So Many Financial Aid Terms, So Little Time

We know you’re busy preparing for the end of the year, and applying for financial aid for college can be overwhelming—especially with so many programs, terms and acronyms to decipher. We’ve compiled a list of common financial aid terms and definitions below to help you save time when completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    • Cost of Attendance (COA) is usually stated as a yearly figure. It’s comprised of the average expenses for tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, student loan fees and some personal expenses.
    • Direct Subsidized Loan is a federal loan available to students with demonstrated financial need as determined by the FAFSA. The federal government pays the interest on this loan while the student is attending college on at least a half-time basis.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loan is available to undergraduate and graduate students. The interest on an unsubsidized loan isn’t paid by the federal government so borrowers are responsible for all interest accrued from the date the loan is disbursed.
    • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated based on the financial information you and your parents provided on the FAFSA. Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It’s a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you’re eligible to receive.
    • Financial Need is defined as the difference between what it costs you to attend a college and your Expected Family Contribution. Many forms of financial assistance are based on your ability to show financial need.
    • Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) is a need-based grant program for Oklahoma residents who attend eligible colleges, universities and career technology centers in Oklahoma.
    • Pell Grant is awarded to eligible undergraduate students to help cover college expenses. The Pell Grant typically does not have to be repaid.
    • Work-Study is a federal student aid program that provides students with part-time employment while they’re enrolled in school. The earnings are used to help pay for educational expenses.

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

Don’t Rely on Luck to Pay Your Way

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find that pot o’ gold at the end ofclover the rainbow to help you pay for college?  As luck would have it, a free ride to college just isn’t in the cards for most folks. Your next best bet is to submit the Free Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By submitting the FAFSA, you’re able to determine how much federal and state aid you may be eligible to receive to help pay for college.

Already submitted the FAFSA? It’s never to late to start applying for  scholarships. Be sure to take advantage of the helpful information provided in UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide to help you as you go

FAFSA Errors and Corrections

If you complete and submit your FAFSA online each year, the system will double check your entries against your information from previous years and it will offer you helpful information along the way. However, even with the advantages of online completion, you may find that your FAFSA contains an error, or you may need to update your tax information.

To correct an error or update your FAFSA online, visit FAFSA.gov and enter your login information. Then, on the My FAFSA page, click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” After you’ve finished your corrections, don’t forget to click submit.

Once you resubmit your application and receive a confirmation number, the correction will be processed in 3-5 days. You cannot submit a second correction until the first one is processed and a Student Aid Report (SAR) is generated, so try to make all of your corrections at once to avoid a processing delay.

I Submitted the FAFSA, Now What?

You can expect several things after you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

  1. iStock_000008618700SmallIf your application is error-free, you’ll be directed to a confirmation page with a confirmation number. This page will be emailed to you, but it’s also a good idea to save or print it for your records.
  2. Your information will be made available to the schools you included on your FAFSA application. They will have access to your information about a day after your application is processed. However, it may take them longer to retrieve your information, depending on their system. Want to add more schools? See our previous post for more information.
  3. About 3-5 days after you submit the FAFSA, you’ll receive an email containing instructions for accessing your Student Aid Report (SAR). If the email address you provided is not valid, your SAR will be mailed to you within 7-10 days.
  4. Be sure to check your SAR for accuracy. It contains important information including your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which schools use to determine how much federal financial aid you qualify for, including grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans.
  5. Once the colleges you listed on your application process your information, they’ll send you a financial aid award letter detailing the aid you’re eligible to receive. The schools may request additional information and if they do, be sure to send it in promptly.

I already submitted my FAFSA. Can I add another college code?

When you add a college code to your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), that school receives important information from your FAFSA. You should add the codes for colleges you’re seriously considering attending. If you’ve already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (F AFSA) and have since discovered another college you may like to attend, it’s not too late to add the new school code to your online FAFSA application. In fact, it’s never too late to include additional schools. To add schools to your FAFSA, simply:

  1. Go to FAFSA.gov.
  2. Enter your Login information.
  3. Select the option to “Make FAFSA Corrections”.
  4. Go to the section where you’ve listed colleges and add the new school code(s). If you’ve already listed ten schools on your FAFSA, you’ll need to delete some to make room for any new school codes.
  5. Hit Submit.
  6. Follow up! Check your email and/or home mailbox to respond to any requests for materials from these additional schools.

What’s YOUR FAFSA Deadline?

Because a few types of financial aid are available year-round, there is not a specific deadline to submit the FAFSA. However, many scholarships and grants require information from your submitted FAFSA and have deadlines early in the year.

If you plan to apply for grants and scholarships that require information from your FAFSA, find out which grant or scholarship has the earliest deadline and aim to submit your FAFSA before then. Allow yourself enough time to get organized, gather materials, file your taxes, if possible, and complete the application.

Check out our previous post for more information about the benefits of applying early!

Time (Really) Is Money!

When it comes to submitting the FAFSA, it holds true that the early bird gets the worm (or in this case, the money).

Those who apply for financial aid early in the year:

  1. Receive their financial aid eligibility results earlier.
  2. Open more opportunities to earn scholarships and grants with early deadlines.
  3. Have one less item on their “To-Do Before College” list.

If you plan to apply for the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), you’ll need to submit the FAFSA by March 1. Remember, if you and/or your parents have not yet filed your taxes, you can submit the FAFSA using a tax estimate and make corrections later.

Is My Information Safe on FAFSA.gov?

If you’re concerned about the security of your information online, you’re not alone! Identity theft is a major problem. Fortunately, when it comes to submitting your information through FAFSA.gov, your personal data is as secure as possible.

FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to protect your information from hackers. Click here to learn more about these security measures and how FAFSA.gov uses your information.

Here are a few steps you should take to help further protect your information:

    1. Make sure you’re using the domestic version of your web browser. The international versions often have weaker encryption levels.
    2. Once you’re ready to end your session at FAFSA.gov, clear your browser’s temporary internet files.
    3. Close your browser entirely when you leave the computer. This eliminates the possibility that someone could take advantage of the computer memory still being used by the browser to try and access your application.
    4. As with any online account, safeguard your login information. Use a strong password that you are sure to remember and don’t leave passwords written or exposed where someone might be able to find them.

Remember, if you’re safe with your own information, your information is safe with FAFSA.gov!

F is for Free!

NEVER pay to complete the FAFSA; the FAFSA is always free. As a matter of fact, that’s what the first F stands for:Free-FAFSA

Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

If you plan to submit the form online, be sure to file at FAFSA.gov, and avoid sites like FAFSA.com that offer to file the FAFSA for a hefty fee. Always check for the “.gov” to make sure you’re in the right place!