Four Reasons to Finish the FAFSA

If you’re going to college next year, it’s time to start thinking about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)! Here are four reasons why:

  1. The FAFSA is used to apply for all types of federal financial aid and some types of state aid. It is also required for many scholarship programs, including Oklahoma’s Promise.
  1. Applying has never been easier. Complete the FAFSA online.
    Screen shot of FAFSA online with the help and hints box highlighted on the right
    Help and Hints Box

    Doing so is fast and efficient for you and the school(s) receiving your results.

  1. Help is always available. Use the Help and Hints boxes online or contact the Federal Student Aid Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243), or any nearby college or university financial aid office.
  1. You don’t have to wait long to get the ball rolling. The 2016-17 FAFSA became available Jan. 1, 2016 and the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available Oct. 1, 2016. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid.

Don’t Make this FAFSA Mistake!

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents continue to make.

Each year, many families don’t complete the FAFSA because they think they make too much money to qualify for aid. Counting yourself out before even starting is a huge mistake! Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid, you should still submit the FAFSA.

Here’s why:

    • You could be missing out. Billions of financial aid dollars are offered every year. Those funds will be awarded to someone… and that “someone” could be you. But you’ll never know if you don’t apply!
    • There’s no obligation. You’re not required to accept the aid offered to you. You’ll have the option to decline any aid offered, or you may choose to limit how much you borrow.
    • Your school might use the data. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, beyond federal funding, you could take yourself out of the running for school aid by choosing not to submit the FAFSA.
    • Federal student loans offer options. Even if you know you’ll only qualify for student loans and you’re unsure about borrowing money for school, federal loans could be your best option. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private or alternative loans, and they offer flexible repayment plans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.

When is the FAFSA Due?

We get this question a lot, and the answer can be somewhat confusing.

Technically, you can submit the FAFSA throughout most of the year; however, all high school seniors and current college students should submit the FAFSA as soon as the new form becomes available in each year they intend to enroll in college courses.

Why? Two reasons:

    1. The earlier you submit the FAFSA, the sooner you will know what aid is available to you.  If you’re considering more than one school, you may receive different aid offers.  Filing early gives you time to compare and make an educated decision.
    2. There are other deadlines to consider, including:

State Deadlines
Like federal financial aid, many state aid programs use information from your FAFSA for their award purposes. However, state programs have their own deadlines, often early in the year.

Students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG).

School Deadlines
In addition to specific financial aid program deadlines, some schools set their own deadlines for school-specific financial aid. Check with the college(s) you’re interested in attending to find out about any special deadlines.

See what we mean by “somewhat confusing?”

Your best bet: Aim to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible each year. 

If you miss a deadline, there are other types of financial aid to consider. Some forms of financial aid, including loans, are typically available throughout the year. Plus, many other aid programs offered throughout the year, including many grants and scholarships, don’t require information from the FAFSA.

Types of Financial Aid Offered Through the FAFSA

Financial aid comes in many forms, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the place to start to find out which types you’re eligible to receive. Remember, some of these programs have early application deadlines, so it’s important to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible each year you intend to enroll in college courses. Here are some of the types of financial aid offered through the FAFSA.

Grants and scholarships

Sometimes called gift aid, this type of financial aid is often based on financial need or merit and doesn’t have to be repaid. In addition to federal grants and scholarships, the FAFSA is required for some Oklahoma programs, like the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG) and Oklahoma’s Promise.

NOTE: There are also grants and scholarships offered by private corporations or non-profit groups that don’t necessarily require information from the FAFSA. You can search for scholarships by deadline or category at UCanGo2.org.

Work-study

A form of self-help aid, federal work-study provides part-time jobs for students (usually on- or off- campus) allowing them to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The program encourages community service employment and work related to the student’s course of study.

Student loans

Federal student loans are offered at low interest rates. Some are based on financial need and some aren’t. The amount you can borrow depends on many factors, including your grades, financial need, cost of attendance, the length of your school’s academic year and other sources of aid. All student loan funds borrowed must be repaid, regardless of whether you obtain a degree or drop out early. Remember, you don’t have to accept all student loan funds offered to you. Only borrow what you need to pay for your school expenses. Learn how to Borrow Smart from the Start at ReadySetRepay.org.

When paying for school, always go for free money first, including grants and scholarships. Then, use any funds you or your family have saved to contribute to your college costs. If you still need assistance, turn to the federal work-study program and low-interest student loans to help cover your expenses. For more information about paying for college, visit the Paying for College section at UCanGo2.org.

Financial Aid Resources for Spanish Speakers

As you may know, there are many students and parents for whom English is a second language. When it comes to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and looking for financial aid, it’s important to find resources in Spanish. To help, we’ve compiled the following list of financial aid resources for Spanish-speaking families.

https://studentaid.ed.gov and https://studentaid.ed.gov/resources
Federal Student Aid, of the U.S. Department of Education, offers this site to provide information about all types of financial aid. Click the link at the top of the home page to convert the entire site to Spanish. Visit the resources page to find a number of college planning and financial aid publications and videos in Spanish.

www.FAFSA.gov
All high school seniors and current college students should submit the FAFSA as soon as the new form becomes available in each year they intend to enroll in college courses. A link is provided at the top right of the home page to change the entire site to Spanish.

StartWithFAFSA.org
To the right of this blog post, you’ll see a link to check out our video that walks you through the five-step process of completing the FAFSA (available in both English and Spanish).

http://www.fastweb.com/college-scholarships/articles/1415-becas-para-estudiantes-hispanos-y-latinos
Fastweb.com is a great resource for locating scholarship websites. Check out this section, which provides information in Spanish.

Turn Your Holiday Break into Money for College

Everyone knows paying for college expenses can put a dent in your budget. But did you know scholarships can help you reduce that dent? If you haven’t applied for scholarships yet, now’s the time. It’s recommended that high school seniors apply for two to three scholarships per week and high school juniors should apply for one or more per week. There are scholarships available for students of all ages, but you won’t receive scholarship money unless you apply for it!

With the holiday break approaching, use some of your free time to get motivated and intensify your search. Explore these resources:

    • Scholarship search websites, including UCanGo2.org
    • Scholarships books in the library or local bookstore
    • Local businesses
    • Churches
    • Parents’ employers
    • Google.com
    • Club/organization affiliation with students and parents
    • College recruitment and financial aid offices
    • High school counselors