College and Career Planning

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.

New Year’s resolutions for college-bound seniors

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New Year’s is a time to look ahead and set goals. If you’re a high school senior, these resolutions can help you stay on track to start college in the fall.

Make a timeline of application deadlines. Most college applications are due by February 1, unless the schools have rolling deadlines. Financial aid deadlines will begin to hit March 1.

Review coursework with your counselor to be sure you have taken all the classes you need. Schedule summer classes if necessary.

File your FAFSA, if you haven’t already. Check with your schools of interest for their priority financial aid deadlines. Remember, filing earlier will increase your chances for some financial aid programs.

Ask your high school to send your official transcripts to the colleges where you are applying. You can make a request through your counseling office.

Be sure your ACT or SAT scores have been sent to all schools where you’re applying. If you’ve added schools to your list since you tested, you can send your scores there for an additional fee.

Check in regularly at IowaCollegeAid.gov and sign up for our newsletters for timely tips and advice. This will be a challenging but exciting year, and we can help you through it!