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.
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.
Once the FAFSA you need is available, it can be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov.
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!
Here’s a common question this time of year: “I recently received my Student Aid Report (SAR), and after looking it over I discovered that some changes need to be made to my Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). What should I do?”
If you’re correcting an error you made, log into your FAFSA at fafsa.gov, and then click on “Make FAFSA Corrections.” Some of the most common FAFSA changes made by students are:
- Adding or deleting college codes
- Changing an e-mail or street address
- Making corrections to any field other than your Social Security Number (SSN)
You shouldn’t change any field containing financial information or marital status unless you’re sure that it was entered incorrectly on the application. Use extreme caution on the FAFSA questions that include the phrase “on the day you submitted your FAFSA.” Even though certain figures and circumstances may have changed since you completed your FAFSA, those answers were most likely true on the day you submitted the form.
If you discover that your Social Security Number is incorrect, you can change it in one of two ways:
- Make the correction by hand on a paper copy of your SAR, sign and date it and then send it to Federal Student Aid.
- Ask the financial aid office at one of the colleges listed on your SAR to change it for you.
If you’re not successful in changing your Social Security Number, you’ll need to file a new FAFSA that contains the correct SSN.
To request a copy of your paper SAR or to ask any questions about the FAFSA process, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1.800.433.3243.
In addition to receiving federal and state financial aid, scholarships are a great way to help pay for education beyond high school since scholarships do not have to be repaid. Here are some resources and tips to help you get your search started!
- Complete your FAFSA! Some scholarships require a completed FAFSA to apply.
- Check with the institution you’re attending. Career technology centers, colleges and universities offer scholarships to both incoming freshmen and returning students. Check your school’s website to learn how and when to apply.
- Create an OKcollegestart.org account. The scholarship profile allows you to search over 20,000 scholarships nationwide. Providing your GPA, test scores, interests and activities allows OKcollegestart to match you with scholarships that are most relevant to you.
- Visit UCanGo2.org to search scholarships by deadline so you never miss out on an opportunity. You can also see scholarships with upcoming deadlines based on several categories such as those for members of the military, awards for those interested in the arts and scholarships for adult learners.
- Review Are You Looking for Money? This handy guide provides tips on how to make the most of your scholarship search and provides links to several scholarship search websites.
- Apply, apply, apply! It’s never too early or too late to apply for scholarships. Whether you’re in elementary school or working on your Ph.D., there are scholarships available!
Best of luck!
Are you in a situation that has made you become homeless or at risk of being homeless? The U.S. Department of Education has provided a way to help students in these difficult situations.
In order to determine your dependency status on the 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will have to answer three questions related to homelessness. The first question is: “At any time on or after July 1, 2017, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?” The next two questions related to this subject are similar, but they ask if the determination came from a director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.
According to FAFSA guidelines, homeless means lacking fixed, regular and adequate housing. Also, if you are living in this situation and fleeing an abusive parent you may still be considered homeless even if your parent would otherwise provide a place to live. “Unaccompanied” means you’re not living in the physical custody of your parent or guardian.
Answering Yes to one of these questions can give you an independent status on your FAFSA, meaning you wouldn’t have to report your parent’s income information when applying for financial aid for college. If you do answer yes, be prepared to provide a copy of the determination that was made by one of the three people listed above in case the financial aid office at your college should ask you for one. If you haven’t been previously determined to be homeless or at risk of being homeless but believe you meet the qualifications, you should answer “No” and contact the financial aid office at the college, university or career technology center you plan to attend to explain your situation. The financial aid administrator will make a determination and advise you on how to proceed.
Contact your financial aid office if you have questions about homelessness or any other special circumstance that you believe justifies changing your status from dependent to an independent student.
The FAFSA is one application for a variety of federal and state financial aid programs. The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program is one. Before accepting loans, be sure you understand how they work. Student loans are in investment in your future, and the following information can help you be a smart investor.
- Student loans are disbursed at a fixed rate, meaning the interest rate for the loan will never change. This is often considerably lower than private student loan sources. The interest rate for federal student loans disbursed during the 2017-18 school year is 4.45%.
- No credit check is required. Federal student loans are available to you because you’re pursuing education beyond high school.
- For students who qualify for subsidized student loans, the federal government pays the interest on your loan while you’re still in school, saving you money in the long run.
- When it’s time to repay your student loans, you’ll have several repayment plan choices designed to fit your specific needs.
- Not all students qualify for subsidized student loans. The information you provide on your FAFSA determines eligibility.
- Student loans must be repaid, and debt adds up quickly. Keep track of your student loan debt while you’re in school by visiting the National Student Loan Data System.
- There is a cap to how much you can borrow, so be sure you’re seeking other types of financial aid as well.