If You Haven’t Applied, Do It Now

The busiest time of the year is just around the corner. Before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins, take time to submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The 2020-2021 FAFSA opened on October 1, which means many students have already had the chance to successfully submit their application. Now is the time to successfully submit yours! This application allows the financial aid office at your chosen college to determine your eligibility to receive many types of financial aid. While some aid does not run out, other types are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If you submit your FAFSA too late, you may miss out on important funding. There are a few other significant reasons to submit your FAFSA now:

  • More and more colleges and universities are setting early enrollment and institutional scholarship deadlines in November and December. During the application process, they’ll want to know if you’ve submitted your FAFSA.
  • It’s not uncommon for a scholarship committee to ask for a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which you receive after you submit the FAFSA. Completing your FAFSA early ensures that you won’t miss important deadlines.
  • Submit the FAFSA now so you have one less thing on your to-do list for college next fall. It’s better to complete the FAFSA now so you can focus on other college planning tasks in the spring.
  • Since you’ll need to submit the FAFSA each year you’re in college, completing your application now allows you to become familiar with the FAFSA form for next year. If you’re in high school, take this time to ask questions about the application process with your parents and school counselor so that you’ll know what to expect next fall.  

Don’t wait any longer! Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.

National Scholarship Month

It’s National Scholarship Month! That means we’re raising awareness about the numerous scholarship dollars that are available to help you cover college expenses. For the 2016-2017 school year, the National Scholarship Providers Association awarded over $2 billion in scholarship funds to deserving students. That’s just one organization! There are many other companies that offer scholarships to students preparing for college. To help you put your best foot forward, here are a few tips to help you submit excellent scholarship applications:

  • Follow directions. It’s important to read all scholarship instructions carefully before starting the application. If there is a word count to abide by, be sure to meet the requirements. Also, submit all necessary documents. Ask for letters of recommendation, copies of your transcript and other documentation weeks before the scholarship deadline.
  • Be creative.  Think outside the box on scholarship questions. Be creative and original when writing your essay responses. If you’re asked why you deserve the scholarship, explain why it’s important for you to go to college. Talk about your academic and career goals, as well as the challenges you’ve overcome to reach those goals. Also, tell a story only you can tell. Discuss your involvement with a school organization or a part-time job and describe the skills you’ve gained from those opportunities. Remember that with every experience you’ve encountered, you’ve learned something. Use those learned lessons to fuel your essay responses.
  • Proofread your work. Completing a scholarship application can feel very rewarding; however, it’s only the first step. Proofreading is the next crucial stage in this process. Read your scholarship essay aloud to see if you need to make any adjustments. Also, ask a non-relative, such as a teacher or counselor, to read your essay – and be open to the constructive criticism they give you.
  • Find options that reflect your interests. Applying for scholarships can seem like a lot of work. Yet, if you find scholarships that are interesting to you, the application process can be enjoyable. Search for opportunities that align with your passions. Then writing essays and creating scholarship videos will be fun and exciting, instead of time consuming and tedious.
  • Never give up! Don’t get discouraged when you don’t receive a scholarship award; just keep applying. Your persistence will win out in the end. Keep searching for unique scholarships. Ask local businesses about scholarship opportunities, as well as your current education institution. The goal of scholarships is to assist you with covering the costs of college. The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to gain that extra assistance. To learn more about scholarships or to search for interesting opportunities, check out our Scholarship Success Guide or go to UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org.

Homelessness and the FAFSA

In recent years, questions about the circumstances surrounding homelessness have been added to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to give homeless students the help they need when considering college. Three questions about homelessness canned be summed up this way:

At any time on or after July 1 [in the year prior to the academic year covered by this FAFSA], did an official* determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

*This determination can be given by:

  • A high school or school district homeless liaison,
  • A director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or
  • A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

If you answer yes to any one of the ‘homelessness’ questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will not be required to provide your parents’ income information on your FAFSA. Later on, though, you may be asked by a financial aid administrator to provide a copy of the homeless youth determination. If you did not receive a determination provided by one of the officials listed above, you’ll be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA, but you may ask a financial aid administrator to consider making their own determination. The administrator will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

To clarify some of the terms used in the questions about homelessness, an unaccompanied student is one who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The term youth refers to someone who is 21 years of age or younger or is still enrolled in high school at the time they submit their FAFSA.  A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This includes students who are living in shelters, motels, cars, or parks, or who are temporarily living with other people because they have nowhere else to go. Students are also considered homeless if they are fleeing an abusive parent who would otherwise provide the student with financial support and a place to live. A self-supporting student is one who covers his/her own living expenses.

Often, homeless students ask about how to report their mailing address on the FAFSA. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “You must provide a mailing address where you can reliably receive mail. Your mailing address can be the address of a relative or friend who has given you permission to use it, or it can be your college’s address. If you want to use your college’s address, you must contact the school for permission and instructions to ensure that your mail reaches you.” Don’t forget to update your FAFSA later when you find more permanent housing.

For more information and a list of additional resources for homeless students, read:

Questions and Answers: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth and

FAFSA Tips for Unaccompanied Youth

What’s a Special Circumstance?

We all know life happens! From losing a job, to dissolving a marriage, to unexpectedly taking in an elderly parent or relative, life has a way of throwing a variety of situations at you. Sometimes these situations can have an impact on the financial aid you receive for college.

Whether you’re planning for college as a new freshman, or continuing your education as an upperclassman, you must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to qualify for federal and some state financial aid. You can access the new 2020-2021 FAFSA now at FAFSA.gov. The FAFSA measures your ability to qualify for grants, work-study and student loans. The FAFSA doesn’t, however indicate your job layoff last month or all the medical expenses your parent is paying for your younger brother.

These types of situations can be determined as special circumstances. Visit with the financial aid office at your college or career technology center to share any conditions you feel are not accurately reflected on your FAFSA. Your situation may be reviewed and if approved, could be deemed a special circumstance. Any revisions to your FAFSA data may also cause changes to your financial aid eligibility, offering a possible increase in your funding.

Examples of a special circumstance might be:
– A significant change in income after your FAFSA was originally filed.
– The death of a spouse, parent or other family member.
– A job change or layoff.
– Unexpected medical expenses.
– A marriage, divorce or separation after the FAFSA was submitted.
– An incarcerated parent or spouse.

If you fall into one of these categories, or experience something completely different, contact your institution’s financial aid office for further instruction.

Dependency Status on the FAFSA

It’s FAFSA season and you may be wondering what type of information you’ll have to include on your form. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, asks multiple questions including your name, age, school(s) of interest, and dependency status, as well as parent and student income and asset information. Since you’ll be in college next year, won’t you be considered an independent student? Do you even need to provide your parent’s information since you’ll be an adult when you start college? The answers to these questions are not simple ones, they require more explanation.

On the FAFSA, many factors determine whether a student is considered independent or dependent. The application asks students various questions to determine their dependency status. Dependent students must provide their parents’ information, while independent students do not. A series of yes or no questions asked on the FAFSA will help students determine their classification. If a student answers yes to any of the questions, s/he does not have to provide parental information. However, if every question in this section is answered no, parental information will be required. This can be confusing, so here’s a simple equation to help you remember:

  • All No’s = Dependent Student (Provide parent information)
  • One Yes = Independent Student (Don’t have to provide parent information)

What do these questions entail? They ask for a variety of information, including college grade level, age, military status, if you support dependents, if you’re at risk of being homeless, and many more. For additional information about the FAFSA, check out the tools available at StartWithFAFSA.org and UCanGo2.org, which offer a Dependency Status Questionnaire and a variety of articles, publications and videos to assist you with the FAFSA.

If you have questions regarding your dependency status or any items on the FAFSA, feel free to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or your financial aid office

New Information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

For a few years, people submitting their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have had a valuable time-saving resource at their fingertips. It’s called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). By using the DRT that’s available in the electronic FAFSA, students can request an automatic transfer of the data from their tax returns. This means less people will have to supply proof of income to their financial aid offices, because the information is transmitted straight from the IRS. When using the DRT, FAFSA filers will need their tax return information from two years prior to the academic year for which they’ll need federal financial aid. For example, the 2020-21 FAFSA will require income and tax information from 2018.

Here’s some great news: Up until now, students who used the MyStudentAid App to file their FAFSA haven’t been able to use a smart phone or tablet to use the IRS DRT. But that’s changing! Beginning October 1, 2019, students and parents will be able to request their tax return information while using the MyStudentAid App.

To see if you’re eligible to use the IRS DRT, check out this helpful publication from Federal Student Aid. Be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after October1; some types of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Go to FAFSA.gov to set up your FSA ID and begin your application.

FAFSA Now Available!

It’s October 1! That means the 2020-2021 FAFSA is available! All students planning to start college in the fall of 2020 can now submit their application for federal and state financial assistance. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, allows colleges to determine your eligibility to receive financial aid. Financial aid, which comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans, can help you pay for college expenses. To start your FAFSA, here are a few tips that will help you successfully complete the form:

  • Create Your FSA ID – If you haven’t already done so, you and your parent will need to create an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). This username and password allow you to electronically sign the FAFSA. It will also give you access to other financial aid documents and websites. To create your FSA ID, go to fsaid.ed.gov.
  • Gather Your Documents – For the 2020-2021 FAFSA, students will need their parents’ tax return, W-2 and other financial information for the 2018 tax year. If the student filed a tax return in 2018, they will need the same information. Students should also gather their Social Security card and driver’s license, if applicable.
  • Use Your Official Name – When creating your FSA ID and completing the FAFSA, you’ll need to enter your name exactly as it’s shown on your Social Security card. No nicknames are allowed on the FAFSA. If your name has special characters include those as well.
  • Pick Your Venue – There are two electronic options for submitting your FAFSA. You can use the website format, FAFSA.gov, or you can use the mobile app, myStudentAid. These are the only two official means for submitting your application. Remember the first “F” in FAFSA stands for Free, so you should never pay for completing your FAFSA. Using one of these two methods will ensure that you aren’t charge for a free application.
  • Watch Your Inbox – Once you submit your FAFSA, you’ll begin to receive information about your application status and updates from your future school’s financial aid office. Be on the look out for these updates and follow-up with your financial aid office if they need additional documentation.

Utilizing these five tips can save time and make your FAFSA completion much easier. Don’t forget, you need to complete a FAFSA each year you need funding for college.

For more information about the FASFA, check out www.ucango2.org

Completing the 2020-21 FAFSA

  1. Gather Materials – You’ll need your social security card, current bank statements and, if you’re a dependent student, your parent(s)’ information. For the 2020-2021 FAFSA, you’ll also need your 2018 W2 and tax return.
  2. Create an FSA ID – This username and password is used to electronically sign your FAFSA and other important financial aid paperwork. Visit fsaid.ed.gov to sign up and use our FSA ID Worksheet to track all of your responses.
  3. Fill It Out – The FAFSA is available at FAFSA.gov on October 1 each year. Check out the “Tool Tips” question mark box beside each field for assistance with every question. You can also use the FAFSA mobile app by downloading the ‘myStudentAid’ app to your phone or tablet.
  4. Sign & Submit – Enter your FSA ID to serve as your electronic signature. Don’t forget to click submit at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Follow Up – Watch your email for a Student Aid Report (SAR) and information from the schools who’ve received your FAFSA results. Be sure to follow up with the financial aid office at your school if you have additional questions.

    For more details, check out the Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps guide or watch the Finish the FAFSA in Five videos on the StartWithFAFSA website, available in both English and Spanish.

Should I Apply for OTAG?

Short answer: Yes! No separate application is necessary, but you DO have to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply.

The Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG) is a need-based grant program for Oklahoma residents who attend eligible colleges, universities and career technology centers in the state. Awards are approved for full-time or part-time undergraduate students. Children of military personnel from other states who currently reside in Oklahoma may also qualify for OTAG.


OTAG is a grant based on financial need, which is determined by the data students submit on their FAFSA. To apply for OTAG, a student simply has to complete a FAFSA. Typically, OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded with available funds, so it’s important that your FAFSA is submitted on or shortly after October 1 each year.


Currently, the maximum annual OTAG award is the lesser of 75 percent of enrollment costs or $1,000 for students attending public colleges, universities or career technology centers, and $1,300 for students attending eligible private colleges or universities.


Another grant available from the State of Oklahoma is the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG). It’s a need-based grant for Oklahoma residents enrolled as full-time undergraduates at certain qualified Oklahoma not-for-profit, private/independent institutions of higher education. Students must complete a FAFSA to apply. To receive OTEG, a student must also have an annual family income of $50,000 or less. OTEG award amounts are $2,000 per academic year or $1,000 per academic semester. To see a list of schools eligible to offer OTEG awards, visit OKcollegestart.org/Financial_Aid_Planning.

Do You Need an FSA ID?

The FSA ID is your Federal Student Aid ID. It’s a username and password that you’ll use to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year that you’re seeking financial aid for college.

It’s best to create your FSA ID before you complete your FAFSA. In fact, now is the perfect time for you to create yours since the new FAFSA will be available October 1.

Your FSA ID can also be used to log on to other financial aid websites. It’s your unique electronic signature, so you should never share it with anyone—not even your parents or financial aid personnel at the college you choose to attend. You must create your own FSA ID; parents of dependent students should not create an ID for their children, and vice versa.

We suggest writing down the information you enter as you create your FSA ID. The easiest way to do so is by using the FSA ID worksheet, available in English and Spanish at UCanGo2.org. Once you’ve filled in the worksheet, be sure to store it in a safe place. Consider putting it in the file that contains one or more recent tax returns (yours and/or your parents’) so you will have it handy when the next FAFSA season rolls around.

For more information about how to plan, prepare and pay for college, visit UCanGo2.org, OKcollegestart.org and StartWithFAFSA.org.