Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents continue to make.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Your school might use the data. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, beyond 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 know 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 often have lower interest rates than private or alternative loans, and they offer flexible repayment plans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.
We get this question a lot, and the answer can be somewhat confusing.
Technically, you can submit the FAFSA throughout most of the year; however, 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.
Why? Two reasons:
- The earlier you submit the FAFSA, the sooner you will know what aid is available to you. If you’re considering more than one school, you may receive different aid offers. Filing early gives you time to compare and make an educated decision.
- There are other deadlines to consider, including:
Like federal financial aid, many state aid programs use information from your FAFSA for their award purposes. However, state programs have their own deadlines, often early in the year.
Students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG).
In addition to specific financial aid program deadlines, some schools set their own deadlines for school-specific financial aid. Check with the college(s) you’re interested in attending to find out about any special deadlines.
See what we mean by “somewhat confusing?”
Your best bet: Aim to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible each year.
If you miss a deadline, there are other types of financial aid to consider. Some forms of financial aid, including loans, are typically available throughout the year. Plus, many other aid programs offered throughout the year, including many grants and scholarships, don’t require information from the FAFSA.
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.
High school students: Are you counting the days until your school year is over? Of course you are! But don’t let your summer bliss distract you from one very important deadline. Students in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade must submit their Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship applications by June 30, 2015.
Sophomores, June 30 is your final deadline. Any application not submitted by this deadline will be removed from the application system, and you could miss out on thousands of dollars in scholarship funds that do not have to be paid back. Don’t make this costly mistake! Submit your application right away.
To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise and the qualifications for receiving the scholarship, visit OKPromise.org.
When you add a college code to your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), that school receives important information from your FAFSA. You should add the codes for colleges you’re seriously considering attending. If you’ve already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (F AFSA) and have since discovered another college you may like to attend, it’s not too late to add the new school code to your online FAFSA application. In fact, it’s never too late to include additional schools. To add schools to your FAFSA, simply:
- Go to FAFSA.gov.
- Enter your Login information.
- Select the option to “Make FAFSA Corrections”.
- Go to the section where you’ve listed colleges and add the new school code(s). If you’ve already listed ten schools on your FAFSA, you’ll need to delete some to make room for any new school codes.
- Hit Submit.
- Follow up! Check your email and/or home mailbox to respond to any requests for materials from these additional schools.
Because a few types of financial aid are available year-round, there is not a specific deadline to submit the FAFSA. However, many scholarships and grants require information from your submitted FAFSA and have deadlines early in the year.
If you plan to apply for grants and scholarships that require information from your FAFSA, find out which grant or scholarship has the earliest deadline and aim to submit your FAFSA before then. Allow yourself enough time to get organized, gather materials, file your taxes, if possible, and complete the application.
Check out our previous post for more information about the benefits of applying early!
When it comes to submitting the FAFSA, it holds true that the early bird gets the worm (or in this case, the money).
Those who apply for financial aid early in the year:
- Receive their financial aid eligibility results earlier.
- Open more opportunities to earn scholarships and grants with early deadlines.
- Have one less item on their “To-Do Before College” list.
Remember, some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), are first-come first served. It’s important to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to make sure you miss out on any financial aid opportunities. However, many other types of financial aid are available throughout the year, so be sure to apply even if you think you may be too late.
As the parent of a high school senior, you know your child will soon learn what it means to lead an independent life. However, when it comes to completing the FAFSA, unless they answer “yes” to any of the questions regarding student dependency, they’re probably considered “dependent” on your finances (though special circumstances may apply).
We understand the reservations you may have about providing sensitive information on the FAFSA; especially when submitting it electronically. However, refusing to complete your part of the FAFSA for your dependent student could prevent your senior from getting financial aid to help pay for college.
Keep in mind that electronic completion of the FAFSA can save you time and help prevent errors. And, FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to secure your information. But, if you are uncomfortable with submitting your personal information online, you do have the option to mail a paper copy of the form. However you choose to submit the FAFSA, be sure to do so as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to help maximize your child’s potential sources of financial aid.
To learn more about your filing options, visit fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.
We get it. You may not think of fun when you think about the FAFSA. Few folks enjoy paperwork, and the FAFSA requires time, personal information and answers to tricky questions. But, like so many other aspects of adult life, there’s no reward without effort. If you need money to help pay for college, the FAFSA is the place to start. You must complete the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for federal (and some state) financial aid.
If you don’t complete the FAFSA, here’s what you could miss out on:
- Work-study opportunities
- Low-interest student loans
- State Aid
If you’re planning to go to college this fall, submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to help maximize your financial aid offers. Save yourself some time by completing the form online at FAFSA.gov.