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.

February is Financial Aid Awareness Month!

Did you know that in fiscal year 2016, over 13 million students received a total of $125.7 billion in Federal Student Aid (FSA)? The FSA programs provide grants, work-study funds and loans to students who attend colleges, universities, technical centers or career schools. AND, you may not know that The State of Oklahoma also administers several scholarships and grants that can help you pay for college. So, now that you’re aware of this, how can you find out if you qualify for any of the aid?

The only way to know if you qualify is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’re not committing to any school or any funding when you complete the FAFSA; you’re simply investigating your options to determine what types of aid you may be qualified to receive. Here are three common myths about financial aid that we’re about to bust wide open:

Myth: If I’m not poor, very smart or super-talented, I won’t qualify for financial aid.
Reality: While it is true that there are need-based programs available to students who come from lower income families, remember that financial aid comes in many different forms. Be sure to investigate scholarships that come from private funding as well. They’re everywhere, and they’re given for a wide variety of reasons.

Myth: I’ve got several scholarships lined up, so I don’t need to submit a FAFSA.
Reality: There are many costs of college that can add up quickly, including tuition, fees, books, room and board, transportation, etc. To be safe, submit a FAFSA to investigate other funding possibilities in the event that your scholarships don’t cover all of those costs. You can always turn down any aid that’s offered to you.

Myth: I’m going to pay my own way through college, so there’s no need for my parents to report their income and tax information on my FAFSA.
Reality: Paying your own way does not automatically make you an independent student. Most first-year college students are considered to be dependent, which means need-based aid could be based on your income and your parents’ income and assets.

To see if you would be considered a dependent or independent student on the FAFSA, check out the Dependency Questionnaire at UCanGo2.org.

What Year’s Tax Information Do I Use?

When the FAFSA’s release date was moved to Oct. 1 in 2016, the rules about which year’s tax information to use were also updated. As a result, applicants use tax information that is likely already filed. This means no waiting on your next W2 to complete or update the FAFSA! Use the chart below to find out which FAFSA and which tax year are right for you.

Image of the FAFSA Completion Chart, which details attendance dates, version of the FAFSA, FAFSA deadlines, and the tax year used. The source for this information is Source: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.
Click to enlarge. Information source: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out

Once the FAFSA you need is available, it can be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov.

How Do I Add a College Code to my FAFSA?

Are you considering transferring to another college at the end of the spring semester? If so, you may need to add your new school’s college code to your FAFSA. Once the code has been added, the new school will be able to discuss your eligibility for financial aid at their institution. Follow these steps to add one or more school codes:

  • Go to FAFSA.gov.
  • Under “Returning User?” click “Add a School.”
  • Enter your Login information.
  • Search for the new college by city and state or school name, or enter the Federal School Code if you already know it.
  • Click “ADD”
  • Verify that the school is showing correctly in the Selected Schools column.
  • Add more schools if necessary.
  • Click “Submit.”
  • Be sure to follow up by checking your email and/or snail mail frequently and responding to any requests for materials from the school(s) you recently added.

Congratulations on taking another step to achieve your goals!