Don’t Let the FAFSA Scare You!

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a little intimidating when you fill it out the first time. But, just like all the monsters in your closet, you’ll discover that it’s really not so scary after all! If you submit your application online, you’ll have access to the ‘Help’ options on each and every question. So conquer your fears and be ready to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1.

What if I haven’t chosen a college before I complete the FAFSA?

It’s not uncommon for high school seniors to be undecided about their college choice when those deadlines for financial aid are fast approaching. While it’s a good idea to have your college prospects list narrowed down, you can enter up to 10 schools’ codes on your FAFSA, ensuring that the school you ultimately choose receives your financial aid information. This feature on the online FAFSA also allows you to compare the schools you enter in terms of tuition, fees and graduation rates.

Here are a few more resources to help you narrow your college choices.

  • OKcollegestart.org offers information about Oklahoma’s post-secondary schools in the ‘College Planning’ section.
  • NCES.ed.gov/CollegeNavigator provides information about colleges nationwide that are approved to disburse federal financial aid. While you’re browsing through the College Navigator, click on the ‘College Affordability and Transparency Center’ link, where you’ll be able to see which colleges have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices.
  • Be sure to check out college websites, too. Explore course catalogs, major’s offered, cost of attendance, extra-curricular options and much more.
  • To help further narrow your choices, visit the campuses you’re interested in attending. Getting a feel for the campus can make a big difference in your choice. For more help with campus visits, check out our Making the Most of Campus Visits Guide.

Get It Together

High school seniors, fall break is almost here! Next comes the holiday season, spring semester and before you know it, you’ll be planning your summer break. Before you get carried away with thoughts of summer freedom, now is a good time to organize your college preparation materials. You’ll want to start completing college applications, housing forms, scholarship essays and everything else that goes along with starting your higher education. You probably have stacks of scholarship information, report cards, ACT/SAT scores as well as booklets and information from different colleges, career techs and universities. If so, here are some tips to help you get organized.

  • Create a “My Future” file and keep your important grades and test scores in it.
  • Print the Tracking My Classes and Achievements worksheet from UCanGo2.org. College applications often require information about your classes and extra-curricular activities. This worksheet will allow you keep an organized record of your classes, awards, sports, clubs, volunteer work and more.
  • As you search for scholarships, organize them by deadline. That way, you can apply for them in the order they are due, and maximize your scholarship application efficiency. File your scholarship essays in one place too so you can easily find them as you’re completing applications. Many scholarship essays can be adjusted and reused for multiple scholarship and/or college applications.
  • Sort your college brochures by school and keep them in separate folders. Take some time to compare the pros and cons of each school to help you make a more informed choice.

Enjoy fall break, but don’t forget to spend some time getting organized for the future. When summer break comes around, you won’t regret your time spent planning ahead.

 

Need Money for College?

If you’re planning to go to college, you’ll need money to pay for it. Scholarships can make a huge difference, but the only way to get scholarships is to apply for them! Scholarships are available for grade school students, college students and adults returning to school, based on a variety of criteria.

Many scholarships require an essay, but don’t let that discourage you. Preparing scholarship essays can be fun and informative because they provide opportunities to explore interesting topics and help you identify your future goals. Plus, some essays can be used to apply for several scholarships, so be sure to save them all!

Check out our Scholarship Success Guide at UCanGo2.org for helpful  application tips and a long list of scholarship websites. Visit your local library to check out informational scholarship books. Also, do a little research by asking around. Your employer or church, your parent’s employer, local businesses, clubs and others may be offering free money for you to use for college.

Remember to complete the FAFSA and keep in mind that scholarships are considered free money. They can offer you a way to pay for your education and reduce the amount you may have to borrow in student loans.

Is it too late to apply for financial aid for this academic year?

Now that you’re going strong in your fall semester at college, are you concerned that you might not have enough money to finish out the school year? Here are some things to consider.

  1. Have you submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? You should submit a FAFSA each year you need financial aid for school. If you think it’s too late to give it a shot, think again. While some types of aid can run out quickly, federal Pell grants and student loans are typically available year-round. Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what types of aid you may still be able to receive, and what’s still available.
  2. You may be surprised to learn that you can actually fill out a FAFSA for the 2014-15 school year up to June 30, 2015. Your college must have your correct, completed information by your last day of enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year in order to meet this deadline.
  3. The quickest, easiest way to file your FAFSA is through FAFSA.gov. There are other websites out there that will charge you for submitting your financial aid application, but FAFSA.gov is free.
  4. Be sure to review your Student Aid Report (SAR). Learn more about the SAR at startwithfafsa.org/category/sar/.
  5. If you need a student loan to help cover school expenses, be cautious about the amount you borrow. Learn how to borrow smart from the start at ReadySetRepay.org.

Constitution and Citizenship Day

iStock_000006076941MediumThe Constitution of the United States was signed 227 years ago, officially defining America’s government system and the basic rights of its citizens. We observe this day each year to recognize the meaning of our citizenship, including our responsibilities and opportunities as members of our country, state and community.

Civil and educational authorities, such as public colleges and universities, are required by law to make plans to properly observe Constitution and Citizenship Day on September 17 each year. We hope that you’ll participate in the observation of this special day tomorrow. If you’re a college student, contact your school’s student affairs office to find out how you can participate in the day’s events.

 

My Situation Has Changed Since I Filled Out My FAFSA–Do I Need to Make Updates?

When you submit the FAFSA, you provide a ‘snapshot’ of your overall financial situation. Some less significant changes, such as your day-to-day current account balance, don’t necessarily need to be updated on your FAFSA. However, you may need to update your FAFSA if any of the following elements have changed:

      • Your dependency status
      • Your marital status
      • Your verification status
      • Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. If you were selected, you may still need to submit certain requested information to the financial aid office. Remember, you can’t receive any federal aid until the verification process is complete.

      • Your choice of college(s)
      • Check out our post “Adding More Schools to Receive Your FAFSA” for more information.

Before you make any updates to your FAFSA, discuss your situation with someone in a campus financial aid office. They’re your best resource throughout the entire financial aid process.

Important FAFSA Notice

A change to the 2014-15 FAFSA has resulted in the miscalculation of many applicants’ financial aid eligibility. The addition of an extra data entry box within the income entry field was made to accommodate higher income categories. However, many applicants used this extra space to enter a decimal point and cents. When these applications were processed, the decimal point was not applied to the formula and the cents entered were interpreted as dollar amounts, significantly increasing the applicant’s reported income. For example, if an applicant entered their income as $22,852.19, it was converted to $2,285,219. This error made many students ineligible for some grant and subsidized loan programs.

If you’ve been notified by your school that you fell into this category, please follow their directions and make any corrections requested. If you haven’t been notified and you’re concerned your income may have been entered incorrectly, double check your income listed on your Student Aid Report (SAR) and contact the Federal Student Aid Customer Service Department for additional assistance.