College Changes Everything VISTA positions available

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An educated workforce is vital for the continued economic prosperity of Iowa communities.  Employers in all industries have an increasing need for skilled and educated workers.  Only 41 percent of Iowa’s 1.6 million working-age adults (25-64 years old) have two or four-year degrees1, while more than six in 10 jobs in the state will require postsecondary credentials by 2018.2 Iowa’s economic future depends on us producing more college graduates—a task more effectively tackled at the local level in our communities rather than by the state as a whole.

Increasing college attainment leads to stronger local and state economies. Iowa’s economic future depends on us producing more college graduates. An increase of one-percent in degree attainment leads to a two-percent increase in a community’s economic growth.3

College Changes Everything is based on the premise that sustained change is only possible through cross-sector coordination. Relationships based on shared responsibility and trust, development of a common agenda, shared measurement of goals, effective communication and mutual reinforcement of activities among all participants are key to successfully increase college attainment at the community level. Building upon the existing initiatives and resources currently available in our communities, College Changes Everything™ leverages the strengths and long-term plans of each participating organization. Ground-level legwork of VISTA volunteers, access to data and training and strategic assistance for community leaders provided by Iowa College Aid and other state and national experts fuel the movement to meet the community’s higher education goals and raise educational attainment statewide.

Initial leadership for the College Changes Everything initiative has been identified in the cities of Burlington, Council Bluffs, Marshalltown and Waterloo. To build momentum at the grass roots level, Iowa College Aid has received approval for six VISTA member positions, to be embedded in organizations in each targeted community. Each VISTA will be responsible for building support of the College Changes Everything movement, coordinating College Application Campaigns and FAFSA Completion projects at high schools in his or her respective community. Other VISTA member responsibilities will be based on the community’s specific needs.

Learn more about these six available AmeriCorps VISTA positions and apply!

 

[1] Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (June 2010). The Midwest Challenge: Matching Jobs with Education in the Post-Recession Economy.
[1] Lumina Foundation (June 2013). A Stronger Iowa through Higher Education.
[1] Iowa Workforce Development (2013). Iowa’s Workforce and the Economy.
 
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Finding an internship that is the right fit for you

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Every spring, many employers begin the hiring process for summer interns. Even if your degree program does not have an internship graduation requirement, there are numerous benefits working as an intern provides. Not only is an internship a great way to test out possible careers, it is also an ideal way to take the knowledge you have gained as a student and put it into action. An internship will also provide you access to professional networks and connections that could help you land a job.

Internships can be found be found through online sites such as Internships.com, InternMatch and Linkedin, or through professional networks and college job boards. However, finding an internship that is a good fit for you and your future career goals can be difficult. Here are a few tips for finding an internship that is the right fit for you.

Determine your future career goals – Deeply consider what work you would like to do after graduation and determine your future career goals. By knowing more definitely where you want to end up, you will be better able to analyze internship descriptions and know if the work with help you get there.

Utilize your network – Tell your network of friends, family and professors about your goals and what type of internship you are looking for. A network is ideal for spreading the word and connecting you with the right people and organizations.

Volunteer first – By volunteering for an organization prior to applying for an internship, you can get an idea of the type of work you would be doing as an intern. If that work is not something you would be interested in or will not help you meet your career goals, you can begin the process of looking elsewhere.

Express your goals to your supervisor and negotiate – In many cases, an internship may not provide you with the opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the field that interests you. In these cases, explain your goals and interests to your supervisor and ask if you can assist or get more involved with projects that involve these interests. Chances are your supervisor will be impressed by your willingness to learn and find ways to involve you more in these areas.

If you can’t find one, create one – If you still can’t find an internship that is the right fit for you, create it yourself! Determine what type of work you would like to do and find an organization that is willing to allow you to do it. While you may have to volunteer your time with the organization while performing this work, the experience and skills you gain from the experience could be well worth your time.

Final Days for Submissions in the IFLiP Video CLiP Challenge

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There is still time to submit a video and win a $1,000 technology grant for your school and $250 for a team of students!

Iowa College Aid and EverFi, Inc. have teamed up again this year to sponsor the IFLiP Video CLiP Challenge! The challenge is an opportunity for students to put their creativity to work and create a short video designed to educate their peers about financial literacy concepts. Video entries may not exceed three minutes in length and must be submitted no later than Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 11:59 a.m. along with the Video Submission Form and Name and Image Release Form. Students who submit the winning video will receive $250 for the team to share and a $1,000 technology grant for their school! Submissions should be sent to julie.ntem@iowa.gov.

If you have any questions, please visit our website or call us at 877-272-4456.

Choosing an online university

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With more and more content now available online, it is no wonder many colleges and universities are turning to online programs to better serve their students. Earning an education online can be the perfect solution for students who are unable to attend classes during traditional times or reside in remote areas. However, it is important that students do their research on an institution prior to enrolling.

Follow these tips to ensure that you are doing everything you can to make your online educational experience is a positive one.

  • Make sure the college or university is regionally accredited – Accreditation tells students and employers that an institution or a program within an institution meets specific academic standards. While there are national accrediting agencies, (ACICS, ACCSC), they typically accredit technical/career schools. You can use the U.S. Department of Education Accreditation Database to ensure the institution you enroll in is regionally accredited. For more information on accreditation, check out Best practices for transfer students.
  • Verify that your credits will transfer – If you think you may transfer your online credits to another college or university in the future, keep in mind that all schools have the right to establish their own transfer of credit policies. Do your research on the school you plan to transfer to and make sure the institution will accept all credits you earn from the online school. For more information on transfer of credits, read Best practices for transfer students.
  • Curriculum and licensure – There are many fields that require workers to hold a license, such as teaching, social work, occupational therapy, mental health counseling among others. If you plan to earn a degree in a field that requires licensure, be certain that the institution in which you enroll provides curriculum that qualifies you for that license. It is important to contact the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau before enrolling in the program to determine if that education will qualify you for a license in your chosen profession. If you are interested in attending an online school to become a teacher, school principal or other school professional, your first step should be to contact the Iowa Board of Education Examiners.
  • Student support services – There may come a time when you need academic assistance, which can be tricky when you are not physically on campus and aren’t able to speak with people in person. Do your research to find out what level of student support the institution offers to online students. Contact the school and ask in-depth questions about their distance support services. Their responsive to your questions may be a good indication of the level of support you would receive as an online student.
  • Graduation rate – It is always a good idea to know the graduation rate of a school prior to enrolling. This rate will give you a better idea of how successful the school is at retaining its undergraduates. The College Navigator is an excellent source for finding a school’s graduation rate.
  • Default rate in the Stafford Loan Program – Be sure to check out a school’s default rate in the Stafford Loan Program. If graduates of the institution default, or fail to repay their student loans at a high rate, it could be an indicator that students are not finishing their programs, are unable to find employment in their fields or are not satisfied with their program. The national default rate in the Stafford Loan Program is 10%. If a school’s rate is significantly higher than the national average, you may wish to search for additional options to consider.

New financial regulations will also help to protect students at for-profit, nonprofit and public institutions by ensuring they have access to information about on-time graduation rates, cost of attendance and median loan debt of students in technical programs for specific occupations. Learn more here.

Best practices for transfer students

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With education now available in a variety of forms, it is becoming more common for students to transfer colleges. While some students opt to earn credits from a community college before transferring to a four-year institution, others may decide to transfer as they find the flexibility of an online program more conducive to their lifestyle. Whatever the reason, it is important for you to make sure your credit hours will transfer prior to enrolling in an institution, even if you don’t foresee transferring at the moment.

Here are some general guidelines for determining if your credits will transfer.

  • Make sure the school you plan to attend is properly accredited. There are regionally accredited schools and nationally accredited schools. While both types of accreditation are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, in many cases, regionally-accredited schools will accept transfers of credit only from other regionally-accredited schools.
  • Keep your grades up. Many schools won’t accept transfer credits if low grades were earned. If you earned a letter grade lower than a C – in a course, chances are those credit hours will not transfer to another institution.
  • Keep in mind that all schools have the right to establish their own transfer of credit policies. The school you plan to attend has the authority to determine which, if any, credits you earned from a prior school will transfer.
  • Some institutions put a limit on the number or type of credit hours they will accept. It is not uncommon for institutions to put a limit on the amount of credit hours they will allow a student to transfer in from another school. Be certain you know if there is a limit and what that limit is before you transfer.
  • Credit hours awarded for life experience, not-for-credit courses, workshops or seminars are unlikely to transfer. When registering for courses you plan to transfer in the future, be aware that credits for pass/fail courses or other not-for-credit work may not transfer. In addition, courses taken at non-collegiate institutions such as government agencies, corporations and firms may not transfer.
  • If you know you will be transferring from a community college to a four-year institution, read the institution’s policy on transfer credit hours prior to enrolling in classes at the community college. Look for community colleges that have established written arrangements with 4-year colleges and universities to accept credits earned at the community college.
  • Do not rely solely on an unofficial transcript evaluation to determine how much of a new school’s program you must complete. Some schools offer initial, unofficial transcript evaluations based on copies of transcripts from a prior school that the student has in his or her possession. You may wish to delay your registration and attendance in classes at a new school until you receive an official transcript evaluation from the new school so you know exactly how much of the program you will be required to complete. This will provide an accurate picture of how much more it will cost you to complete that program. However, the official evaluation most often occurs after the school has received an official transcript directly from the prior institution. Keep in mind that some schools will not release an official transcript if you have any unpaid bills or outstanding charges.
  • Graduation Rate. It is always a good idea to know the graduation rate of a school prior to enrolling. This rate will give you a better idea of how successful the school is at retaining its undergraduates. The College Navigator is an excellent source for finding a school’s graduation rate.
  • Default rate in the Stafford Loan Program. Be sure to check out a school’s default rate in the Stafford Loan Program. If graduates of the institution default, or fail to repay their student loans at a high rate, it could be an indicator that students are not finishing their programs, are unable to find employment in their fields or are not satisfied with their program. You can check a school’s Stafford Loan default rate here.

Finding a summer job

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For many high school and college students, holding a summer job can matter more than you think! Summer jobs provide the perfect opportunity to boost your resume and can help you begin to figure out what career is right for you, all while earning money for college expenses!

While competing with other students for these seasonal positions can be intimidating, we have a few tips that may help you land the perfect summer job!

  1. Clean up your social media – Cleaning up your social media accounts is the best place to start when job searching, especially for local positions. Ensure that your social media settings are not open to the public so that potential employers are not able to see your full profile. In addition, make sure that any embarrassing or distasteful photos, posts and comments are removed. You never know which one of your social media followers is friends with a potential employer.
  2. Start the hunt early – Don’t wait until the first day of summer to start researching job opportunities as many employers will have already completed their hiring. By looking for jobs early in the spring, you will guarantee yourself more options.
  3. Get the word out – Once you begin looking for a job, get the word out that you are on the hunt. Ask your parents to talk to friends and co-workers, talk to your teachers, school counselors, coaches and friends to see if they know of any opportunities. All of these connections could turn you on to prospective job opportunities.
  4. Use you resources – In addition to getting the word out that you are looking for a job, there are many sites online that can help you find a great summer job. Iowa Youth Jobs is a great place to start!
  5. Create a résumé – Even if you have no previous work experience, your résumé can include any extracurricular activities, volunteer work and coursework. Each of these experiences likely provided you with skills and knowledge that make you an efficient employee, so don’t leave these information out!
  6. Consider key words and phrases – When filling out an application, make sure that you use key words and phrases from the job description to describe your talents and experiences. By doing this, you’ll show potential employers how well you fit the description of what they are looking for.
  7. Prepare for an interview – Mock interviews are a great way to prepare for a job interview. Teachers, parents and friends can help you by asking you a list of frequently asked interview questions. Use this time to get to know your strengths and how you can best highlight them in an interview.
  8. Demonstrate your soft skills – Soft skills refer to qualities that allow someone to interact well with others. This might include having a good work ethic, positive attitude, effective communications skills, willingness to learn, flexibility, time-management and the ability to take criticism. These characterizes are something all employers desire in potential employees. Use the interview to show a potential employer your soft skills!
  9. Be professional – Before you leave for your interview, make sure you are dressed professionally. Even if the dress code for employees is casual, show a potential employer that you care about making an impression by dressing professionally. In addition, make sure all emails and correspondence with the potential employers are appropriate and professional.
  10. Apply for jobs you know will be there the following summer – If you held a job the previous summer, chances are your employer will be willing to hire you on again if you performed your duties well. Before you leave the job at the end of the summer, be sure to express interest to your employer about working for them the following summer. If you haven’t held a job before, try to look for work that you know will be there the following summer so that you have potential to return.

Don’t Let Spring Break ‘Break the Bank’

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With spring just around the corner, many college students are looking forward to that time-honored, rite of passage – spring break.  However, before planning for a week of bliss on an exotic beach, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission (Iowa College Aid) urges students to consider the financial burden an excursion such as this could potentially create.  Iowa students graduate with average student loan debt nearing $30,000, so piling on a thousand or two more for a fun-filled trip with friends is not the soundest financial decision.

To help students enjoy their break without breaking the bank, Iowa College Aid offers the following spring break tips:

1.) Set a budget – Create a budget that your bank account can handle.  As you plan, make certain that your travel, overnight, food, and additional expenses are covered within your budget.

2.) Stay local – When deciding upon a spring break location, consider sites and cities that are local. Airfare and gas costs can add up quickly, but by reducing the distance you are traveling you can save money and also have more time to relax!

3.) Do your research – Research hotels, campsites, and other overnight options to ensure that you are getting the most for your money. Waiting until the last minute to make these arrangements could cost you.

4.) Travel on less-traveled days and times – Consider traveling on days and at times that are less heavily traveled by others. According to independenttraveler.com, Monday afternoon through Thursday morning is generally less traveled. By booking a flight or filling up your gas tank on these days you will likely spend less than you would on a Friday through Sunday. If you intend to fly to your destination, plan to catch a flight in the morning as flights at this time tend to be significantly cheaper than those that take off later in the day.

5.) Pack well – By packing necessary items like your sunscreen and other gear you can avoid the additional cost of purchasing these items once you get to your destination.

6.) Consider driving – Airfare can be costly, so before jetting off to your dream destination, consider organizing a carpool with friends to cut down on cost.

7.) Buy groceries – Save on the cost of food by purchasing groceries when you arrive instead dining out for each meal. Try to eat in for at least two meals each day to dramatically cut back on food costs.

8.) Cut coupons – During the weeks leading up to your trip, be on the lookout for coupons and group deals. Be sure to check out sites such as restaurant.com and groupon.com to find deals online!

9.) Bring your Student ID – Many restaurants, theaters, and museums offer student discounts so be sure to pack your student ID! Don’t be afraid to ask if there is a student discount available before you pay for anything!

10.) Don’t take out loans for the trip – If you can’t afford to go on the trip without taking out students loans or charging it to your credit card, pass on the trip for this year. Instead, stay home and plan out a budget so that you can go on a trip next year!

11.) Participate in a volunteer opportunity – If spring break at home doesn’t sound appealing, look for volunteer opportunities that allow you to travel, expenses paid, in exchange for your work. Not only will you get to experience a new place, you will have the chance to meet new people, help those less fortunate and build your resume!

“Decisions students make while in college have a lasting impact on their financial futures,” stated Misjak.  “We hope these tips help college students make smart and informed decisions.”  More information about Iowa College Aid and its products and services that help Iowa families plan, prepare and pay for college can be found at www.IowaCollegeAid.gov or by calling 877-272-4456.