DES MOINES, Iowa — The countdown is less than a month away for high school seniors thinking about higher education.
May 1st is a common deadline for students to either accept or decline attending a university in the fall.
Des Moines Public Schools College Counselor Kristen Hilton said many students are stressed around this time.
“The most common advice I give students is that they can’t go wrong. They are going to have a great experience no matter where they end up,” Hilton said.
Roosevelt High School Senior Madeline Kahl said she has applied to 17 colleges and still is unsure where to go.
“I’m excited, but also very nervous and stressed out. It’s a lot going on at once and it is a really big decision, but I don’t have a lot of time to figure out which college I am going to go to,” Kahl said.
Hilton said on average students are advised to apply somewhere between seven and 10 schools.
Some of the most common factors when choosing a school are location, education programs, and financial aid.
Iowa College Aid Communications Coordinator Elizabeth Keest Sedrel said, “It’s great to get financial aid, but it can also be a little bit confusing. Students and their families might not understand what exactly is in that letter.”
There are three types of financial aid to look out for. The first being grants and scholarships.
“Anything that says grant or scholarship that means free money. Some schools will actually label it a gift,” Keest Sedrel said.
Grants and scholarships go towards higher education and do not need to be paid back after graduation.
The second form of financial aid is “work-study jobs” It is money earned at a job that is part of the student’s financial aid package and they do not need to pay it back after graduation, since it is earned money.
The final form of financial aid are loans. There are two types of loans. The first is a federal loan, which is offered through the U.S. Department of Education. The second is private loans, offered by credit unions and banks.
“When you look at loans a word we want you to look for is subsidized. Federal loans that are subsidized means that you are not responsible for interest while you are in school. You have a grace period for after you leave school,” Keest Sedrel said.
Keest Sedrel said students want to aim towards federal loans, because they have more borrower-friendly terms.
Hilton said she tells students to be smart when it comes to how much money they are willing to take out and pay back later.
“Student loans are not a bad thing. I think it is a really good investment in your future. You just don’t want something that is going to cripple you for years and years after you graduate from college,” Hilton said.
Keest Sedrel said it is still not too late to apply for financial aid. Later this summer the “Future Ready Iowa Last Dollar Scholarship” will be available to apply for.
“What it’s intended to do is for students who are headed for the two year degrees or credentials in high demand jobs. This is meant to bridge the gap between whatever financial aid they’ve got from all other sources and the actual price of getting that degree or credential,” Keest Sedrel said.
Keest Sedrel said many community colleges use rolling deadlines, so students are not as constricted.
Kahl said out of her 17 schools, she has narrowed it down to three and will probably not make a decision until a week before her May 1st deadline.