, IA

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Enrollment: 1,877; Tuition & Fees: $29,696; On-Campus Room & Board: $8,900; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,200; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: March 1; Types of Programs: Liberal Arts and Professional Programs

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Mount Mercy offers baccalaureate and graduate education to nearly 1,900 enrolled students, uniquely blending liberal arts learning with professional career development and a strong commitment to serving the common good. Undergraduates can choose from over 45 majors and minors and strong programs in biology, business, criminal justice, education, English, psychology and nursing. Dedicated faculty members inspire students to lead and serve. The University offers an array of scholarships and financial aid for all incoming first-year and transfer students, including the Catherine McAuley free tuition scholarship to qualifying Iowa high school graduates whose family income is $45,000 or less annually.

Northwestern College, Orange City, IA

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Enrollment: 1,210; Tuition & Fees: $29,300; On-Campus Room & Board: $8,900; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,300; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: April 1; Types of Programs: Liberal Arts and Sciences, General, Teacher Preparation, and Pre- Professional, Master’s degree in education

Northwestern College is a Christian academic community that both challenges and supports students as it develops their minds and empowers their faith. Opportunities for meaningful involvement and service enlarge students’ worldviews and prepare them for fulfilling careers and faithful lives as thinking Christians.

The academic program includes more than 80 programs and numerous opportunities for off-campus study. Northwestern students are taught by award-winning faculty with doctorates from such institutions as Notre Dame, Duke, UCLA and Yale. Many construction projects have taken place in the past decade on Northwestern’s campus, including the student center, facilities for the arts and athletics, student housing and a $14 million learning commons.

Simpson College, Indianola, IA

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Enrollment: 1,629 undergraduate; Tuition & Fees: $35,876; On-Campus Room & Board: $7,963; Est. Books & Supplies: $1,253; Priority Deadline for Aid Filing: February 1; Types of Programs: Liberal Arts and General, Teacher Preparation

Simpson College is more than a beautiful campus. The College has an outstanding faculty and renowned curricula, including more than 80 majors, minors and pre-professional opportunities, including internships, career observations and study programs both abroad and in the United States.

We offer 18 varsity sports for men and women in a highly successful NCAA Division III athletic program. We also offer a large intramural program and many student clubs and organizations.

Located just 12 miles from Des Moines, Iowa’s capital and largest metropolitan area, Simpson’s ideal location allows students the opportunity to enjoy both city sophistication and small-town charm. The beautiful 75-acre tree-lined campus provides a setting that nurtures creativity, energy and productivity.