New to a College Campus? Make a Smoother Adjustment With These Tips!

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For new college students, the excitement of the first few days on campus can quickly turn to anxiety over meeting new people, being away from home for possibly the first time, finding ways to stay involved and balancing it all with school work. While some might find themselves paralyzed with options, having a gameplan on how to make the adjustment to college can make all the difference in starting on the right foot toward success.


Iowa College Aid’s “Your Course to College” guide offers tips for high school students preparing for college as well as advice on how to hit the ground running once they get there. This free guide is available for order or download on the Iowa College Aid website, but to help those students looking to blaze a trail at their new campus, here are some tips on how to make the most out of the early days on a college campus and some of the changes that students will face:

Four Differences Between High School and College
  1. Managing Time
    In college, your days are not as routine and predictable as they were in high school. You might be in class just a few hours a day. Some students struggle with their newfound freedom. You’ll be expected to make your own schedule and keep up with your classes, activities and work.
  2. Academic Expectations
    You might fall behind if you simply maintain the level of effort that got you through high school. Plan on studying two to three hours outside class for every hour in class. Don’t expect your professor to seek you out if you aren’t doing well. It is up to you to find resources and to ask for help.
  3. Responsibility
    Your parents will not be there to wake you in the morning. Your professors won’t make sure you are keeping up with required reading and assignments. It is your responsibility to follow the class syllabus. Sometime the syllabus is the only notification you’ll receive about quizzes and assignments.
  4. Relationships
    You had years to get comfortable with your high school friends. It’s all new in college. It is an adjustment, and relationships take time to develop.
How to Get Involved on Campus

Much of your college experience will happen outside the classroom. Although studies should be your top priority, getting involved on campus is a great way to ease the transition into college and build your resume.

  • Meet new people
    Join a club or organization to make friends and network with those who have similar interests, goals and values.
  • Get Real-world experience
    Career-related organizations offer an excellent opportunity to build leadership, communication and teamwork skills.
  • Build connections
    Campus involvement often creates a stronger connection to your school. This will increase your college satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of transferring or dropping out.
  • Find your balance
    Campus involvement teaches you to find balance between your schoolwork and activities—a skill that will serve you in your professional career as well.
Get to Know Your Advisor

One of your most essential resources is your academic advisor. While their main task is assisting you in registering for classes, advisors can provide a wealth of knowledge regarding classes, graduation requirements, internships, job hunting and industry contacts. Here’s how to get the most from your appointments.

  • Schedule in Advance
    Advisors are busy. Email well before the date you want an appointment and be flexible. Realize that your advisor has other students to meet with in addition to teaching courses and conducting research.
  • Don’t be a Stranger
    Get to know your advisor so he or she can take your interests into account when making suggestions. Topics to cover might include insight into different professors, scheduling suggestions and goal planning. Your advisor is also a great person to write letters of recommendation.
  • Be Prepared
    Have a list of questions with you and write down the answers. When you are prepared, your academic advisor can readily point you to critical information, help you understand administrative processes and academic programs and connect you to valuable resources.
  • Share your Concerns
    Let your advisor know if you are having trouble adjusting or struggling with a class. Your advisor can put you in touch with campus resources including tutoring, financial aid, scholarships and ways to get involved. He or she can also provide tips for transitioning to college classroom learning and help you to balance your time.

Understanding The College and Degree You Need to Succeed In Your Career

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Iowa College Aid’s “Your Course to College” is hot off the presses and the free publication is ready for download or order on our website. To celebrate it’s release, we’re highlighting some of the content from this guide created to help students and families down the path through high school through college.

This week, a look at the different types of college and degrees available to students after completing high school. Knowing the kind of career a student might want to pursue after high school will help them determine how much college they need and what degrees will be needed for success in that field.

We’ve also put together a video highlighting the degrees needed for different careers to further helps students and families, which can be found here.


Types of College:

Public Universities

Iowa has three public universities, also called Regent universities: The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. Each offers bachelor’s degree (four-year) programs as well as advanced degrees (master’s, doctoral and professional). As state institutions, they receive funding from the state of Iowa to reduce tuition costs for in-state students.

Private, Nonprofit Colleges & Universities

Private, nonprofit colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs, and many also offer advanced degrees. Private colleges and universities are often smaller and offer lower student-to-faculty ratios than public universities. While they do not receive direct state support, many have endowments that allow them to offer institutional grants and scholarships, in addition to federal and state financial aid programs, to help offset higher published tuition costs.

Private, For-profit Colleges & Universities

For-profit, or proprietary, colleges and universities are privately owned and operated to generate a profit. These educational businesses often offer technical and pre-professional programs but might also offer associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

2-Year Public Community Colleges

Iowa’s 15 community college districts include schools offering associate degree (two-year) programs as well as diplomas and certificates for graduates of vocational programs (often less than two years). Tuition and fees are typically lower and admission requirements less stringent than for four-year colleges and universities. Many students start at a community college and transfer to a four-year college or university.

Career, Vocational & Technical Schools

These institutions can be public or private, although many are for-profit. They typically offer programs to prepare for a specific occupation or trade. Training options include computer technology, cosmetology, medical assistance, automotive repair and paralegal studies. The time to complete a program depends on your course of study, but can range from a few months to several years.

Distance & Flexible Learning

If the traditional classroom experience is not feasible or practical for you, look into distance education and flexible learning opportunities, including online, evening, weekend and accelerated programs.

Types of Training and Degrees


Registered Apprenticeships

A Registered Apprenticeship provides 2,000 hours of on-the-job learning and at least 144 hours of related instruction. Most employers cover the cost of education, and you earn a paycheck while you learn. Registered Apprenticeships are available in these industries: construction, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, information technology, financial services, health care, transportation, energy, advanced manufacturing, and food and beverage preparation. In Iowa, the average yearly wage is $60,820 after a Registered Apprenticeship. Just as you apply for a job, you apply with the company or business that sponsors the apprenticeship. Your local IowaWORKS Center ( can help you explore options.

Certificates and Diplomas

Certificate and diploma programs focus on particular skills for specific careers. Certificates can generally be completed in a year or less and diplomas in two years or less at a community college, career/technical/business college or some four-year colleges. Career examples: paralegal, cosmetologist, welder, chef, certified nursing assistant, radiological technician.

Associate Degrees

Associate degrees can usually be earned in two years (sometimes less) at a community college or some career/technical/business colleges and four-year colleges. Some associate degrees can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. Career examples: dental hygienist, administrative assistant, registered nurse, veterinary technician, auto mechanic.

Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree typically takes at least four years at any four-year college or university. Career examples: teacher, engineer, accountant, dietitian, social worker.

Advanced Degrees

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you might pursue an advanced degree such as a master’s, doctoral or professional degree. An advanced degree can take several years, depending on the type. Career examples: dentist, lawyer, veterinarian, pharmacist, psychologist, college professor and medical doctor.

Your Course to College: Finding Funds for School

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For families and high school students, having a good gameplan for getting to, paying for and succeeding in college is valuable. That’s why we’re here to help.

Iowa College Aid’s annual “Your Course to College” guide will ship to schools and families later this month, but we’re taking the opportunity to preview some highlights and some of our favorite tips found in the guide. This week, tips to finding the best sources of funding for your college education. To find more previews and sign up to receive your copy of “Your Course to College” in print or download, visit our “Your Course to College” page at

There are many ways to pay for a college education, and the financial aid process is not as complicated as most people think. Most students attending Iowa colleges and universities receive some form of financial assistance.

Coins in jar with college fund label

After you submit your college applications, complete these four steps:

1. Submit the FAFSA

To qualify for most financial aid, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The fastest and most accurate way to apply is online at The FAFSA will gather information about your finances, your family’s finances and your college plans. You can complete the FAFSA for 2018-19 beginning October 1, 2017, using 2016 tax information.

2. Submit the Iowa Financial Aid Application

The Iowa Financial Aid Application allows you to apply for multiple state-administered aid programs with one application. Click the Iowa Financial Aid Application button at

3. Decide on a College and Accept Aid

All colleges that you list on your FAFSA will send you a financial aid award letter if you are offered admission. Award letters will describe the financial aid package each college can offer. When comparing aid packages, consider how much assistance is from scholarships and grants (which do not have to be repaid) and how much is from loans (which must be repaid).

To accept the financial aid package offered by a college or university, follow all instructions. This might involve entering aid amounts you intend to accept in an online form or signing and returning a paper award letter by a specified deadline. Talk to the financial aid office at the college or university if an unusual circumstance delays your response.

To officially accept a college admissions offer and reserve your place, submit your deposit by the college’s reply date. May 1 is the date for most colleges.

4. Apply for Scholarships

Continue seeking and applying for outside scholarships. Think of it as a part-time job. If you spend 20 hours on scholarship applications and receive one worth $1,000, you just made $50 an hour for your efforts!

Reputable education organizations will NOT charge for scholarship searches.

Your Course to College: How to Rock Campus Visits

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With helpful tips on preparing for, and succeeding in college, Iowa College Aid’s annual “Your Course to College” has become a valuable resource for students, families and high school counselors throughout Iowa. The 2017-18 edition of “Your Course to College” will be available later this month, so we’re taking the opportunity to preview some highlights and some of our favorite tips found in the guide. This week, ways to research college visits and get the most out of your trip to a prospective campus. To find more previews and sign up to receive your copy of “Your Course to College” in print or download, visit our “Your Course to College” page at

Visiting a college is the best way to find out if a particular school is the right fit for your future. Attending a college that doesn’t meet your academic, financial and personal needs can create real challenges to achieving your educational and career goals. While a campus tour won’t tell you everything you need to know when trying to determine college fit, it will go a long way to letting you know both what college is like and what life would be like for you on that campus. Here are some tips to get the most out of your college visit:

  • Some colleges might be too far away. Start with virtual campus tours. Check the college’s website or look into online sites such as and
  • Take a campus tour, check out housing options and explore the surrounding area.
  • Schedule a visit with the financial aid office.
  • Get a feel for college life by eating in a campus cafeteria and staying overnight in campus housing.
  • Sit in on a class that interests you.
  • Talk to a professor in your intended field of study.
  • Ask current students about campus life.
  • Read the campus newspaper.
  • Visit with advisors and members of clubs and activities that interest you.
  • Document each visit, including any feelings you have.

Becoming #FutureProof: GEAR UP Student Leaders Embrace National Conference

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Each year, the annual GEAR UP Youth Leadership Conference brings together GEAR UP students from around the country in an opportunity to engage with each other, learn from their shared experiences and gain an insight to overcoming the challenges that come with preparing for college. Armed with this knowledge, GEAR UP Youth Leaders return to their schools as an example of how to build a college-going culture, showing classmates how everyone can succeed.

Sioux City High School student Rylie Maliszewski served as one of Iowa’s GEAR UP Youth Leaders. Having returned recently from the conference, she shares her experience and the impact that participating has had on her college and educational outlook.

This past week I attended the GEAR UP Youth Leadership Conference in San Francisco, California. I was able to attend this conference thanks to my GEAR UP advisors and coordinators, my wonderful parents, and my mentor, Ms. Ford. Thanks to their hard work and my own, I met so many wonderful people and learned so many new skills that I will use forever. I am beyond grateful for this experience. I met many life long friends at the conference! Many of whom I have talked to everyday since the conference ended. I am so blessed to have been one of 150 students around the nation at this conference. Now that I am home, I want to reflect and share my amazing experience!

On the morning of July 16, my family and I woke up at 2 a.m. to head to Omaha. It was my first time flying and I was very nervous. Luckily, the flight was very smooth and our flight was about an hour shorter than they thought. The view was amazing and I even spotted a waterfall during the flight.


This conference was different than many others.

About a month before the conference began a Facebook group was created. This gave us a chance to meet and engage with other students around the nation attending. A few weeks after a friend of mine created a messenger group, which allowed us all to be ourselves and not worry about being formal. Soon after I created a Snap Chat group which mainly had students who did not have Facebook on it so myself and a few other student could help spread important news! Later on we decided to do group video chats about once a week leading up to the conference. This first chat had about six to seven and our last chat had about 10 to 12.


These video chats allowed us to put names to faces which I believed was really cool and, thanks to the Facebook and SnapChat groups, we all recognized each other as the conference began. It was absolutely amazing how close a lot of us were already without actually meeting in person. I even saw a few people before the conference even began.

The first night we did a lot of icebreakers. The following morning at breakfast we had an amazing plenary speaker, Hill Harper, who starred on “CSI: New York,” one of my favorite shows. He talked a lot about the importance of school systems, districts, officials and more, to listen to what the students need from the students and not from outside sources. His speech was truly amazing and very relatable. Monday we worked a lot on making a match between values and behaviors. We also worked on the importance of storytelling and learned the steps in telling a great story. We even had a singing battle.


Tuesday came with a lot of fun. We learned about the importance of living “about the line” and also worked on creating our large presentation for the last breakfast plenary. I helped others make their story as best as it could be. Many worked on a skit and the “Show Me What You Got” box. At the end of the night we did a really amazing and touching activity involving our biggest fears and struggles in life and vowing to not let “them” bother us and get to us anymore. It was cool “breaking” my fear/struggle and watching others do the same.

Wednesday was a very sad day for many of us. I had made so many amazing friends from the social media groups and beyond. Our presentation was truly mesmerizing and I was so glad to be a part of it. All of us were so supportive of one another.

After our group presentation, we wrapped things up and said goodbye. During our goodbye and thank you to everyone, I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the room. Every day at this conference felt like a party, we had so many dance parties and battles. I truly am grateful for this experience and the opportunity to meet amazing lifelong friends I miss them all dearly and really hope we will be able to do a reunion soon. I can’t wait to see how my fellow attendees and I use the skills we learned and how our futures end up.

Thank you GEAR UP Iowa for this amazing experience, one that I will never forget. Thank you for allowing my Mom to go with me as well. Thanks to this conference, I am Future Proof! #GEARUPWorks #GUCon


Be a College Application Ninja With These Three Summer Tips

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College applications can seem daunting. For many high school seniors, the process happens in a rush during their senior year as they apply to schools that they think they’d like, but haven’t taken the time to research.

By creating a college application strategy before senior year, students can more easily target the schools that best meet their educational plans. More importantly, it can help them move through the college application process more smoothly, avoiding the chaos thanks to the research and planning they’ve done ahead of time.

Incoming seniors looking to be college application ninjas (and those juniors… and even sophomores… who want to be even greater ninjas when their time comes) know that the work they put in now will put them that much farther ahead when it comes time to start the application process. Here are three tips to start students on the ninja path this summer:


School Fit is a Two-Way Street

Finding a school that best “fits” with a student’s needs is important. Aspects such as a school’s location, average class size and available programs of study can strongly influence whether or not a student will succeed in their future plans at that school. Taking the time to look deeper at a school’s programs will help students understand where they have the best chance to get the most out of their education.

But college isn’t just about what the student wants. It might seem like a basic idea, but often students apply to schools without having a strong understanding of the type of student that the school is seeking. It’s important to know if a student’s current grades, test scores and extra-curricular activities make them a good match for the schools where they are planning to apply. Conduct research to determine if students meet all the admissions requirements before starting the application process.

Have a List and Learn as Much as You Can

Once students have a list of target schools, getting to know more about a school can give the extra information that will help students decide whether or not to commit the time to apply. Campus tours are the best way to experience life on campus and summer offers the flexibility to turn travel into college research. For those campuses that might be farther away, virtual tours on college websites give a taste of what to expect.

Get Organized

To really hit the ground running in the fall, students should do a little prep work before starting applications. From creating application accounts with usernames and passwords and creating a timeline for campus visits, to researching any available college application fee waivers and making a master calendar of key financial aid and scholarship deadlines, having a game plan ahead of time will make the application process less chaotic.


Need Help With Summer Transition? These Resources Can Help

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For students making the transition from high school to college, nagging questions can turn into doubts. Left unchecked, those doubts can turn into the dreaded “summer melt,” where students who accept an offer to attend college don’t manage to make it to campus in the fall, for whatever reasons.

Those reasons can be abundant: From financial concerns and fears about academics to feeling overwhelmed by a larger campus or not knowing how and when to turn in housing applications, there are as many pitfalls for students transitioning to college as… well, there are students heading to college.

If you’re a student heading to college this fall, don’t let the changes ahead psych you out and take you off your game. College is an exciting time with new opportunities and there are many resources for helping with those questions and concerns you might have as you get ready to walk on to your new campus.

Here are some great places to look for answers, support and a confidence boost this summer:

Your College’s Financial Aid and Admissions Offices

Many students feel that once they’ve been accepted to a college that their next interaction with the school shouldn’t come until the fall. The truth is that financial aid and admissions offices are the perfect place to answer questions about tuition, fees, student aid, housing deadlines and more. Much of this will be covered at orientation (make sure that you sign up for it!), but if you have questions before then, a call to your school’s office can lead to a quick answer before it becomes a big issue.

Your College’s Student Organizations

Just as the school’s financial aid and admissions offices want to see prospective students succeed, so to do student organizations. Even though the school year is over, many organizations are already working to help embrace a new class of students, engaging in their community and working to make the transition to college easier. First-Generation students can especially look to these groups for support, advice and a chance to meet new people before even getting to campus. Having a familiar face when you get there makes the move to college that much easier.

Local Colleges

Many of the questions and concerns that students have during their summer transition aren’t unique to a particular campus. For more general questions, you can always call a local college to get insight to other resources or advice on how to move forward in the fall.

Local Organizations

Iowa College Aid’s “Course to College” program works to build community engagement in many towns throughout the state. That means that you may have a local organization in your own backyard that’s looking to help students making the transition from high school to college. Even if there isn’t a group in your town, reach out to local organizations such as United Way, your church or even a mentor or friend who has made the transition to college before you. They’re advice may have more in common with your concerns than you think.

Our Website 

Iowa College Aid’s website offers advice and answers for students facing any number of issues heading to college. From our blog to our video gallery, we can help students feel a little more secure about what awaits them in the fall.

Your Course to College

Iowa College Aid’s annual guide to preparing for, and succeeding in, college offers guidance of the steps that students can take before getting to school. More than that, the guide offers advice from college students on what to expect, as well as an example of average college student’s daily schedule. Getting a heads-up and hearing first-hand from other students can make a big difference in a student’s confidence.