Don’t Miss the Oklahoma’s Promise Deadline!

Students in 8th, 9th or 10th grade: Don’t miss this very important deadline!

If you’re interested in applying for the Oklahoma’s Promise (OKP) scholarship, don’t wait until it’s time to submit your FAFSA! The deadline for submitting your OKP application this year is July 2, 2018.*

To enroll in the Oklahoma’s Promise program, you must be:

  • An Oklahoma resident
  • Enrolled in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade in an Oklahoma high school (homeschool students must be age 13, 14 or 15); and
  • A student whose parents earn $55,000 or less per year.

Special income provisions may apply to:

  • Children adopted from certain court-ordered custody and children in the custody of court-appointed legal guardians
  • Families receiving Social Security disability and death benefits.

To apply now or to learn more about the program, visit okpromise.org.

*Note: Any 2017-2018 application not submitted by the application deadline of July 2, 2018 will be removed from the system. Students who will be in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade in 2018-2019 will have to start a new application when it is available. High school sophomores who have not submitted their applications by July 2, 2018 will not be eligible for the program.

New FSA ID Worksheet

Hey students! If you, and your parent, plan to electronically sign the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you’ll be required to obtain an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). This ID is essentially a username and password that is used for a variety of purposes in the financial aid world such as:

  • Making online corrections to the FAFSA
  • Viewing or printing a copy of the Student Aid Report (SAR)
  • Electronically signing a Master Promissory Note (MPN)
  • Completing entrance and exit loan counseling requirements
  • Reviewing a history of federal student aid received

The set up process for the FSA ID requires applicants to answer a variety of questions. That’s why our new FSA ID Worksheet –
(FSA ID Worksheet in Spanish) will be a helpful tool in this undertaking. Write down the answers to your questions here and save this form in a safe place! Then if you’ve forgotten your username or password, or possibly an answer to one of your challenge questions, you’ll have the information readily available on your FSA ID Worksheet. The FSA ID Worksheet also comes in Spanish.

Check out the Resources tab here at StartWithFAFSA.org to locate and print a copy of the FSA ID Worksheet. You’ll also find it on UCanGo2.org in the Publications section. To set up your FSA ID, visit https://fsaid.ed.gov

FSA ID Worksheet Image

Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan

The Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan allows families to deposit funds into an account that will earn interest over time. When higher education costs arise, families will be able to use the funds from this account to help pay for their child’s education. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account online. There are a variety of low-cost investment options to choose from, and funds can be electronically deposited into the account or mailed in.

529 Plan funds can be used at most accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Expenses that the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan will cover include tuition, fees, books, supplies, certain room and board costs, and some technology equipment required for courses.

Saving for the future isn’t always easy, but being financially ready when your child goes to college will be well worth the investment. Here are a few things to think about when considering opening an Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan:

  1. Contributions made to the 529 Plan grow as tax-free earnings in the account and can be deducted from your Oklahoma taxable income.
  2. Regular contributions, even if they start as small amounts, add up over time. Consider making small automatic contributions or direct deposits into the account every pay period.
  3. Don’t wait, and don’t panic if your child is closer to college than diapers. Whether your child is in pre-school or high school, start saving for higher education expenses today. Focus on saving as much as you can afford within your means.
  4. A 529 Plan account can be a community effort. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family friends can contribute to your child’s 529 Plan account. Encourage family members to contribute to the fund for children’s birthdays and holiday gifts.

For complete information about the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan, visit OK4saving.org.

Summer Preparation for College

So you’re finishing up your senior year of high school and about to transition to life as a college student. It may be tempting to use your summer break as a time to relax and recover from your final year of high school, but it’s important to begin prepping for your upcoming college experience.

If you haven’t already filled out the FAFSA, it’s not too late. You will need to complete the 2018-19 form if you are starting classes in the fall of 2018. It can take a couple weeks for your college to send you your financial aid award letter, so complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.

The summer is also the perfect time to apply for scholarships. Use some of your extra time to complete scholarship applications. The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances are of winning! Don’t forget about scholarships provided by your college or university, too. For more information on those, call the campus financial aid office. You can also find a list of scholarships at UCanGo2.org and OKCollegeStart.org

If you will be living on campus, you can use the summer to start coordinating dorm needs with your roommate. You should also take a look at the school’s website to start reviewing potential associations, clubs or activities to join. Make sure you don’t overextend yourself, though; transitioning successfully from high school to college takes focus.

For more tips on preparing for college, check out our primer for high school seniors, Your Transition to College.

Tuition Wavers

When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re giving the college(s) of your choice a snapshot of your family’s current financial situation, enabling them to develop a plan for your financial aid ‘package’. That package may contain aid from:

  • The Federal government
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • The institution you wish to attend
  • Tribal, non-profit and private organizations

One thing that’s not listed here is a tuition waiver. So, what is a tuition waiver and how does it affect the cost of attending college?

A tuition waiver differs from a scholarship; while a scholarship is a cash award that helps you pay for various college expenses, a tuition waiver reduces the amount the college charges you. The waiver will eliminate the cost of tuition for a designated number of credit hours, but it can’t be used for any other educational expense. While there can be many reasons a school might grant a waiver, here are some of the most common:

  • Your family income demonstrates a high financial need
  • You are of Native American descent
  • You’ve overcome a significant hardship
  • You were adopted, or you were a foster child

Each college and university has its own policy regarding who meets the qualifications for a tuition waiver. Call your institution’s financial aid office to see what waivers the campus may offer and how to qualify for them. Asking a simple question could save you money.

Save Your Tax Documents for a future FAFSA!

Before applying for federal student aid, you’ll want to pull together all the necessary documentation, such as your drivers ID, Social Security card, current bank statement and your W2 and tax returns. When gathering your tax information for the FAFSA, remember that you’re required to use your tax return from two years prior. This means that if you’re completing the FAFSA to begin school in fall 2018, you’ll need your tax information from 2016. Because you must complete the FAFSA each year you need student aid, you’ll need to keep your tax information handy for the FAFSA’s you will complete while in college. Try to keep all relevant documentation together in a safe location. This will help you quickly and accurately finish all future FAFSAs.

If you’re unsure when to complete the FAFSA or what year’s tax return you will need, check out the FAFSA Completion Chart  below.

FAFSA chart explaining tax and submission dates

Today is Oklahoma’s Promise Day!

Today is Oklahoma’s Promise Day! Since 1992, the Oklahoma’s Promise (OKP) scholarship has paid college tuition for over 80,000 students in our state.

If you’re an OKP recipient, you are now required to submit a FAFSA each year that you’re in college. The Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from your FAFSA will be used to determine whether or not your parents’ income exceeds $100,000 (or your income if you have been determined to be financially independent). For any year that the AGI exceeds $100,000, you won’t be eligible to receive the scholarship.

For more information about OKP requirements while you’re in college, be sure to read the FAQs for college students at okpromise.org.

Searching for Scholarships? Don’t forget local community foundations!

When you submit your FAFSA, you’ll be checking out your eligibility for different types of federal and state financial aid to help you pay for college. You’ll also want to investigate scholarships that come from private sources, so make sure to include a regional community foundation in your search for gift aid.

Community foundations are public charities whose goal is to improve the lives of citizens who reside in a particular geographic region. To achieve this goal, they strive to build permanent funds used for various purposes. Scholarships are often included in the donors’ choice of investments. Scholarships available through a community foundation are considered to be ‘local,’ which means there aren’t as many contenders for the prize as those offered nationally, improving your chances of receiving an award. Here are the websites for a few community foundations across the state:

Remember to take advantage of all the ‘free money’ you can find. Apply for as many scholarships as possible, and consider finding them before you apply for student loans.

Understanding Your Award Letter

After you’ve been accepted to a college, university or career technology center, and you’ve completed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you will receive a financial aid award letter from the school. This letter is very important, so be sure you’re watching for it to arrive! The award letter will notify you of the types of federal and state financial aid you can receive to pay for college.

Most financial aid award letters are sent to you electronically, but a few schools may provide paper documents. Be sure you know the system your school uses so you don’t miss out on any deadlines. Award letters will list the amount of financial aid you can receive, but you will likely be required to accept or decline this money by a specific date. If you miss the deadline, you may be missing out on money for college!

Keep in mind you don’t have to accept everything listed on the award letter. Research the aid programs you’re offered and make an educated decision. Remember, grants and scholarships are typically considered free money, work-study offers you the chance to work for your funds and student loans must be paid back in full with interest. If you have accumulated several grants and scholarships and don’t need loan money, then don’t accept it! Loan funds that are declined will most likely still be available if you learn you need additional money later in the school year.

If you’ve been accepted to more than one school, you’ll receive award letters from each institution. Be sure to compare the offers, keeping in mind the costs associated with each school as you make your decision.

If you have questions about the aid you’re awarded, please contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. To learn more about financial aid programs, visit UCanGo2.org or StudentAid.ed.gov.