Budgeting While in College

Before your first day of college, it’s important to consider creating a budget for the upcoming school year. If you know how much financial aid you’ll receive, evaluate your other monthly expenses that are a priority. You may have responsibilities such as car payments and maintenance, cellphone service and miscellaneous items. Remember that financial aid can only be used for educational, and some living expenses, so a budget can help with planning for other important purchases. Here are a few tips to assist with developing a budget while in college.

Talk it out. Talk to those who are helping you pay for college. Whether it’s a parent or guardian, conversing with those who are supporting your educational pursuits allows expectations to be set for everyone involved. Even if you’ll be supporting yourself financially in college, inform others that you’ll need to be wise with managing your resources and may not be able splurge on certain items or activities. Talking it out allows everyone to be on the same page.

Essentials first, fun second. When developing a budget, account for necessities first, – housing, transportation, utilities etc. – then designate money for entertainment. Using this order can ensure your living needs are taken care of while still giving you room to enjoy leisure activities. Some college campuses host many fun, free events that could make the most of a small entertainment budget.  

Discounts and sales help. Check to see if your favorite stores offer a college student discount, as many companies do. While this tip may not directly relate to developing a budget, it can help you stick to the one you create. Clipping coupons along with shopping on sale can also assist with managing your finances. Browse retailers’ websites or apps for coupons and sales that may help with purchasing items on your shopping list.

Avoid budget busters. Daily coffee runs or trips to the vending machine can eat away at your budget. You don’t have to stop these altogether, but limit yourself to one or two splurges a week. Buying a coffeemaker and snacks from the grocery store can minimize the impact of these habits on your budget. Additionally, instead of eating out often, utilize your college meal plan or pack a lunch. You can see what habits are busting your budget by using a budget tracking app. Trackers can show your spending behavior and give you insight to routines that may need to change.

To learn more about tips for budgeting while in college, visit OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.

NonTraditional Students and the FAFSA

Traditional (or ‘typical’) college students earn a high school diploma, enroll full time immediately after finishing high school, depend on parents for financial support, and either work part time during the school year or choose not to work. However, recent data shows that the majority of today’s college students are not ‘typical’ at all.

At times, over 70% of those enrolled in undergraduate studies nationwide have been adults over the age of 24 who often work and attend college part time. Evening and weekend classes, online courses and economic twists and turns have changed the landscape of higher education. If you’re an adult who is 25 years of age or older and you’ve been thinking about enrolling in college for the first time or returning to college to complete your degree, you are definitely not alone. But where do you start?

First, if you’re not sure which college you would like to attend, research your options by using tools such as OKcollegestart.org and NCES.ed.gov/CollegeNavigator to find schools that have the program and/or major you’re looking for.

When you have your choices narrowed down, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is simply a snapshot of your family’s financial situation used to help technology centers, career schools, colleges and universities determine your eligibility for various types of student financial aid . Things may have changed since you submitted your last FAFSA, if you submitted one at all. The vast majority of FAFSAs are now done online, and you can begin yours at StudentAid.gov . To complete your FAFSA online, you’ll first need to establish your Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID), which is a username and password that has replaced the four-digit PIN formerly used on the FAFSA. Click here to create your FSA ID.

The college you plan to attend may offer assistance for students like you who want to finish their degrees. Contact the school(s) of your choice for more information, and be sure to visit ReachHigherOK.org to see more valuable resources.


UCanGo2.org’s Checklists

The Oklahoma College Assistance Program offers a variety of online publications through UCanGo2.org that help students prepare for their transition to college. Their most popular publications are the college planning checklists. These checklists are available for grades 6-12 and help students and their parents with the specific steps they should be taking during each year to reach their higher education goals.

On the Senior Checklist, 12th-grade students may notice many of the steps center around the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The first “to-do” calls for students to create an FSA ID. Seniors can reference the FSA ID Worksheet to keep track of their username and password each year they complete the FAFSA. There is also a copy of the FSA ID Worksheet available in Spanish. The second “to-do” calls for students to complete the FAFSA after Oct. 1 each year they need funds for college. A helpful tool to complete this step is the FAFSA in Five publication. With this resource, students can make sure they have all the necessary materials to complete the FAFSA. Students must also determine their dependency status on the FAFSA. A helpful resource to determine this is the Dependency Questionnaire. If they answer “yes” to any of the questions on this form, the student is considered an independent and won’t need to include their parents’ information on the FAFSA.

Not a senior yet? No problem! There are many more publications and helpful tools for students to use as they progress through middle and high school. Below are the college planning checklists for each grade. Be sure to follow the suggested links on each one to discover additional resources:

Junior Checklist

Sophomore Checklist

Freshman Checklist

8th Grade Checklist

7th Grade Checklist

6th Grade Checklist

Have You Applied for Oklahoma’s Promise?

The Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program offers qualified Oklahoma students an opportunity to earn a scholarship for college tuition. To qualify for enrollment:

  • You must be an Oklahoma resident.
  • You must enroll for the scholarship in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade

(at the age of 13, 14 or 15 for homeschool students).

  • Your parent(s)’ federal adjusted gross income (AGI) must not exceed $55K per year. –  Special income provisions apply to legal guardians and certain adoptive parents.

If you have just completed 10th grade, you must submit your application for Oklahoma’s Promise by June 30, 2020 in order to be considered for the scholarship. Students who just completed 8th or 9th grade and miss the June 30 deadline will be able to complete the 2020-21 application in the fall.

Prior to receiving the scholarship in college, the federal adjusted gross income (AGI) of the student’s parents (or the income of the student if the student is officially determined to be financially independent of their parents) may not exceed $100,000. Each year in college Oklahoma’s Promise students will be required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will be used to determine whether the federal adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000. To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise and to explore other federal and state financial aid opportunities, visit: