Verification

After you’ve submitted your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it’s possible your application could be flagged for verification. Don’t panic! Annually about 30% of all FAFSA applications are chosen for this process which means the financial aid office at your college is required to verify your data.

Verification is the process a financial aid office must complete to determine the accuracy of the information on your application. If your FAFSA is selected for verification, you may be asked to provide documentation to your college about the addresses, names or financial data you provided.

After submitting your FAFSA, monitor your email for requests for additional information and swiftly respond to those requests. Your eligibility for financial aid will not be reviewed until the verification process is complete. Follow up with the aid office to check your application status because the more you cooperate with them, the faster the process will go. Verification is the last official step before you’ll be provided with a financial aid offer. The offer will list the amount and types of financial aid you may use to help cover your college expenses. If you have questions about the FAFSA or your financial aid offer, you should contact your school’s aid office directly. They’re here to help!

Student Financial Aid Acronyms

Every profession has a unique set of acronyms used in that particular field. As you plan for college and begin to explore different ways to pay for higher education, you may come across some acronyms commonly found in the world of student financial aid. We’ve listed some here, with a brief explanation of each.

AGI                 Adjusted Gross Income – A dollar amount found on your, and/or your parents’, tax return that must be reported on your FAFSA.

CARES           Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – A relief package passed in March, 2020 to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The borrower benefits in the Act were extended to January 31, 2021. [KK1] 

COA                Cost of Attendance – The average annual cost for attending a specific college, university, technology center or proprietary school, which includes tuition, room and board, books, fees, supplies, personal expenses and transportation.

EFC                 Expected Family Contribution – A number found on your Student Aid Report (SAR) that’s used by a financial office to determine how much aid you’re eligible to receive.

FAFSA            Free Application for Federal Student Aid – A form submitted by you that is used to determine your eligibility for federal and state financial aid. One or both parents may also need to contribute their financial information.

FSA                 Federal Student Aid – The branch of the U.S. Department of Education that oversees federal financial aid disbursed to higher education institutions for students who qualify.

FSA ID            Federal Student Aid Identification – A username and password that gives you access to some of the U.S. Department of Education’s websites; it can also serve as your legal signature on the FAFSA and other electronic documents.

ISIR                 Institutional Student Information Record – A report sent to your selected college(s) that contains the data from your FAFSA.

MPN                Master Promissory Note – A document signed by you that says you promise to repay a student loan, along with any accrued interest and fees.

SAR                Student Aid Report – Contains the data submitted on your FAFSA, along with next-step instructions. Once the FAFSA is processed, you’ll receive information on how to download and print the report.

For a much larger list of the many acronyms and terms used throughout the federal financial aid process, visit StudentAid.ed.gov.

New Year, New Goals

Welcome, 2021!

Optimism is in the air! You’re ready for new beginnings and opportunities to change some habits in order to achieve your goals. In addition to health and financial goals, there are some helpful academic goals that will give you a jump start in the new year.

Federal Financial Aid: By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re investigating your eligibility for different types of federal and state financial aid to help you pay for college. The FAFSA for the 2021-22 college year is now available, so be sure to submit it ASAP at FAFSA.gov. We encourage you to “start with FAFSA,” and then continue seeking scholarship opportunities throughout the year.

Scholarships: Not sure how to start your scholarship search? Here are some ideas:

  • Check out UCanGo2.org for new scholarships by category and by deadline.
  • While you’re there, take a look at the Scholarship Success Guide to review tips for applying for scholarships and find a list of additional scholarship search websites.
  • Create a profile on OKcollegestart.org to view scholarship applications that are the perfect fit for you. It’s important to apply for as many scholarships as possible year-round, so make a habit of applying for 2-3 scholarships a week.  

Study Habits: While the FAFSA doesn’t take your grade point average (GPA) and class rigor into consideration, schools will look at them when considering your eligibility for academic scholarships as well as acceptance to their school. Your grades in college will also determine if you can maintain certain scholarship offers from year to year. To start or improve good study habits, check out the tips listed in The Perfect 10 Study Habits Guide.

Extracurricular Involvement: Many colleges will also ask if you’ve participated in any school or community programs outside the classroom. Join a club or volunteer in your community after school hours. Not only will your involvement look impressive on a college application or a resume, it will also give you opportunities to serve others and make a difference in your community. Are you already in college? Join a club or find opportunities in your community to share the skills and knowledge that you’re developing. Whether you’re still in high school or you’re headed into the career field, extracurricular involvement is an important commitment to make in the new year.

Happy New Year! Be sure to share your optimism with everyone around you!

The New FAFSA Mobile App

Have you completed your 2021-2022 FAFSA yet? If not, now’s the time! In fact, you can complete this important financial aid application directly on your phone or tablet.

The new myStudentAid mobile app has recently been released with an updated look and a variety of new tools provided by Federal Student Aid (FSA). This app offers a more user-friendly design, as well as a Financial Aid Summary that allows you to keep track of your student loan and grant history. It also offers the ability for borrowers to track their loan repayment progress.

To access this tool, students, parents and borrowers will need to download FSA’s myStudentAid app. From there you can set up your FSA ID, or use your current ID to complete and submit your FAFSA as well as take advantage of these new features. Check out the updated myStudentAid app today!

Mobile phone screenshots of the app

Make the Most of Your Holiday Season!

This time of year brings merriment and joy to those as they celebrate the holiday festivities. And while you’re enjoying a few weeks off from school, why not spend a little time preparing for college? If you’re currently a high school senior you should complete and submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to apply for federal and state aid.

You should also do a little scholarship searching. Scholarships provide FREE money to help you pay your college expenses. Whether you’re in high school or college, scholarships are available to you. There are even awards for students in middle school and younger. You just need to do some research.

Below you’ll find links to some great festive scholarships to get you started.

Holiday Celebration Scholarship
Amount:  $1,000
Deadline:  December 31, 2020

Timber Works Tree Care Scholarship
Amount:  $1,000
Deadline:  January 18, 2021

Scholars Helping Collars Scholarship 
Amounts:  $1,500, $300, $200
Deadline:  February 28, 2021

Sweet and Simple Scholarship
Amount:  $1,500
Deadline:  February 28, 2021

Angel Scholarship
Amount:  Varies
Deadline:  March 1, 2021 (New posting in January)

Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship
Amount:  $10,000
Deadline:  March 9, 2021

National Candy Technologists Scholarship
Amount:  $5,000
Deadline:  April 3, 2021

Flavor of the Month Scholarship
Amount:  $1,500
Deadline:  July 31, 2021  

Ornament Scholarship
Amount:  $1,000
Deadline:  Watch for new 2021 scholarship posting

Sugar Spun Run Scholarship
Amount:  $500
Deadline:  Check for new scholarship posting on Jan. 1

Changing Information on Your Submitted FAFSA

Do you want to add another college code to your FAFSA? Have you moved since you submitted your FAFSA? When you reviewed your Student Aid Report (SAR), did you discover that you had made a mistake on one of the answers you gave?

Most students file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA electronically, and it’s quick and easy to make corrections online as well. Let’s look at the three examples given above.

  1. Add a school code. This one is super easy. Log in to FAFSA.gov using your FSA ID. Choose ‘Make FAFSA Corrections’. Use the tabs at the top of the first page of your FAFSA and/or use the ‘Next’ or ‘Previous’ buttons to find the list of college codes you’ve already submitted. Add your code(s), and don’t forget to click the ‘Submit’ button on the last page when you’re done. In a few days, you should receive another email telling you that your new Student Aid Report (SAR) is ready. Review your SAR once more to make sure your changes have been made.

2. Update your demographic information. If you’ve moved or have a new phone number, be sure to update your demographic information at fsaid.ed.gov (Manage My FSA ID) and FAFSA.gov (Make FAFSA Corrections). Don’t forget to click the ‘Submit’ button on the last page when you’re done. In a few days, you should receive another email telling you that your new Student Aid Report (SAR) is ready. Review your SAR once more to make sure your changes have been made. If your last name has changed, contact a financial aid officer at your college of choice and ask them what steps you need to take.

3. Make corrections. Log in to FAFSA.gov using your FSA ID. Choose ‘Make FAFSA Corrections’. Use the tabs at the top of the first page of your FAFSA and/or use the ‘Next’ or ‘Previous’ buttons to find the page that contains the incorrect information. Make the necessary changes, then be sure to click ‘Submit’ on the last page when you’re done. In a few days, you should receive another email telling you that your new Student Aid Report (SAR) is ready. Review your SAR once more to make sure your changes have been made.

Note: If any of the income figures you reported need to be changed, it’s likely that a financial aid officer at your college will need to make them for you. If this is the case, be sure to give them your Data Release Number (DRN), located near the top of your Student Aid Report (SAR). They cannot ask you for your FSA ID.

Keeping your FAFSA data current will help you avoid delays in the future. Be sure to review your SAR carefully to look for discrepancies. ­­If you encounter any problems, you can call Federal Student Aid (FSA) at 1.800.433.3243.

The EFC

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a number that’s used to help determine your eligibility for federal and state financial aid. It’s important to know that your EFC is not the guaranteed amount of money you or your family will be required to contribute to your cost of attendance. It’s only a number used by your school to calculate your financial aid eligibility.

Each school that you selected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will use the EFC to determine how much aid you may receive at their individual institution. Your EFC is calculated through a formula that uses your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets and benefits. The size of your family, the number of family members who’ll attend college during the academic year and the age of your older parent will also influence your EFC.

For a detailed guide on exactly how an EFC is calculated, you can check out The EFC Formula.

Financial aid administrators will subtract the EFC from the student’s cost of attendance to determine their financial need for the following federal student aid programs:

  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal Subsidized Student Loans
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
  • Federal Work-Study

Other federal and state scholarship programs will also use the EFC to determine your eligibility for additional aid. The EFC is calculated after you complete your FAFSA. If you’re planning to attend college next fall, make sure you submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. You can find the FAFSA online at FAFSA.gov.

Make a Plan for Your Holiday Break

What do you have planned for your holiday break? Family time? Catching up on homework? Taking a part-time job? Whatever your plans may be, focus a little on your future plans…college.

If you’re a senior this year, make sure you’ve completed the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid serves as your application for federal and state financial aid for college. It becomes available every Oct. 1 so always complete and submit this form as soon after that date as possible. If you haven’t submitted your FAFSA, do it now! 

Scholarships should also be on your mind. Use your holiday break to apply for as many as possible. There are numerous scholarships available and you can apply all year for funding that can be used throughout your college career. Take advantage of this free money!

And if you choose to work on your break, stash a portion of your earnings in your savings account for college. Choose to save 20, 30 or 40% of your take-home pay. Any monetary gifts you receive for the holidays can also be added to your savings. Remember, every dollar you save is one less dollar you’ll have to borrow.

Enjoy your holiday and take some time to plan ahead!

When to Talk to Your Financial Aid Office About Special Circumstances

Do you have reason to believe that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) you recently submitted needs to be updated or reconsidered due to special circumstances in your family? You can correct simple errors by logging in to your FAFSA at FAFSA.gov, but some adjustments can only be made by a financial aid officer at your college.


Dependency Status

The FAFSA will ask up to 13 dependency questions, and the answers to those questions will determine whether you are dependent or independent. If you answer NO to every dependency question, you’ll be considered a dependent student, which means you’ll be asked to report one or both parents’ income and tax information. But supplying parental information can be a challenge to some students due to ‘special circumstances’. You’ll have an opportunity on the FAFSA to state that you’re unable to provide your parents’ information, at which time the FAFSA will inform you that a dependent student who doesn’t include his/her parents’ information will only be eligible for one type of federal financial aid—an Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan. Not reporting your parents’ information can definitely affect the amount of financial aid that you would otherwise be eligible to receive.

There are times when a financial aid officer can ‘override’ your dependency status and change it to an independent status. This can be done if:

  • You had to leave home due to an abusive environment,
  • Your parents are incarcerated or
  • You’re unable to contact your parents and don’t know where they live.

A financial aid officer won’t be able to switch your status to ‘independent’ simply because:

  • Your parents refuse to contribute their information,
  • You weren’t claimed as a dependent on their tax return or
  • You aren’t living with your parents.

Basically, a dependency override can only be done in extreme situations. If you still believe you should be declared independent, discuss your circumstances with a financial aid officer at your school(s) of interest.

Adjustments to Family Income

If you and your parents have experienced a loss of income since 2019*, be sure to talk to someone in financial aid. Some reasons your income could be lower are:

  • Change in employment status
  • A divorce or separation
  • Unusual medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • Unusual dependent care expenses

Once you supply documentation that shows your current family income or special circumstance, a financial aid officer may be able to make adjustments that reflect what you and your family are currently experiencing, rather than what was reflected on your FAFSA. This would be done after you have reported your correct 2019 income on your FAFSA, and only someone from your financial aid office can adjust those figures.

The financial aid staff at your college will always be your best resource when you have questions about special circumstances. It’s important to contact them if you have any comments or concerns.

*Information from the 2019 tax year must be reported on the 2021-2022 FAFSA. The FAFSA will always ask for information from two years prior to the academic year for which the application is being submitted.

Have You Submitted Your FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for next fall became available Oct. 1. That means people are applying for financial aid almost a year before they’ll need it for college. It’s a long time until the next fall semester starts, so why is it so important to file now?

It’s best to file your FAFSA as soon as you can once it becomes available. While some types of financial aid are available year-round, other forms are not.

Federal Work-Study
Work-study is a type of aid that is earned, rather than borrowed. Your eligibility is determined by your financial need. Students use the money they earn at a part-time job to pay toward their college expenses. There is a limit to the number of work-study jobs available each semester, so if you don’t submit your FAFSA early and answer yes to the “I’m interested in work-study” question, those jobs could all be filled before you start the school year.

Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG)
OTAG is a grant funded by the state of Oklahoma for students who are Oklahoma residents and will be enrolled at an Oklahoma college or technology center. It’s an example of first-come, first served aid because it’s funded only once a year. Typically, OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded with available funds, and how early a student applies can be the deciding factor in whether that student is offered an OTAG award. To apply, you simply have to complete a FAFSA. Your eligibility for OTAG is determined by your financial need, and the amount of the award is $1,000 ($500 in fall and spring).

Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG)
OTEG is also funded by the state of Oklahoma, and goes to students who demonstrate financial need on a first-come, first served basis. Recipients must be Oklahoma residents. To receive this grant, your annual family income must be at or below $50,000, and the grant can only be used at an approved private/independent, not-for-profit postsecondary institution in Oklahoma. OTEG funds are sent to the approved institutions; students to be awarded OTEG will be selected and notified by the institutions. The grant pays $2,000 ($1,000 in fall and spring).

Visit OKcollegestart.org to learn more about OTAG and OTEG and a list of approved OTEG schools.

Be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as you can. You don’t want to miss out on these chances for earned and free money for college that doesn’t have to be repaid!

What you need to know about submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid