College Success

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.

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.”

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!

Smart ways to use your winter break

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Yes, you’re on vacation, but your brain doesn’t have to be. If you’re a high school student with college plans in your future, here are ways to make productive use of this time away from classes.

Exploratory reading. You probably spend a lot of time reading books that are required for your classes. Here’s your chance to read for pleasure and explore areas that interest you.

College visits. Will you be traveling over break? Check to see if there are any colleges of interest to you nearby. Even if classes aren’t in session, contact the admissions office to ask about campus tours.

Test prep. This is a great time to get ready for the ACT and/or SAT. You can find free online resources through act.org and khanacademy.org.

Online classes. Hundreds of universities offer Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, many of them free. Shorter, self-paced courses are ideal for winter break.

Have fun. Don’t forget this one. You are on vacation, after all!

How many colleges should I apply to?

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University Application FormIt’s a common question, but it’s not quite the right question. The key isn’t how many applications you submit, it’s what kinds of schools you include on your list. Apply to at least one school in each of these categories:

“Safety school”—a school where you’re confident you’ll be accepted. In Iowa, community colleges are open-admission, which means they accept any student with a high school diploma or equivalent. Even if you’re planning to work toward a four-year degree, a community college can be a practical place to start.

“Target school”—a school you can consider a solid possibility. In other words, your GPA and test scores fall within admission standards. To be safe, don’t just look at these stats for the school overall; check them for your specific program of study. Certain areas might be more competitive than others.

“Stretch school”—also called a “dream school” or “reach school.” This school might have an extremely low admission rate, even for students who meet all its requirements, or it might simply be a school where your statistics are slightly below the usual range. Don’t sell yourself short. Outstanding essays or letters of recommendation might nudge you onto the “accepted” list.