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ISL Education LendingClass of 2023 - Set Your College Budget

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Freshman Tips

August Tips

  • Schedule a FREE planning session with an ICAN Student Success Advisor.
  • Start off on the right foot with your grades. Your freshman grades really do matter. Colleges look at your overall grade point average (GPA) through all four years of high school. It's difficult to improve a GPA that starts off low.
  • Find extracurricular activities that interest you and get involved. It's a great way to meet new people! There are also scholarship opportunities for being involved in high school and community activities.
  • Keep track of your assignments, test dates, activities and important events by using a planner or electronic organizer. Use it to set up a study schedule.
  • Get to know your teachers, counselors and administrators so you know what resources are available in your school. 

September Tips

  • Ask your parents and other adults what they like and dislike about their careers.  Find out what type of training or education is required for each job.
    Work with your school counselor and select courses that are recommended for optimum college preparation. Optimum preparation includes four years of English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language; and two years of electives.  
  • Discover different college options and learn about academics, admissions, major rankings, and more. Visit to explore four-year options.
  • Stay organized with a planner or planning app. 
  • Did you know some colleges recommend you complete four years of English; three to four years of math, science and social studies; two years of electives; and two to four years of foreign language in high school? Work with your school counselor to make sure you're on the right track.

October Tips

  • Develop an activities resume to keep track of your participation in extracurricular activities.  This will be a great resource when it’s time to fill out scholarship and college admission applications. 
  • Saving money is the best way to prepare for the cost of a college education.  Check out
  • Think about what you like to do, what you’re good at and what you value most.  Talk to your counselor about assessments to help you identify a potential career. Visit
  • Prepare for college with the ICAN Tip of the Week; sign up at
    Talk to your parents about a college savings plan to help cover college costs.

November Tips

  • Compare college costs throughout the country by visiting
  • Talk to your parents about your plans for the future.  Discuss your personal and academic strengths and your plan to reach your goals.
  • Take an assessment test to determine which career paths best suit you. Visit 
  • Get into the habit of reading in your free time. Reading will help you develop a strong vocabulary, which is important on college entrance exams like the ACT® and SAT

December Tips

  • Volunteer in your community.  Some scholarships are awarded based on community service.  
  • How are your computer skills?  Become proficient in common computer applications such as Word, Excel® and PowerPoint® and learn how to use the Internet as a research tool. 
  • Is there a college you’ve always dreamed of attending?  Research colleges online and create a list of what you like most and least about each school. Visit
  • Consider volunteering in your community. It can be a rewarding experience, and it could help you earn a scholarship. Many scholarships are awarded based on community service.
  • How are your computer skills? Work to become adept in common computer applications such as Word, Excel® and PowerPoint® and learn to use the Internet to do research.
  • If you have a checking account, balance your checkbook and keep track of all your debits and deposits.
  • Do you have a favorite college sports team? Is there a college you've always dreamed of attending? Start searching for colleges today.

January Tips

  • Happy New Year! Now's the perfect time to learn about financial aid. It's made up of four types of assistance: grants, scholarships, loans and work-study. Grants and scholarships are free sources of money that don't have to be paid back. A loan is money given to you to help pay for expenses (i.e., semester/year of college) and it must be repaid. Work-study allows you to earn money by working part time at a campus-approved job. Visit to learn more
  • What subjects do you like in school? is an online program that can help you search for careers related to those subjects. 

February Tips

  • A majority of the fastest-growing jobs require some type of postsecondary education or training.  Research careers to learn more about your options.  Which jobs are in demand?  What type of education or training is required? Find out about careers that may interest you.
  • If you’re an athlete hoping to play sports in college, plan ahead. Learn about the eligibility requirements and recruitment process here.
  • Looking for ways to raise your grades? Talk to your teachers to find out how you can become a better student. Find out if you can earn extra credit and whether teachers can work with you occasionally after class. Remember, your grades are important, but most colleges prefer students who challenge themselves with tougher courses over students who take easier courses to boost GPAs.

March Tips

  • Update or create your plan for life after high school with ICAN. Visit to schedule an appointment.
    Meet with your school counselor to select your classes for 10th grade.  Choose your courses wisely to stay on track for your career pathway and to meet college admission requirements.
  • Continue to research jobs related to your interests.  Learn more at
  • Make the most of your summer.  Search for summer camps in your area of interest (e.g., sports, band, drama, or academics).  Check with teachers, counselors, and coaches for recommendations. 

April Tips

  • Explore the colleges you’re interested in attending. Do your classes align with the school’s admission requirements and academic profile? If not, what GPA do you need to achieve? Which classes should you take to prepare for college?
  • Do you have friends or family who are high school seniors?  Talk to them about their plans for next year.  Ask them how they made their decisions and what was involved in the process.
  • Attend a game, play, concert or other cultural experience on a local college campus to get exposure to the campus environment.
  • Keep working hard on your grades – your final exams will be coming up soon. Remember, freshman grades are important for college admission.

May Tips

  • Make the most of your summer. Look for summer camps that focus on your interests (such as sports, band, drama or academics). Check with teachers, school counselors and coaches for recommendations.
  • Learn about the world of work through job shadowing, or interning this summer.
  • Build relationships with teachers, counselors, coaches, and community members.  Some could write letters of recommendation when it’s time to submit scholarship and/or college applications.
  • Get involved in your community by volunteering. Volunteering provides leadership and good citizenship skills, and you might find your future career. Check out the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service for a list of options at

June Tips

  • Start a summer reading list.  
  • Will you be attending summer camp on a college campus?  If so, while you’re there, think about whether you’d like to attend the school.
  • Talk to your family members, friends, teachers, school counselors, and coaches about their college experiences. 
  • Looking for ways to earn money and get a glimpse into the world of work? Babysitting, lawn mowing, car washing, tutoring, painting or dog-walking are all great ways to get started.

July Tips

  • Review your career assessment results and make a list of colleges you’re interested in researching based on your results. Visit to begin exploring Iowa schools.
  • During your summer break, take part in hobbies and activities that tie to your career interests. Don't forget to update your activities portfolio.
  • Don’t be afraid to alter your career goals as you learn more about yourself and the world of work, but remember to keep your goals attainable.
  • Read more! Reading is one of the best ways to improve your grades, and you can do it practically anywhere. Ask your local librarian for ideas on books to read this summer or read reviews online.


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