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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Fastweb.com is a great resource for locating scholarship websites. Check out this section, which provides information in Spanish.
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
- Parents’ employers
- Club/organization affiliation with students and parents
- College recruitment and financial aid offices
- High school counselors
As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to start thinking about status changes that could affect your eligibility for financial aid when you renew your FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year.
- How old are you? If you were a dependent student this year but you were born before January 1, 1993, you’ll be considered an independent student on your next FAFSA. That means you’ll only need to include your own income (and your spouse’s, if you’re married) on the application. You’ll no longer have to report your parents’ income.
- Has your marital status changed? If you married or divorced this year, your financial aid eligibility could be affected next year. Dependent students may also be affected if their parents’ marital status changed in 2015. Be sure to discuss this with a financial aid officer at your college.
- Do you have a dependent child on the way? If so, you may be able to include your future “mini-me” in your household size, which might increase the amount of Pell grant and other need-based aid you’re eligible to receive. In order to include a new dependent on your FAFSA next year, he or she must live with you and receive more than half of his or her support from you through June 30, 2017.
There are many factors that can change your eligibility for federal and state financial aid from year to year. For more details, talk to someone in your financial aid office, or visit studentaid.ed.gov.
While it may be true that submitting your FAFSA can make you want to scream, completing the form is now easier than ever. Don’t believe us? Here are some examples.
Paper vs. electronic
Any counselor or teacher who was around to see the original release of the first Halloween movie, will tell you they had to submit their FAFSA on paper. EEK! Imagine having to wait longer than a vampire’s lifespan for your FAFSA to make it to Illinois via snail mail, only to have it returned to you two or three weeks later with a list of errors that need to be corrected before re-mailing the form! Today, the online FAFSA can be processed and corrected in just a few days.
Worksheets vs. built-in formulas
Back in the day, there were additional worksheets that had to be completed by many FAFSA filers (anybody out there remember Worksheets A, B & C?). Those have been eliminated by fine-tuning the financial aid process.
PIN vs. FSA ID
The newest improvement to the FAFSA process is the switch from a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) to the Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID) system used to sign the FAFSA electronically. We’re all familiar with user IDs and passwords, and this new method is more secure and equally user-friendly. If you used a PIN on your FAFSA last year, you’ll be given step-by-step instructions for switching over to a new FSA ID when you submit your 2016-17 form. If you’d like to create your new FSA ID before you begin the application, visit fsaid.ed.gov.
The moral of the story here is not to be discouraged by the way things used to be. When it comes to college preparation and FAFSA completion, things have changed for the better. To stay up-to-date on the latest college planning news and tips, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/UCanGo2.
If you or your child is a senior in high school, now is the time to get familiar with the steps needed to enter college as stress-free as possible.
One step that students and parents seem to worry about is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Part of the fear stems from parents who completed the FAFSA years ago, when the process was much more complicated, time-consuming and tedious. We’re here to assure you… things have changed for the better! The online FAFSA has made the process quicker, more intuitive and less likely to produce errors that cause delays. So start learning about the FAFSA process NOW and watch our FAFSA video tutorial to learn how to complete the FAFSA in five steps, also available in Spanish.
Don’t wait! This year is going to pass in the blink of an eye. It can’t hurt to get started now.
The FAFSA asks you to provide information about your family and their income. What if something has happened that now makes the data you submitted incorrect? You may need to update your FAFSA if any of the following have changed:
- You got married
- Your parents got divorced
- Your parent or sibling died
- You or your parent lost a job
- Your family incurred major medical expenses
Other changes, such as sending your FAFSA results to a different college or making revisions to your income tax paid, can be easily corrected online at FAFSA.gov. The items mentioned above, however, should be discussed with your financial aid administrator. Additional documentation may be required before certain questions on your FAFSA can be changed.
If you have questions, talk to your school’s financial aid office. They’re your best resource throughout the entire financial aid process.
What’s a SAR? If you’re not sure, you’d better keep reading!
After you complete your FAFSA, you should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from Federal Student Aid. This document will be sent to the email address you supplied on your FAFSA, usually within a few days after you submit the FAFSA. If you haven’t seen it in your inbox yet, be sure to check your spam or junk mail folders.
The SAR contains all data reported on your FAFSA. Read your SAR carefully to make sure all of your information is correct. Most errors can be fixed through your FAFSA online at FAFSA.gov. If there is an error in a field you can’t access, call the Federal Student Aid hotline at 1.800.4 FED AID (1.800.433.3243), or send your question to FederalStudentAidCustomerService@ed.gov. You should receive an answer to your email within one business day.
Your SAR will also tell you if your FAFSA has been selected for verification. If it has, you’ll be given instructions about what to do next. Supplying the information required for verification is mandatory. You can’t receive federal financial aid until the verification process is complete.
Reading your SAR lets you know what’s going on with your financial aid application before you visit a financial aid office. It can help you prepare for your visit by having any necessary documents with you when you arrive. This will save time and reduce the number of visits you’ll have to make to the financial aid office. That’s a win-win situation for everyone!
Are you looking for scholarships? How about tips for preparing for college? Visit us at Facebook.com/UCanGo2 and “Like” our page to receive college planning tips and tools, as well as scholarships, right in your news feed!