What’s all the hype about the FAFSA? Why’s it so important?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application submitted to the federal government. It’s basically a snapshot of your financial situation. The information you submit on your FAFSA is used to determine how much federal and state financial aid you may be able to receive to help you pay for college.

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for financial aid, submit your FAFSA anyway. It’s not uncommon for students to assume they won’t qualify, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that they are eligible to receive one or more types of aid. And keep in mind that many scholarship applications now require a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is the report you receive after you submit your FAFSA.

By filling out the FAFSA, you’re not signing up for student loans or committing to any colleges. You’re simply giving the college(s) you’re interested in attending an opportunity to discuss your financial aid options with you. So be sure to fill out the 2017-2018 FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 this year. Visit FAFSA.gov for more information.

What if I’m still not sure which college I want to attend next year? Can I still submit my FAFSA?

That’s a great question! With all the different types of schools to choose from, it’s not always easy to decide where to begin your higher education.

One of the best ways to narrow down your college choices is to visit different campuses. Summer is the perfect time to check out the schools that interest you. Still can’t decide? It’s OK to put more than one school choice on your FAFSA; in fact, that’s a great idea, because if you’re shopping for the best fit, you can use the FAFSA to compare the colleges that you’d like to know more about.

Once you have some colleges in mind, use the ‘School Code Search’ option at FAFSA.gov to find the 6-digit school code for each college that interests you. Enter the codes one by one, clicking ‘Add’ after each code that you choose. Once you’ve added all of your codes, click ‘View Selected School Information,’ and you’ll see a customized table that displays information about all of your selected schools side-by-side. This tool is another great way to compare colleges.

New Release Date for FAFSA

The new FAFSA filing date is October 1. Learn more at Start With FAFSA dot org.
The new FAFSA will become available Oct. 1 this year.

Question: What’s new and improved about the FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year?

Answer: College students and high school seniors will be able to submit the FAFSA beginning October 1, 2016, instead of waiting until Jan. 1, 2017. Learn more about these changes at StudentAid.gov.

Stay in touch and we’ll keep you informed!

  • The upcoming changes to the FAFSA offer numerous benefits for students and parents. As more information becomes available, we’ll share it with you here at StartWithFAFA.org.
  • Like us on Facebook for information about a wide variety of scholarships and college planning tips for students.
  • Visit us at UCanGo2.org for an abundance of information about planning, preparing and paying for college.

How to Get a Head Start This Summer

If you’ll be a senior in high school this fall you may already be showing early signs of senioritis*. You’re probably busy wondering where you’ll go to college, what classes you’ll take, and whether or not you’ll live on campus. While going to college or a career technology center is a great new chapter in your life, don’t forget about one of the most important things… paying for it!

The one form you’ll need to apply for federal financial aid and some state aid is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will be available Oct. 1 this year. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid.

To electronically sign and complete the FAFSA online, you and your parent will each need an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). The FSA ID is a username and password that you’ll use to access your FAFSA, make corrections, access income tax documents and sign the form. Creating your FSA ID takes about 7-10 minutes, so why not do it this summer? Here’s what you do:

    1. From a secure computer go to the Federal Student Aid website.
    2. Create a username and password, and enter your email address.
    3. Enter your name, date of birth, Social Security number, contact information and challenge questions and answers.
    4. Review your information, and read and accept the terms and conditions.
    5. Confirm your email address using the secure code, which will be sent to the email address you entered when you created your FSA ID. Once you verify your email address, you can use it instead of your username to log in.

You can use your FSA ID to sign a FAFSA right away. Only the owner of the FSA ID should create and use the account and you should never share your FSA ID.

Now you’ve completed one important step in the FAFSA process. Hang on to the FSA ID information to use in early October when you complete your FAFSA. You’ll also use the FSA ID in future years, so be sure to save it somewhere safe and somewhere you’ll remember it.

*Senioritis: Noun
A supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance.
“I try not to let my grades suffer from my senioritis”

There’s Still Time

With finals just around the corner, and graduation coming up in a week or two, have you put college on the back burner? Maybe you aren’t even sure you want to go to college or a career tech. Whatever you’re thinking, just know that it’s not too late! While it’s best to apply to college and complete financial aid applications early, you can still accomplish these tasks.

Talk with your school counselor about your best options and check out some classes offered at a nearby community college or career tech. These types of schools are typically less expensive and could open your eyes to some great career opportunities you may not have considered.

Some colleges and technology centers also offer discounted or free tuition to students who have attended a particular high school or live in a certain area. Your counselor can share information about these options. If you have the chance to attend college for free … take it!

You’ll also want to apply for financial aid to help with some of your educational expenses. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to apply for federal and state aid for college. Go to www.FAFSA.gov to complete this form and submit it online.

Visit a College Campus

With so many great colleges in Oklahoma, it may difficult to choose one!

If you’re having trouble choosing which college to attend this fall plan a few campus visits. A tour of a college campus can give you a more realistic picture of what college life will be like, as well as the opportunity to ask questions such as, “Where will I park,” “Does this campus have a gym or wellness center,” and “What’s the food like in the cafeteria?”  Not only will you have your questions answered, but you will see all of the places that you may be asking about. Bring a copy of our “Making the Most of Campus Visits Guide” to help you along the way.

While you’re on your tour, be sure to talk to some students and ask them what they like/dislike about the college. Drop by the Student Union and check out the information about student organizations that are active on campus. And, last but not least, make it a point to drop by the financial aid office, where you’ll find valuable information about the financial aid process and scholarships that may be available to you.

There’s room for 10 different college codes on the FAFSA, so the form can serve as a great comparison tool if you’re still trying to decide which school to attend.  It’s perfectly fine if you haven’t made your final decision before you submit your FAFSA. Just remember to go back and add any schools you’re interested in attending as soon as possible so the college can receive your financial aid data. To add a school code to your FAFSA, simple log in at FAFSA.gov and go to Make FAFSA Corrections. You’ll receive an updated Student Aid Report (SAR) within a few days showing the additional new school code(s).

 

How Do I Enter My Final Tax Figures?

If you used tax estimates on your FAFSA and it’s been three weeks since you filed your taxes with the IRS online, then it’s time to update your FAFSA with your final tax information. Here’s how:

  • Go to fafsa.gov and log in with your FSA ID.
  • Enter your Save Key, if prompted.
  • Click on Financial Information and change your answer from ‘Will file’ an IRS income tax return to ‘Already completed’ your tax return.
  • Answer the questions that follow to see if you qualify to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). If you do, you will be given an option to link to the IRS website and will then transfer your 2015 tax information to your FAFSA.
  • Students and parents may each use the IRS DRT to update their individual tax information
  • Once completed, be sure to enter your FSA ID on the last page as your signature and then click ‘Submit My FAFSA Now’.

You may also choose to enter your actual tax figures manually if the IRS DRT is not an option for you. Once your updated FAFSA has been submitted, the new figures will be sent directly to the schools listed on your application. If your financial aid office requires any additional information, they will contact you directly. If you have questions, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Oklahoma’s Promise Day

Oklahoma’s Promise allows eighth-, ninth- or 10th-grade students from families with an income of $50,000 or less to earn a college tuition scholarship. Students must also meet academic and conduct requirements in high school.

On April 19, Oklahoma’s Promise will hold a rally at the State Capitol to show appreciation for Governor Fallin and the Legislature’s ongoing support of the Oklahoma’s Promise program and to encourage elected officials to continue to protect the program’s dedicated funding source.

The Rally will be held at Oklahoma State Capitol, 2nd floor rotunda at 2 p.m.

Email okpromiseday@osrhe.edu to confirm you will join us!

Your Acronym Glossary

Acronyms, schmacroynms! What do they all mean? As you navigate your way through the financial aid process you’ll run across plenty of three to four letter terms that may seem like a foreign language. Let us try to help make some sense of it all!

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
Your or your family’s wages, salaries, interest, dividends, etc., minus certain deductions from income as reported on a federal income tax return. Commonly referred to as AGI.

Agreement to Serve (ATS)
The binding agreement you must sign to receive a TEACH Grant. By signing the ATS, you agree to teach (1) full-time, (2) in a high-need field, (3) at a low-income school or educational service agency that serves certain low-income schools, and (4) for at least four complete academic years within eight years after completing (or ceasing enrollment in) the course of study for which you received the grant.

Cost of Attendance (COA)
COA includes tuition and fees; room and board (or a housing and food allowance); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and dependent care. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses, including an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer; costs related to a disability; and reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs.

Data Release Number (DRN)
The four-digit number assigned to your FAFSA that allows you to release your FAFSA data to schools you did not list on your original FAFSA. You need this number if you contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center to make corrections to your mailing address or the schools you listed on your FAFSA. You find this number below the confirmation number on your FAFSA submission confirmation page or in the top right-hand corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR).

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
This is the number that’s used to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid. This number results from the financial information you provide in your FAFSA, the application for federal student aid. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR).

FAFSA
Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the FREE application used to apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, loans, and work-study.

FSA ID
The FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as a student’s or parent’s identifier to allow access to personal information in various U.S. Department of Education systems and acts as a digital signature on some online forms.

Satisfactory Academic Programs (SAP)
A school’s standards for satisfactory academic progress toward a degree or certificate offered by that institution.

Student Aid Report (SAR)
A summary of the information you submitted on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You receive this report via e-mail a few days after your FAFSA has been processed. If there are no corrections or additional information you must provide, the SAR will contain your EFC, which is the number that’s used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.

To learn more about financial aid terms, check out the glossary through the U.S. Department of Education.

Common FAFSA Corrections and Modifications

Perhaps you’ve had a change in circumstances since you submitted the FAFSA, or you’ve discovered that even with the help of FAFSA.gov’s built-in fact checker your FAFSA contains an error. Here are some of the most common pieces of information to be updated or corrected:

  • Your marital status
  • Your parents’ marital status
  • The death of a parent or sibling
  • Employment status
  • Major medical expenses
  • Social Security numbers
  • Parents’/stepparents’ income
  • Untaxed income
  • Income taxes paid
  • Household size
  • Number of household members in college
  • Real estate and investment net worth

So, what happens if you’ve made a mistake? If necessary, corrections to FAFSA data may be made by:

  • Visiting FAFSA.gov and accessing your data with your FSA ID.
  • Requesting changes through the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend. (you’ll need your Data Release Number, or DRN.)
  • Submitting documentation to the college’s financial aid office.

If you used last year’s tax information as an estimate when filing the FAFSA, it is also required that you make the correction once you’ve filed 2015 taxes.