College Advice

November is National Scholarship Month!

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The National Scholarship Providers Association has declared November to be National Scholarship Month, which serves as a time to raise awareness of scholarship opportunities and encourage students to seek those opportunities. Scholarships are a form of financial aid that is completely free and will never have to be repaid by students. November is an ideal time for students to begin searching and applying for scholarships. Each post this month will be dedicated to an aspect of the scholarship process.

Sources for scholarships include: federal and state governments, private companies and institutions, community organizations, non- profit groups, colleges and universities among others. To qualify for government-funded aid, students need to file the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 and the Iowa Financial Aid Application.

Iowa College Aid administers state-funded scholarships and grants as well as some that are not funded through state appropriations. These include:



All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant
GEAR UP Iowa Scholarship Education & Training Voucher (ETV) Grant
Governor Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship Iowa Barber & Cosmetology Arts and Sciences Tuition Grant
Robert D. Blue Scholarship Iowa Grant
Iowa National Guard Educational Assistance Program (NGEAP)
Iowa Tuition Grant
Iowa Vocational-Technical Grant
Kibbie Grant

To find even more sources of scholarships, students should check with their high school counselor and contact the financial aid offices of colleges and universities he or she is interested in, and investigate scholarships from local community organizations, businesses and places of worship.

There are many online scholarship search tools students can take advantage of as well to find private scholarships. Such tools include a scholarship finder in the student’s I Have A Plan Iowa® account, FastWeb, Big Future, College Greenlight and the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop.

Begin searching today for scholarships, these are FREE money, and check back each Wednesday this month for more tips on getting scholarships!


National Preparedness Month: Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare!

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National Preparedness Month

September is known as National Preparedness Month – Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare –in which the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages everyone to be aware of what their organization, workplace or school’s disaster plan is. FEMA also invites everyone to take part in America’s PrepareAthon! on September 30. In honor of this event, Iowa College Aid is providing safety tips from   Angie Jewett, Emergency Manager at Iowa State University .

“For a lot of college students this is their first time being out on their own, many have had someone looking out for the best interest,” stated Jewett.  “Now they have much more of a personal responsibility for their own safety that they need to be aware of.”

As part of this personal responsibility for safety, students need to seek out local and on-campus resources for emergency services.

“Students need to know where they can find safety resources. I encourage all students to follow local law enforcement and their school’s department of environmental health on social media to find information,” said Jewett.

College students should also pay attention to the emergency exit plans posted in each and every building and public venue they frequent.

“Regardless of what building you’re in, always know at least two different ways to exit that building. This is essential for not just your residence hall, but also classrooms, local restaurants you frequent and more. Always be aware of how to get out of building safely, or where to go inside of the building for safety, “advised Jewett.

Join in the conversation on September 30 using #NatlPrep and by following @Readygov and @PrepareAthon!

September is College Savings Month!

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2014-04-29 09.31.16September is known nationally as College Savings Month, and State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald encourages all Iowans to celebrate! In honor of College Savings Month, College Savings Iowa will be giving away one $5,290 account this fall. Interested participants can learn more and register to win by visiting College Savings Iowa’s website.

Iowa College Aid would also like to take this opportunity to remind students of the importance of keeping student loan debt as low as possible and making wise financial decisions throughout their college career. We encourage students to take the following advice, courtesy of Clarke University Financial Aid Office.

  • Don’t take on credit card debt – It gets ugly quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask LOTS of questions.
  • Understand that figuring out financial aid (or financing) is NOT just your parents’ responsibility.  You need to know what is going on.
  • Be aware PRIOR To starting school how you plan to pay your bills – don’t wait until the day of registration for the next semester to figure it out.
  • Get to know the financial aid staff on campus – they’re not scary – they work in higher education because they LIKE to work with students!
  • Don’t take out a bunch of loans to “live on”- pay your school bills with your financial aid, but get a job to pay for your lifestyle choices.
  • Know aid limits – loans and grants have limits – know what yours are before you decide to stay in school longer.


For further money management tips and financial aid advice, visit our website or call 877-272-3464.

Get Advice from Current Iowa College Students!

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2014-04-29 11.09.15For college freshmen, the start of the fall term marks the next step of their education and future career! Starting college can be overwhelming and confusing, so take some time to look over these words of wisdom from Iowa students. What’s the best piece of college advice you’ve received, or most important lesson you’ve learned in your own college career? Share in the comments!

“I studied abroad the fall semester of my junior year, which was easily the best decision I have made since attending college. During my time abroad I learned so much about being independent, but then also about the world outside of the U.S.A.” Rachel Phillips, Coe College

“DO YOUR HOMEWORK. In college, there are deadlines that every teacher will enforce….And last but not least, be willing to research. Put in the time on your studies and remember this formula if nothing else: each class requires two hours of study time. Some require more because of the research and creativity involved.” Daniel Joyce, Northeast Iowa Community College

“Clubs and organizations are the key to meeting new and interesting people that share your interests, and they definitely have provided me with some of the most exciting experiences that I have partaken in thus far. Take full advantage of all that your college or university has to offer. Clubs, organizations and events really allow you to discover where your heart’s true passion lies and enrich your college experience to its maximum potential, not to mention all of the amazing friends that you will meet and great leadership experience you’ll gain! I can’t stress it enough; you won’t regret taking opportunities when they arise in college!” Paige Taylor, Iowa State University

“Make time for your parents when they come to see you. You’ll have plenty of Friday and Saturday nights to hang out with friends or go to a party, but your parents spent the better half of their lives getting you to where you are today-you owe it to them to build your schedule around their visit. Besides, having your parents in town usually means free food for you.” Justin Dwyer, Drake University

“I learned that you cannot plan your life to the ‘T,’ but you have to take chances with the opportunities that are available to you.” Kelsey Fredricks, Buena Vista University

Use Campus Visits to Pick the Right School For You!

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2014-04-29 14.16.09One of the best ways to determine if a college is the right fit for you is to visit the campus. Your college education is a long term investment, so choose wisely! By touring the campus, you’ll get a feel for college life and if you can picture yourself at that school. Try some of the following suggestions to get the most out of college visits.

Record your experiences. Take a few minutes after each visit to jot down or type out your thoughts on the campus. After awhile all your visits will start to blend together, so keep track of each visit as it happens to make your choice easier later on.

Read the student newspaper. One of the best ways to get a feel for the on-campus culture is to read the student newspaper. This will also be a chance to find out the issues current students are dealing with and what they find important.

Explore the town and nightlife. If possible, spend the night in the town and check out local attractions, shopping centers, museums, festivals – ask current students for suggestions. Every town has a certain attraction or restaurant it’s well known for so start there!

Take a self-guided tour. Take advantage of all the activities of a planned visit, however, take some time to venture around campus without the guide. Revisit spots you didn’t get enough time during the tour, venture in buildings that house majors you’re interested in and take time to see how being on campus feels for you.

Visit a professor in your intended major. Make an appointment to visit a professor in your future major, or a major that interests you, during your visit. The professor can answer many specific questions related to your plan of study, give you a department tour and possibly let you sit in on one of his or her classes.



Don’t Let the Second Half of Summer Go to Waste!

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As August draws near2014-04-29 13.44.04, take a look at what you’ve done with summer so far. Are you all prepared for classes in the fall? Have you learned any new skills or explored new hobbies? There are still plenty of chances to take advantage of all that free time before college begins!

Volunteer. Not only can this experience be eye-opening and personally fulfilling, you can use volunteer work as a chance to gain experience in your field of choice. Interested in studying English or teaching? Try your hand at tutoring an ESL student or read during the library’s children’s story hour. Want to go into communications or marketing? Ask a nonprofit if you can assist in running their social media accounts or designing materials. Get creative and check out online resources to find volunteer opportunities, such as Volunteer Iowa and Volunteer Match.

Learn a new skill.  Whether it is a new language, software program or instrument, summer is a great time to pick up a new talent. There may be cheap classes available through your local community college or an online organization; however there are also hundreds of free resources for learning a new skill. Utilize YouTube tutorials, blogs and online learning communities. Some places to begin that offer useful skills for your college career include:

Take a road trip with friends. Chances are most of your friends won’t be going to the same college as you. Use summer as a chance to learn how to get to each other’s future school and where each of your friends will be living. This is a great opportunity to not only build more memories before everyone moves, but to figure out the boring, yet necessary details of visiting such as where you’ll have to park.

Enjoy the rest of summer and take the time to learn something new!