All posts by UCanGo2

Submit Your FAFSA ASAP, OK?

It’s FAFSA time, so make it a priority to submit yours ASAP. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2019-20 academic year became available October 1. The fall semester of 2019 seems far away, so why should you submit your FAFSA this early? Here are three good reasons:

  • Some forms of financial aid are first-come, first-served. When this type of aid is gone, you may have to wait for the next school year to apply for it again. Examples of this type of aid are the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) and scholarships offered by the college or university where you’re enrolling (institutional aid).
  • More and more colleges and universities are setting early enrollment and institutional scholarship deadlines in November and December. During the application process, they’ll want to know if you’ve submitted your FAFSA.
  • It’s not uncommon for a scholarship committee to ask for a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which you receive after you submit your FAFSA. Completing your FAFSA early ensures that you won’t miss important deadlines.

For more information about completing the FAFSA, visit StudentAid.ed.gov.

November is National Scholarship Month

November is National Scholarship Month, and it’s an excellent time to begin applying for scholarships if you haven’t done so already. Many scholarship providers are posting new scholarship information and competitions for the next academic year, and November is also an ideal month to dedicate some time to finding scholarships for college (think Thanksgiving Break!).  Remember, scholarships are ‘free money’. They’re gift aid that doesn’t have to be paid back.

There are many ways students can qualify for scholarships. They are often based on a student’s talents, abilities, skills or participation in extra-curricular activities. They can also be given because of a student’s ancestry or religious affiliation, or for a variety of other reasons.

Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Many experts say that high school seniors should apply for 2-3 scholarships each week. But where do you begin? We suggest starting your search at UCanGo2.org and okcollegestart.org, where you’ll find hundreds of scholarship opportunities. Also, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide, where you’ll find many more websites that you can use to investigate scholarships of all types and helpful tips for maximizing your scholarship dollars.

For helpful information about all types of financial aid that are available, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Are You Looking for Money? booklet.

FAFSA Homelessness Status

Are there any special instructions for homeless students who are filling out the FAFSA?

While completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you may be asked three different questions about homelessness.

At any time on or after July 1 [in the year prior to the academic year covered by this FAFSA], did an official* determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

*This determination can be given by:

  • A high school or school district homeless liaison,
  • A director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or
  • A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

As always, you should contact the financial aid office at your school(s) of interest if you need help answering any of these questions. If you answer yes to any one of the ‘homelessness’ questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will not be required to provide your parents’ income and tax information on your FAFSA. Later on, though, you may be asked by a financial aid administrator to provide a copy of the homeless youth determination. If you did not receive a determination provided by one of the officials listed above, you’ll be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA, but you may ask a financial aid administrator to consider making their own determination. The administrator will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

A student is considered unaccompanied if he or she is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This includes students who are living in shelters, motels, cars, or parks, or who are temporarily living with other people because they have nowhere else to go. Students are also considered homeless if they are fleeing an abusive parent who would otherwise provide the student with financial support and a place to live.

Which street address should a homeless student provide on their FAFSA? According to the U.S. Department of Education, “You must provide a mailing address where you can reliably receive mail. Your mailing address can be the address of a relative or friend who has given you permission to use it, or it can be your college’s address. If you want to use your college’s address, you must contact the school for permission and instructions to ensure that your mail reaches you.” Don’t forget to update your FAFSA later when you find more permanent housing.

For more information and a list of additional resources for homeless students, read Questions and Answers: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth from StudentAid.gov.

FAFSA Dependency Status

Will I be considered a dependent or independent student on my Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

While completing your FAFSA, you’ll answer up to 13 questions about your dependency status. If you answer NO to every question, you’ll be considered a dependent student and will be asked to supply your parents’ income and tax information as well as your own.

If you answer YES to any one of those questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will be asked to supply only your own income and tax information (and your spouse’s, if applicable).

For the list of current dependency status questions, take a look at the Dependency Questionnaire available at UCanGo2.org.

Exceptions can sometimes be made for dependent students who are unable to supply parental information. If the FAFSA says you’re dependent and you believe your status should be changed to independent, be sure to discuss your situation with a financial aid officer at your school(s) of interest. Fair warning, though—the FAFSA states that you won’t be switched to an independent status simply because:

  • You don’t live with your parents.
  • Your parents don’t provide you with financial support.
  • Your parents refuse to contribute to your college expenses.
  • Your parents don’t claim you as a dependent on their income tax return.
  • Your parents don’t want to provide their information on your FAFSA.

Still have questions? First, read Reporting Parent Information at StudentAid.ed.gov; then be sure to visit with a campus financial aid officer.

IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Reporting financial information on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can be challenging. However, it’s an easier task with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows students and parents to transfer their tax information from the IRS directly into their FAFSA form. The tool is available on FAFSA.gov and became available on the myStudentAid mobile app on Oct. 1, when the 2019-2020 FAFSA became available.

To access the IRS DRT, parents and students will need to set up a FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). The FSA ID allows applicants to sign their FAFSA electronically, as well as access the DRT. While completing the financial information on the FAFSA, students and parents will be given the option to link to the IRS DRT. After entering their FSA ID, applicants will be taken to IRS.gov. On this website, applicants will enter some demographic data and then select the type of tax return they filed in 2017. It’s important to enter information exactly as it was shown on the original tax document. The system will then locate the applicants’ data and transfer it directly into the FAFSA. The transferred information will not be visible, but applicants will see that their income figures have indeed, been transferred. Using the IRS DRT will save time during FAFSA completion and also save time for the financial aid professionals at your college. Be sure to look for the “Link to IRS Data Retrieval Tool” button when completing your FAFSA to make this process much easier.

For more information about the FAFSA, please visit StartWithFAFSA.org.

FAFSA Resources

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be stressful, especially for students who are already weighing the options of various universities or technology centers, applying for scholarships and studying for the ACT or SAT—all while still trying to be regular high school students! That’s why the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) offers various resources to help families understand and navigate through the FAFSA.

StartWithFAFSA.org offers a number of articles and links to help you as you complete your FAFSA application. Check out these great posts and resources:

FAFSA Now Available

On Oct. 1 (today) the 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, becomes available for students to complete in order to receive financial assistance for college. In order to receive most types of federal and state aid, students must submit a FAFSA annually. To make sure you apply for all the financial aid that’s available to you, complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1.

This year students can access the FAFSA by visiting FAFSA.gov or by using the myStudentAid mobile app. Prior to completing the application, set up your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) and gather personal documents and financial information. Students and parents will each need to create an FSA ID in order to electronically sign the FAFSA. It’s best to create your FSA ID now before starting your FAFSA, if possible. Go to fsaid.ed.gov to create your FSA ID and utilize our FSA ID worksheet to help you keep up with your login information for the FAFSA.

It’s best to gather all the materials you’ll need before you start the FAFSA, such as your Social Security card, driver’s license and important financial information. Parents and students will need their tax return and other income information from tax year 2017 to accurately report their data. By taking the time to create your FSA ID and to gather your important documents before you start the application, you’ll be ready to successfully complete the 2019-2020 FAFSA when you start the application.

For additional information, please visit StartWithFAFSA.org.

Completing the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA is as easy as 1, 2, 3… 4, 5!

  1. Gather Materials – You’ll need your social security card, current bank statements and, if you’re a dependent student, your parent(s)’ information. For the 2019-2020 FAFSA, you’ll also need your 2017 W2s and tax returns.
  2. Create an FSA ID – This username and password is used to electronically sign your FAFSA and other important financial aid paperwork. Visit fsaid.ed.gov to sign up.
  3. Fill It Out – The FAFSA is available at FAFSA.ed.gov after October 1 each year. Check out the “Tool Tips” question mark box beside each field for assistance with each question.
  4. Sign & Submit – Enter your FSA ID to serve as your electronic signature. Don’t forget to click submit at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Follow Up – Watch your email for a Student Aid Report (SAR) and information from the schools who’ve received your FAFSA results. Be sure to follow up with the financial aid office at your school if you have additional questions.

For more details, check out the Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps guide or watch the Finish the FAFSA in Five videos on our YouTube page, available in both English and Spanish.

The FAFSA is Always FREE

NEVER pay to complete the FAFSA; the FAFSA is always free. As a matter of fact, that’s what the first F stands for: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

If you plan to submit the form online, be sure to file at FAFSA.gov, and avoid sites that offer to complete and submit your FAFSA for a hefty fee.

Also, be on the lookout for companies that claim they’ll help you with your FAFSA. These companies will often charge you for assistance that you could get for free elsewhere. If you are looking for help with the FAFSA, visit our FAQs page or our resources page to find helpful tips through the process. You can also visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm to find more assistance.

FAFSA Completion Chart

Everyone Should Apply!

With a new mobile app and a redesigned website, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been faster or easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents often make: not completing the FAFSA at all!

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 anyway.
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!
  • Your school might use the data for other financial aid. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, in addition to missing out on 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’re positive 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 offer more flexible repayment plans than private or alternative loans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.
  • 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.

The FAFSA is available on Oct. 1, so apply as soon after as possible at FAFSA.gov