I have some left-over student loan money. Can I use it to do some holiday shopping?

When it comes to student loans, many students borrow more than they need to pay for school. It can be tempting to borrow more than you need, but it’s important to remember that every penny borrowed is a penny you’ll have to repay, plus interest. It’s best to limit borrowing to the amount you truly need to cover college expenses.

Here are some tips for borrowing wisely.

    • Borrow only what you need to pay for the current academic year. If you have questions about how much you’ll need, ask a financial aid officer to walk you through your aid ‘package’ to see what’s left to pay after any grants, scholarships, work-study funds and monthly payments have been deducted from your balance.
    • Use your loan money wisely. Misuse of your student loan funds might seem like a great idea at the time, but when it’s time to repay your loans, you may regret paying for those little ‘emergencies’ with borrowed money. Cut corners now so you won’t have to spend years after college wishing you had done things differently.
    • Remember what you signed. When you signed the Master Promissory Note (MPN) and promised to repay your loan(s), you certified, “I will use the proceeds of loans made under this MPN for authorized educational expenses that I incur (see Section C, 12-B).” Holiday shopping, no matter how much you try to justify it, is not an authorized educational expense.

If you’re looking for ways to get through the holidays, check Oklahoma Money Matters’ “Q&A Forum,” where you’ll find an entire section in the archive devoted to holidays and spending. To learn more about student loan repayment, visit ReadySetRepay.org.

Recipe for FAFSA Success

The upcoming holidays often mean good food and fun with friends and family (and more good food). The holidays can be even more enjoyable if you can relax knowing you’ll have financial aid for college. If you’re interested in a slice of funding to help satisfy your college tuition appetite, here’s a recipe for FAFSA Success.

Ingredients:

    • Your Social Security number
    • An assigned PIN from pin.ed.gov
    • Completed tax returns (yours and your parents’)
    • Bank and asset statements and documents (yours and your parents’)
    • And a few other documents listed at studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa

Directions:

At pin.ed.gov, combine your name, Social Security number and date of birth to receive an assigned PIN number. Once PIN is obtained, stir in remaining ingredients including tax returns, bank and asset information, family size and colleges you want to attend, along with your parents’ information. Bake until your Student Aid Report (SAR) is done – typically about a week or two.

The colleges you selected when completing your FAFSA will be notified of your SAR results.  Visit websites for your colleges of choice to determine what applications may be required to be considered for enrollment.

And remember, you need to whip up a new FAFSA every year to continue to receive financial aid!

College Assistance for Veterans

You know that Veterans Day is a federal holiday celebrated in November every year, but do you know how it began? Veterans Day marks the end of World War I in 1918 which occurred at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. Therefore, it’s always recognized Nov. 11. This day was originally established to honor WWI Veterans, but in 1954 it became a holiday for veterans of every American war.

To assist veterans who wish to attend college, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers several types of benefits to help with educational expenses. Check out the links below to find a program that may best meet your situation or the situation of a veteran you know:

If you are eligible to receive Montgomery GI Bill benefits, check this link: www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/. You’ll have access here to a variety of information on pay rates, benefits for specific schools, and a phone number to call for questions.

As you celebrate Veterans Day today, please take a moment to remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have fought to protect our homeland and freedom.

Do You Have Questions About the FAFSA? We Can Help!

All students planning to further their education after high school should complete the FAFSA every year they need financial aid for college. Whether you’re preparing to submit the FAFSA for the first time, or you’re reapplying as a college student, we are here to help you find answers to your FAFSA questions.

While the FAFSA may look somewhat difficult, the online application at www.fafsa.gov has been simplified and improved over the years to provide students and parents with a more user-friendly application experience. Throughout the process, applicants can easily find helpful hints and information to help answer important questions. If you have questions before you begin the application, the “Help” section at FAFSA.gov is a great place to start. There, you can browse commonly asked questions and search specific topics.

If you find you still have questions, click “Contact Us” in the upper right corner of this page to either call, email or leave us a message. Your personal information will be kept completely confidential and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction to find the information you need. Remember, you can always contact any financial aid office for assistance with your FAFSA, whether you plan to attend that college or not. You may also contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800.4.FED.AID (800.433.3243) for assistance.

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.