“How will I pay for college?” That’s a question everyone considering higher education is asking. Investigating your financial aid options can seem overwhelming, especially if no one in your family has ever gone to college.
Here are a few great resources to help you discover some options available to assist you.
- The FAFSA. The first step in applying for most types of federal and state financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as it’s available! Students who will be attending college during the 2022-23 school year should complete the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov as soon as it becomes available on Oct. 1.
- Your high school counselor. Counselors love talking about college—college preparation, choosing a college and finding financial aid options. Make an appointment with your counselor soon!
- The financial aid office at your college(s) of interest. Each college, technology center and career school are different. Be sure to speak with someone in the Financial Aid office at each institution you’re considering to learn which types of aid you may be able to receive at their school.
- Internet resources.
- Free money. Scholarships are an important resource to help you pay for college expenses. There are many scholarship search websites that allow students to set up a profile that will match them with various programs they may qualify for. Many scholarships are also available to students as young as elementary school so start your search now! These websites offer helpful information:
All high school students in the Class of ’22 will be hearing a lot of information about the FAFSA during the fast-approaching school year. So, just what is a FAFSA, and why is it so important?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college, vocational school or career school.
- It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ of a family’s financial situation, and
- It’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive to help them with the cost of college.
Now that you know what the FAFSA is, let’s talk about what it’s NOT. The FAFSA isn’t:
- An application to college
- A loan application
- Any type of commitment to accept the aid you’re offered
- A credit check
- Available only to students with stellar grades–the application won’t even ask you about your grade point average (GPA).
A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. High school seniors can submit their FAFSA on October 1 or shortly thereafter, which means you’ll be applying for financial aid almost a year before you begin college. It’s important to submit your FAFSA as early as possible, because some types of financial aid are first-come, first served. Haven’t picked your college yet? No problem! One great thing about the FAFSA is that you can have your information sent to up to 10 different schools, and none of them will be able to see the other colleges you’re interested in attending.
Even though your FAFSA won’t be ready until October, you can do a practice run by completing the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet, which lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, letting you know what it will be like to fill out the form online. This tool isn’t a replacement for the real FAFSA. You’ll still need to complete the actual form online after October 1 in order to apply for financial aid.
According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), billions of dollars in federal financial aid for college is left unclaimed each year by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, but simply didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.
For more information about the FAFSA and the types of aid that are available, visit studentaid.gov. To learn more about borrowing smart from the start, check out ReadySetRepay.org.
You’re about to begin another academic year and money can be tight when you’re a student. Whether you’re a returning college student or just entering college for the first time, you may have questions about how you can cover the costs of college this year. Here are some tips to consider:
- Check your FSA ID status. The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) is the username and password that you set up before filing your first FAFSA which serves as your electronic signature. If you haven’t used your FSA ID in a while, it may need to be re-enabled. This can be done at the manage my FSA ID tab at fsaid.ed.gov. Your FSA ID can’t only be used to access and sign your FAFSA, but also to sign your Master Promissory Note (MPN) if you apply for a Federal student loan, apply for a repayment plan, complete loan counseling and use the Public Service Forgiveness Loan (PSLF) tool.
- Apply for institutional, tribal, civic and community scholarships. Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships now and throughout their college years. We suggest trying UCanGo2.org, OKcollegestart.org and UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide.
- Find a part-time job. Many schools participate in the federal work-study program. If you demonstrate financial need, you may be able to work part-time on campus or at an approved site off-campus. The money you earn at a work-study job is then used to help you pay your college expenses. If you don’t qualify for work-study or your school doesn’t participate in this aid program, watch for job opportunities posted around your campus and online. Visit the campus career services office for resume building, interviewing tips and job placement opportunities.
- Develop a budget also known as a spending plan. No matter how much or how little money you may have, learning to manage your finances is crucial to your success now and later in life. Learn more about developing a spending plan as a college student at OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.