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COLLEGE PREVIEW | Friday, February 24, 2012

Inside... Preparing for College Financial Aid Study Habits and more!



FEBRUARY 24, 2012

The importance of filling out the FAFSA In recognition of Financial Aid Awareness Month in February, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission (Iowa College Aid) wants to ensure all college-bound students know about the wealth of financial resources at their disposal when it comes to financing a college education. Governor Terry Branstad proclaimed February as Financial Aid Awareness Month to heighten awareness of the availability of financial aid for Iowa students. Financial Aid Awareness month is a reminder for students and parents to begin applying for financial aid for the 201213 academic year. “We would like to see every high school senior in Iowa file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),� stated Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid.

“Filing the FAFSA is a key component to increasing educational attainment in the state. Research indicates that 90 percent of students who file the FAFSA enroll in postsecondary education. Most families are eligible for some form of financial aid, but they need to apply early to meet the deadlines associated with different programs.� To start the financial aid process, students can complete the FAFSA online at The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal, state, and, in some cases, institutional aid. The FAFSA must be completed and received by the federal processing center no later than July 1, 2012 (earlier priority filing deadlines exist for certain programs) to be eligible for many of Iowa’s state-funded scholarships and grants. However, most colleges

and universities have earlier filing deadlines, so students should check with their college of choice to determine its

priority deadline for financial aid. To take advantage of all state-administered financial aid opportunities,

Iowa students need to complete the Iowa Financial Aid Application in addition to the FAFSA. While the application

can be accessed at I H a v e A P l a n I o w a . g o v, students who complete a FAFSA online and indicate Iowa residency will be offered a link on their FAFSA confirmation page which will direct them to the Iowa Financial Aid Application and pre-populate their demographic information. In 2011, the State of Iowa, through the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, assisted nearly 26,000 Iowa students through state-funded financial aid programs totaling more than $59 million. Families that have questions about applying for financial aid can contact Iowa College Aid at 877-272-4456. In addition, more information on products and services that help Iowa families plan, prepare and pay for college is available at Iowa College Aid’s website,

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FEBRUARY 24, 2012

10 resolutions for a college student Iowa College Aid is committed to helping Iowa's students achieve education beyond high school. To do that, students need to make smart financial choices along the way. Following is a list of financial resolutions especially for college students. Make a budget. Commit to creating a monthly budget and live within your budget each month. Utilize a calendar. A calendar is not just for plotting your class schedule, campus organizational meetings and social events. A calendar can be an effective tool for managing the due dates for your monthly bills - rent, cell phone bill, car payment or other expenses. Making note of due dates helps to ensure that you will not miss a payment and potentially harm your credit history. Shop around for text

books. Many bookstores, as well as online retailers, offer used textbooks at a lower cost than buying a “new” textbook. If you don’t want to keep your textbook for future reference after a class has concluded, consider renting a textbook for the semester. File the FAFSA ontime, every year. Will you be attending college during the 2012-13 academic year? If so, be sure to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to your college’s priority deadline. Doing so will ensure you are considered for all financial aid opportunities the school has to offer. Get a part-time job. A part-time job can allow you to meet your basic needs, as well as reducing the amount of student loans you need to borrow. Working 15 hours per week at a part-time job can

dramatically reduce your need for student loans to cover living expenses. Additionally, most colleges have numerous on-campus employment opportunities for students. Plan early for a summer internship. Visit your college’s career placement office and discuss your desire for an internship during the summer with a career advisor. Career advisors can provide informa-

tion about companies looking for interns, as well as information regarding career fairs on campus. Many internships pay a stipend or salary, which can help pay for expenses while you’re in college and can lead to a job after graduation. Know your financial aid options. Visit the financial aid office on your campus to check into scholarships and grants

available for next year. Be a savvy shopper. At the grocery store, opt for the store-brand product. It is often significantly cheaper than its namebrand counterpart, and the money you save can be used to pay interest on your student loans or keep you from having to borrow more loans next year. Protect your personal information. If you aren’t already, start safeguarding

your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers, along with any other non-public personal information. Shredding sensitive information will ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and can help protect you from identity theft. Separate needs from wants. Although it may seem like you need that morning latte from the local coffee house to start your day, the $3.50 you spend per day adds up to $1,277.50 per year. Make your financial choices based on what is necessary to meet your basic needs, and avoid wasting money and borrowing more to satisfy your wants. By resolving to do even a few of these things, you can set yourself up for a financially fit future. For more information, log onto

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Free ACT, SAT and GRE test prep provides personalized study plans Students can prepare for free at Spring test dates for the ACT and SAT, the two most commonly taken college admissions exams in the United States, are approaching. Whether taking an exam for the first time or retaking an exam for an improved score, students in Iowa don’t have to be intimidated. Students can boost their test-taking confidence by taking advantage of free test preparation resources available online at I Have A Plan Iowa Test Prep includes the following: ACT - Students can strengthen their knowledge in four subject areas - English, math, reading and science reasoning SAT - Students can build or refresh skills for the exam’s verbal and math sections GRE - Students can test

their core abilities in verbal, quantitative and analytical reasoning to prepare for this exam used by many graduate and business schools to evaluate readiness for graduatelevel work Vocabulary Builder Students can expand and improve their word power which is useful for all college admissions exams “We want to ensure that students are prepared for sustainable future careers in Iowa, and that requires additional education beyond high school,” stated Karen Misjak, executive director of the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. “College admissions exams, and the ACT in particular, measure academic skills taught in schools and are deemed important for success in first-year college courses.” She added that approximately 60 percent of

Iowa’s high school graduates have taken the ACT. By offering free test prep through I Have A Plan Iowa, cost is no longer a factor for students seeking every opportunity to prepare for these exams. By entering the date of the approaching exam, I Have A Plan Iowa Test Prep will personalize a study plan designed to make the most of the time available. I Have a Plan Iowa Test Prep adapts to the skill level of each student, provides personal tutoring with immediate feedback on incorrect answers, and sends emails to the student about what to study next. A status page enables students to monitor their progress by tracking what and how much they have studied and how well they are doing. Another unique benefit of the I Have A Plan Iowa Test Prep is the ability for each student to designate a test prep coach. “Students can designate

someone as their test prep coach. That person can be a parent, teacher, older sibling, friend or anyone with whom they have a good relationship,” stated Misjak. “Coaches receive email updates and are able to view the student’s progress so they can provide extra support and motivation.” Tests are conducted

throughout the year for the ACT and SAT exams. Students can register online for the ACT at and for the SAT at Upcoming exam dates are listed below: ACT: April 14 and June 9 SAT: March 10, May 5 and June 2 For more information

about the free test prep and other resources available through, students and families can contact Iowa College Aid at 877-2724456. More information to help Iowa families plan, prepare and pay for college is available on Iowa College Aid’s website,

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FEBRUARY 24, 2012

Succeeding as an adult student Students returning to school have a high success rate because they bring more life experiences to the education. They are usually more self-motivated and tend to value the privilege of attending college more. Following are a few guidelines to follow on your way to success: Have a goal. Are you furthering your career? Changing careers? Broadening your education? Having a goal in mind eases the stress you experience as you attend classes. With a goal and a reason for in enrolling college, you can justify your decision with less pain and complaints. Know the campus. Make use of the student services available. Some of these may include counselors, advisors, instructors, student organizations, tutoring, childcare, psychological and medical help, career planning programs, study groups, parttime campus employment, financial counseling and personal advancement through lectures, committees and conferences.

Evaluate your work habits. Take a serious look at how you use your time. This will be important when you are trying to work, study for an exam, and spend quality time with your family or friends. Meet your needs. As an adult learner you will find that you will enjoy school and learn more if you make sure you find out about the course and instructor before the first day of class. Instructors teach very differently and students have different learning styles. What is a stimulating and exciting class to one student may be overwhelming and frightening to another. Talk to students who have had the course if possible, and find out from the instructor what the course and classroom are like. Deal with problems. Clear up problems as soon as you recognize them at school as well as in your personal life. We encounter enough challenges and problems in our lives without creating more by ignoring or denying the cur-

rent ones. Be prepared for adjustment. Ask yourself, â&#x20AC;&#x153;What do I want out of life?â&#x20AC;? Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get lost in an avalanche of papers, tests, deadlines, commitments and your daily routine. Take a step back and keep track of your goals. You may need to adjust your pre-college lifestyle to accommodate your new

schedule. Ask for help from classmates, counselors, family, and friends. These people understand that you are changing your life and may need some understanding and support. Grades. As an adult learner the material you learn in the classroom should be more important than the grade you receive.

Information that leads you to your new career goal is more important than whether you receive an A or a B. Do not get frustrated by constantly putting yourself into competition with other students or yourself. Grades are important, but donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let them make your life miserable. Confidence. Overconfidence as well as lack of

confidence can be a detriment in your approach to your peers and instructors. You do have an advantage as an adult student with life experiences. Never assume that you cannot learn from those younger than yourself or that you have nothing to offer them. Never assume that you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t relate to people who are not your age. Keep an open mind to new experiences and people and you may be surprised. Patience. Be patient with yourself and your progress. You will be eager to have your efforts rewarded. You have spent money, time, and energy and you expect results. The time and energy will be rewarded when the goal has been achieved. The wait is worth the reward. Relax. You are working toward a goal. Remember that anything worth having takes time. Enjoy the process as you prepare to achieve your goal. Information from The Margaret Sloss Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Center at Iowa State University.



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How to take effective notes A student's success in school is measured by the assignments completed and tests he takes. The students who garner the best grades and do well in class are often those who are effective listeners and note-takers. Professor Dennis Jertz of Seton Hall University said that taking lecture notes effectively is one of the skills students must learn to make the transition from high school to college careers. Note-taking is also necessary in the business world, making it a worthwhile skill to learn. Despite its importance in higher learning, not much study has gone into the correlation between notetaking and performance improvement. As a result, statistics supporting the importance of effective note-taking do not exist. But it stands to reason that the student who takes good notes, and studies well from them, has a sporting chance to improve his or her grades over others with poor notes. It may not seem as such, but note-taking can almost be a lesson all its own. If only students could enroll in Note-Taking 101. Some elementary and high-school teachers attempt to teach strategies for taking notes, including developing outlines, but many students still struggle to maintain the essentials as they move through school. It can be confusing knowing just how much to write down without creat-

ing a novel or having notes so scant that they provide little information when it comes time to study. Students can choose from many systems of note-taking. These include using graphic representations to map out interconnected concepts. Outlines or charts can group terminology together with related ideas. Other techniques use cue words to trigger recollection of facts and dates. Mnemonic devices help recall information. Students can experiment with different methods until they find a system that works well and offers measurable success. No matter what method of note-taking is used, adequate listening skills are necessary to take effective notes. This helps students transfer what the professor is saying into ideas that can be put down on paper. Staring off into space or having your mind drift can cause a student to miss out on key parts of a lecture. To improve note-taking skills, a student must first improve listening skills. Sit up closer to the teacher or professor. This enables eye-to-eye contact that may help a student focus. It may also trigger visual clues to a professor to gauge whether the class is catching on or missing what's being taught. It's also advantageous from a practical standpoint. It enables students to better hear what's going on. If the professor is garbled or

inaudible when sitting far away, moving closer is essential, especially in a large lecture hall. Remove distractions. When a student enters the classroom, he or she should be ready to learn. That means silencing mobile devices and gearing the mind toward the lessons. Not every lecture will be exhilarating, so students should make a conscious effort to pay atten-

tion. Limiting distractions can help. Use an assistance device. Students who are prone to "zoning out" may want to ask permission to use a voice recorder. This way if key elements of the lesson are missed, they can be played back. This method also helps students fill in gaps when taking or studying notes. Once listening skills have improved, students

can go onto to other notetaking pointers. Sequencing material is important, so notes should be dated and numbered. If references are made to chapters that correlate to the textbook, jot those down so they can strengthen the notes. Charles Kettering, an American engineer and inventor, said, "There is a great difference between knowing a thing and un-

derstanding it." When jotting down notes, a student who discovers that something seems unclear can ask for clarification or make a point to research that component further. Students should consider writing notes on one side of the page so that they can each be laid out side-by-side. Looseleaf paper works well, or notes can be typed and printed out. Students should develop their own method of abbreviations and symbols to cut down on the amount of writing needed. Notes needn't be in full sentences; phrases are equally effective. If a professor writes something on a chalkboard, puts text up on a projector or repeats something several times, it should definitely be written down. There is a good chance that information will be on the test. Students may want to review note-taking strategies with one another. Maybe there is a successful method employed by one student that he or she can share with classmates. Rewriting or typing notes helps ingrain the information in the brain more than simply rereading it. Note-taking is an important skill many students should make the effort to learn. Improved test scores can lead to a higher grade point average. This, in turn, can help with success in school and beyond.

Study techniques geared toward success To prepare for any test or exam to get results you can be proud of, know what you have to study. This first step is easy and does not take much work. Before any exam, list what it is you have to know. This way, when it comes down to crunch time, you can concentrate on what is important and not waste time memorizing useless facts. "The student has to begin by listening in class and jotting down what it is that has to be done," said Judy Macdonald, who counsels students at a learning center. That means actually attending your classes regularly. Teachers usu-

ally base their tests on their lectures. So if you skip class, you will probably miss the answers to the test. If you have attended all your classes but are still unsure about what you have to know, ask your teacher to specify which chapters, concepts or formulas you will be quizzed on. Once you know what it is that has to be done, you then have to find the time to do it properly, said Macdonald. Don't wait until the night before the exam to crack open your book and read your notes. "Cramming doesn't allow you to learn new information. It will only work to review material you have already studied

before," stated Joshua Halberstam, a university professor and author of a book on studying. According to the University of Waterloo's Study Skills Package, the ability to concentrate depends on sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise. Your grades will be higher the more you get of each. Halberstam said that by cramming, you miss out on a good night's sleep, making it harder for you to think the next day. "There is evidence that your IQ won't go down, but your reflexes do go down and you won't be as sharp," he stated. Consequently, even if you have the information stored in your brain, it will be harder to get it

out. You can avoid these problems if you make a plan to study in advance. Start by reviewing your class notes and readings every day. Research shows that if you don't practice what you've learned within a day, you can forget almost half of it within 24 hours. As the exam nears, Macdonald suggested creating a more detailed study plan. She tells students to block off study periods in their agendas or on their calendars two weeks before the test. You can organize your time by hour, by day or by task - whatever works best for you. "After you find the time, you actually have to sit down and follow

your plan," stated Macdonald. She said the desk is the place to study, where you will be more alert and motivated when sitting up than when lying on a comfortable bed. She also suggested eliminating distractions like television, music and telephone calls - that can break your concentration. Whether you are at the library or in your room at a desk, learning does not happen by osmosis. You will not absorb much information by sitting back and staring blankly at your textbook for hours. The trick is to study actively. Become involved with what you are studying. One way is to reduce your textbook to

notes. Active studying means your body has to be active, too. The average attention span for one task is approximately 20 minutes, according to the Sam Houston State University Counseling Center website. Go for a walk or have a snack whenever you feel your head is too full, said Macdonald. The greatest reward comes after the test. When combined with the three other components of successful studying, active studying makes getting high test scores a reality. Of course, better grades mean higher selfesteem. From the I Have a Plan Iowa website,



FEBRUARY 24, 2012

Why volunteerism matters on a college admission application Each year, thousands of high school seniors complete college admission applications in hopes of being offered admission to their college or university of choice. The number of admission applications received by colleges and universities is often significantly more than the number of students they are able to admit. With the large number of applications submitted, you may ask, "How can I make my application stand out?" Because many applicants have similar academic achievements, admissions officials often look beyond the academic background of the applicant to determine whether or not to extend an offer of admission. One aspect that can set you apart from the crowd is volunteerism during high school. Why volunteerism? For high school students, volunteering is a great way to give back to and improve their communities. However, volunteerism counts as more than just “giving back” to the community when viewed during the college admissions process. It shows an admission counselor that you can maintain a high level of academic achievement while giving back to the community by balancing your time to meet the demands of school work, activity involvement and volunteerism commit-

ments. Consider supporting a cause that has special meaning to you and that you can continue to support over time. This can convey your dedication and ability to commit to something important to you. The 2011 College Ser-

vice and College Admissions Survey conducted by, a social change organization for young adults, found that the majority of admissions officers prefer students to be consistently involved with one issue rather than a variety of causes.

Record your activities. I Have A Plan Iowa is a great place to keep track of your volunteerism. While you might think you will be able to remember the date you started working at the local food bank, a few years from now that date may be a bit fuzzy. By recording information about each volunteer experience as it happens, you won’t have to spend a lot of time compiling and researching your efforts when it comes time to file your college application. Making an electronic record is easy. Just sign into your I Have A Plan Iowa account at and access the Your Profile page. Note: In addition to community service activities, you can record your awards, leadership experiences and extracurricular activities in you profile. It is important to keep in mind that academic achievement should be your first priority. You should not be over-committed to volunteerism and under-committed to academics. The right balance between academic work, extracurricular activities and volunteerism is unique to each individual. Make sure to evaluate your existing time commitments before adding volunteer activities to ensure your academic performance doesn’t suffer.

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Iowa College Aid website offers information for Iowa students and their families To access more advice geared toward students and parents, log onto the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website at, scroll to the bottom of the page and select “News You Can Use under the “Tools For Students” heading. “Iowa College Aid employs staff with expertise in many diverse areas,” explained Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. “Through ‘News You Can Use,’ we are harnessing that knowledge and delivering it to Iowa’s students and families. Because we are a state agency, Iowa students and families can be sure they’re receiving accurate information from a knowledgeable, unbiased source.” Students and families are encouraged to visit to access current articles under the Tools for Students section and check back often for new information they can use to succeed in high school, college and beyond. Students and families who are interested in learning more about the resources available through Iowa College Aid can contact the Information Service Center at 877-272-4456. Additional resources for Iowa families as they plan, prepare and pay for college are available on Iowa College Aid’s website, Iowa College Aid provides college access, financial literacy, and outreach services to Iowa’s students and families as they prepare, plan and pay for college. Iowa College Aid also administers state scholarship, grant, work study, and loan forgiveness programs totaling nearly $60.0 million annually, administers the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), provides borrowers with assistance to avoid the serious consequences of default, conducts research and distributes higher education data, and offers Iowans assistance in obtaining student financial aid and college-related information.

FEBRUARY 24, 2012



College Savings Iowa provides money planning, savings option The State of Iowa Treasurer’s office along with Vanguard administers the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan account to help individuals and families save for college expenses through a tax-advantaged investment. Some highlights of the investment plan include allowing contributions of as little as $25, $15 if through payroll deduction, and multiple tax advantages for Iowa residents. The tax advantages include that withdrawals are free from both federal and Iowa state income taxes when used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses at an eligible educational institution and contributions are deductible for Iowans. Specifically, Iowa taxpayers can deduct up to $2,975 in contributions per beneficiary account from their adjusted gross income for 2012. To get the best advantage from the College Sav-

ings Iowa Plan, set a savings goal. The program’s website at has tools that can help project how much college may cost in the future and determine how much you’ll need to

save to meet your college funding goals. Next, determine your risk tolerance. Do you find it easy to ignore large market fluctuations, or do you become anxious when you experience even a slight

decline in your investments? While stocks offer the greatest growth potential, they are also riskier than bonds, which in turn are riskier than short-term reserves. In general, a diversified mix of stocks, bonds, and short-term reserves can help to reduce risk. The Vanguard Group, Inc., provides investment management services. Finally, know your time horizon. Saving for college is limited to a fixed amount of time - usually no more than 15 to 18 years, compared to the 30 to 60 years people typically have to save for retirement. Generally, the more time you have to save, the more risk you can afford to take because you have more opportunity to recover from market fluctuations. As your child grows you can exchange your investment options once per calendar year to ensure that your assets are properly allocated to reflect your needs.

To participate in the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan, enroll online, which usually takes about 10 minutes, at and click on “Open an Account” and then follow the instructions. A couple additional features of the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan include Ugift and Upromise. Ugift allows family and friends to contribute to the college savings plan already established at a child’s milestones. When you join Upromise, hundreds of America’s leading companies will give you back a portion of your eligible spending with them as future college savings for your child. Here’s how it works: do your everyday shopping with Upromise partners – grocery stores, gas stations, online travel sites, and restaurants – and you can get money back for college. When you enroll in Col-

lege Savings Iowa online, you can choose to join Upromise immediately and link the two accounts. You can then have all or a portion of your Upromise earnings (minimum of $25) transferred to your College Savings Iowa account on a periodic basis. For more information on Upromise and to join, visit Financial aid the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan is how it will affect your child’s financial aid. College Savings Iowa accounts will not affect a student’s eligibility for Iowa state financial aid. If you are not an Iowa resident, check with your state for more information. However, College Savings Iowa accounts may affect eligibility for federal financial aid, depending on whether you are the parent of the beneficiary. For additional information about the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan see

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College Preview 2012  

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