How to find the most diverse colleges

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Is campus diversity an important factor in your college search? Here are some numbers and resources that can help with your research.

Minority enrollment at Iowa colleges and universities has more than tripled since 1992. As of fall 2016, minority students accounted for 16.5 percent of total enrollment.

The 10 most diverse four-year schools in Iowa are:

  1. William Penn University, Oskaloosa, 32.8 percent minority enrollment
  2. Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, 31.5 percent
  3. Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, 29.7 percent
  4. University of Dubuque, Dubuque, 29.4 percent
  5. Coe College, Cedar Rapids, 25.0 percent
  6. Graceland University, Lamoni, 24.8 percent
  7. Grinnell College, Grinnell, 24.7 percent
  8. Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, 23.8 percent
  9. Cornell College, Mount Vernon, 21.1 percent
  10. Emmaus Bible College, Dubuque, 21.1 percent

(These numbers do not include international students or for-profit schools.)

For any school in the United States, you can look up diversity statistics at the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. Just type in the name of the school, then click on “Student Body.”

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Many ways to be a champion

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The eyes of the world are on Winter Olympians this week, which got us thinking about what truly defines a champion. A gold medal is one measure, certainly—but only one.

A champion fights for what he or she believes. What causes or values do you champion? That answer could help guide you in your choice of studies and career.

A champion works to advance the causes of other people. Who are the champions in your life? Teachers, counselors, family? Looking to your future, how do you intend to be a champion for others?

A champion perseveres, even when circumstances are tough. No one ever reached an Olympic medal podium without overcoming setbacks. Likewise, you’ll need to deal with challenges on your way to your goals. What hurdles have you overcome so far? How can you use what you learned from those experiences?

We can all learn from watching the dedicated athletes who are giving everything they have to represent countries all over the world.

Reasons to appreciate your school counselor

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It’s National School Counseling Week, so take a minute to say thanks to your counselor. Stop in the office or write a quick note—it will be appreciated! In the spirit of this week, here are some of the many ways your high school counselor can help you along your path to college:

  • Taking the right courses. Your counselor knows the coursework most colleges recommend and can make sure you’re taking the prerequisites and classes you’ll need. If your counselor pushes you to take more challenging classes, pay attention.
  • Getting a head start. Your counselor can also help you get into Advanced Placement or dual-enrollment classes, where you can earn college credit while you’re still in high school.
  • Choosing a college. Your counselor can help you understand the concept of “college fit.” There’s no single best choice for everyone. Your counselor will help you look at your interests, abilities and career plans to identify colleges that might be the best fit for you.
  • Applying for college. Your counselor has been through this with many other students and will have valuable advice for you. Counselors can even help you request waivers or deferrals of application fees. They’re also great sources for letters of recommendation. Just remember to give them plenty of time, because other students will have the same idea.
  • Applying for financial aid. Your counselor can steer you toward FAFSA events at your school or in your community. The counseling office is also a good place to look for information on scholarships.

What’s the Iowa Financial Aid Application?

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If you’re a senior in high school, you’re probably hearing a lot about the FAFSA. But there’s another application that should be on your radar, too.

By completing the FAFSA, you’re applying for most forms of federal and state financial aid. When you finish the FAFSA, you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to complete the Iowa Financial Aid application as well. Say yes.

That prompt actually leads to something called the “Eligibility Wizard,” a short series of simple questions to determine whether you might be eligible for additional state aid. If you’re not eligible, you’re done. If you meet initial eligibility requirements, you’ll see instructions to continue the application process for those additional grants and scholarships.

Did you already say no to the Iowa Financial Aid Application? You can find it here. It’s worth the few minutes it takes.

How to spot a scholarship scam

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Fraudulent organizations sometimes pose as legitimate agencies willing to help with scholarship searches. They often guarantee you a scholarship or promise to do all the work for you for a fee. The Federal Trade Commission advises students to be cautious of these red flags for scholarship and FAFSA scams:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
  • “We just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
  • “We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”
  • “You’ve been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to receive a scholarship.”

Busting scholarship myths

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“I won’t qualify.”

That’s the No. 1 reason students don’t apply for scholarships—and they’re often very wrong. Today we’re going to bust some common myths.

MYTH: I’d have to be a genius or a star athlete to get any money.
REALITY: Academics and athletics are just two among many criteria that could earn you a scholarship. Some awards are based or service or leadership. Others go to students who take part in certain organizations or activities. (Iowa has a scholarship just for participants in the Iowa State Fair.) Some companies offer scholarships to the children of employees. Many scholarships are downright quirky. Do a search on Unigo and you’ll find awards for students who answer questions like “What flavor ice cream would you like to be?”

MYTH: I’ll have to write dozens of different essays.
REALITY: You can’t turn in the exact same essay for every scholarship application, but you’re likely to see some common themes in the questions, like accepting challenges or embracing new ways of thinking. Save each essay that you submit, then look for sections that can be repurposed. Just make sure you do enough reworking to answer the question being asked.

MYTH: No one with any pull will give me a recommendation.
REALITY: Your recommendations don’t have to come from “big names.” In fact, choosing someone well-known can backfire if that person doesn’t really know you. You need a recommendation from someone who understands your strengths and can offer specific examples that illustrate them. Talk to the teacher of a class you enjoyed or the advisor for an activity you took part in. What a person can say about you is much more important than his or her name recognition.

MYTH: There’s so little money available, it’s a waste of time.
REALITY: There are billions of dollars available every year. Some of that money actually goes unclaimed because not enough people apply for it. Check with your high school counselor and your college financial aid office. Do a Web search for scholarships that might suit you, whether you’re a bassoon player or a comic artist or an aspiring funeral director. The money is out there.

Financial Aid 101: What you can get and how

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There are three basic types of financial aid available to college students.

Saving every single cent and dollar for education

FREE MONEY: Scholarships & Grants

While you have to meet certain requirements to receive grants and scholarships, you do not have to pay them back.

Grants are usually need-based aid, while scholarships are usually merit-based. Eligibility for need-based grants is determined by your family’s ability to pay for college. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on particular talents or achievements.

Grants and scholarships can come from government sources or from private sources. By filing the FAFSA and following up with the Iowa Financial Aid Application, you apply for federal and state grants and scholarships . To find private scholarships, start with your school counselor and your college financial aid office. More tips for finding private scholarships.

Download our free “Scholarships & Grants” brochure

EARNED MONEY: Federal Work-Study

Federal Work-Study allows you to earn money in a job that relates to your course of study or fills a community need. Work-Study is administered by your college, and jobs are usually available both on- and off-campus.

The FAFSA serves as the application for Federal Work-Study. If you qualify for Work-Study, you will be responsible for landing a job, based on referrals from your financial aid office.

Learn more about Federal Work-Study

BORROWED MONEY: Federal & Private Loans

Once possibilities for grants, scholarships and Federal Work-Study are exhausted, many students still find they need to take out loans to cover the cost of college. The important thing is to be smart about how and what you borrow.

First choice: Federal (Stafford) subsidized loans—These loans will not accrue interest or come due until six months after you leave school. You must file the FAFSA.

Second choice: Federal (Stafford) unsubsidized loans—These loans will not come due until six months after you leave school, but they will accrue interest. You must file the FAFSA.

Parents’ option: PLUS loans—These loans are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students. Repayment begins immediately, although you can request postponement. You must file the FAFSA, then your parents must apply for a PLUS loan.

Last resort: Private loans—These loans are often more selective and more expensive than federal loans.

No matter what … borrow as little as possible. You do not have to borrow the full amount you qualify for. Think of this amount as a credit limit, and try to stay under it if you can.

Download our free “Student Loans” brochure

Learn more about financial aid  on our website.