Category Archives: Financial Need

Student Loans: Borrow Smart!

Once you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll see a confirmation page that explains your next steps and gives you an estimate of federals grants and loans you may be eligible to receive. When you get your financial aid award letter from the college(s) of your choice, they will most likely include those loan amounts in their offer. Be cautious when borrowing student loans; you may not need all the loan money that’s offered to you. Student loan debt can grow quickly, and you must repay the full amount with interest. Search for grants and scholarships first to cover your college expenses, as they’re typically considered free money. Think of student loans as your last option to help pay for college.

If you must borrow student loans, do your research. ReadySetRepay.org offers information on all aspects of student loan management, as well as Borrow Smart From the Start, a guide to help you navigate student loan process from beginning to end. You’ll find tips on how to avoid or reduce student loan debt and the steps you’ll need to take if you’re having trouble with your loan payments. Students loans are an investment in your future. Remember to invest wisely by making smart borrowing decisions from the start.

Financial Aid Letter

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important first step in the financial aid process. After you’ve submitted the FAFSA, your college(s) of interest will process the information you provided and will determine your eligibility for federal and state aid. The college(s) will also calculate the loans and institutional scholarships you’re eligible to receive. The summary will be sent to you in an award letter, either electronically or via the U.S. Postal Service. Keep in mind, it takes time to process this information, so most campuses will send out aid offers in late March or early April for those starting college in the fall.

When your offer arrives, it’s important to read it carefully. You’ll be asked to accept or decline all or some of the offered financial aid. On your aid offer, you’ll see several different numbers, which are outlined below.

Cost of Attendance (COA): This is the estimated cost to attend your college for one year.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This number is used by the college to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. While the EFC is a calculation of all the information provided on the FAFSA by you and your parent, it’s most likely not the amount you’ll be expected to contribute. Want to learn more about the EFC? Check out our EFC Overview .

Award Package: The letter will list the types and amounts of aid the college can offer to you. You may see some of the following:

Grants: These are considered gift aid that can come from federal, state and tribal governments. Grants are usually based on financial need.

Scholarships: These can be based on need, merit or interests. They’re awarded by colleges, state agencies, companies, foundations, tribal and private organizations.

Federal Work-Study: This is an opportunity to work on- or off-campus to earn financial aid. Think of it as a part-time job specifically to pay for college.

Federal Student Loans: Loans are borrowed money to help you pay for college. Loans must be repaid, with interest.

Remember, you don’t have to accept all of the aid offered to you, especially when it comes to borrowing student loans. A monthly payment of tuition and fees during college may be a better option for you or your family than a loan payment with added interest after you’ve completed your education. To learn more about the different types of financial aid, check out our publication: Are You Looking for Money?

Talk with your family about your financial situation and decide how much financial aid and which types of aid you need to accept. Still have questions about the financial aid letter? Take a look at our new resource, Understanding Your Award Letter.


¿Habla usted español?

In our continuing efforts to ensure that all Oklahoma students and their families have access to valuable college planning information, the Oklahoma College Assistance Program is offering helpful publications and tools in Spanish. We’ve also included information about Oklahoma’s Promise, an amazing scholarship opportunity that covers college tuition or students who qualify.

College Planning
¿Estás planeando ir a la Universidad?
(Are You Planning to Go to College? – flyer)

FSA ID
Instrucciones para sacar una FSA ID
(FSA ID worksheet – flyer)

  • Guides students and parents through the process of creating the FSA ID, a username and password used to sign, submit and edit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Space is provided to write down the answers given in each field.
  • FSA ID worksheet, Spanish

FAFSA Video
La FAFSA en 5
(The FAFSA in 5 – video)

Oklahoma’s Promise Resources
La Promesa de Oklahoma

Did you know that the FAFSA is also available in Spanish? Simply click Español in the top right corner of the home page at fafsa.gov to begin your application.

Financial Aid Awareness Month

February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! This is the time for you to learn all about the financial aid process for college.

What is financial aid?
Free Money

Federal and State Grants

Scholarships

Earned Money

Borrowed Money

How do I apply?

  • Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
    • Apply every year you need financial aid for college
    • Apply on or after October 1
    • Complete your application online at FAFSA.gov
    • Create an FSA ID to access and sign your FAFSA

How will I know how much financial aid I’ve been offered?

  • After your FAFSA has been submitted and you’ve been admitted, your school will send you an aid offer
  • Review and research all programs offered, and accept only the aid you need
  • You don’t have to accept everything you’ve been offered

To learn more about the financial aid process, review these tools on this site:

  • FAFSA Learning Modules
  • Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps
  • Dependency Questionnaire
  • FAFSA Fundamentals 2021-2022 PowerPoint
  • FAFSA Parent Flyer

You will also find these helpful FAFSA videos:

UCanGo2.org also offers many beneficial FAFSA resources:

  • The EFC (Expected Family Contribution) PowerPoint
  • The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) PowerPoint
  • The Financial Aid Award Letter PowerPoint

Learn more about Financial Aid Awareness Month here!

Spring Scholarships

Congratulations! You’ve finished your college applications and submitted your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) Now it’s time to find scholarships! There are thousands of scholarship opportunities available based on a variety of criteria. So where do you find these scholarships?

  • UCanGo2.org: Here you can find scholarships organized by category and deadline. There are scholarships year-round, so be sure to explore the opportunities listed on this site.
  • OKcollegestart.org: Create a Scholarship Profile! You’ll answer questions about your education, goals and more. The profile will narrow down current opportunities that you qualify for!
  • Unigo.com: There are over 3 million scholarships on this website. Opportunities are available every month and the more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances of receiving free money.
  • Your college’s website: Institutional scholarships are often available at various times throughout the year. It’s a good idea to check the scholarship listings on your college website every week.
  • Your financial aid office: Check with your financial aid office to see if there are any new opportunities available at your college. They can also help you find more scholarship resources.

Some scholarships require essays while others only require transcripts and references. Be sure to double check requirements for each scholarship before submission. For a list of additional scholarship websites, see UCanGo2’s publication  Are You Looking for Money?

New Year, New Goals

Welcome, 2021!

Optimism is in the air! You’re ready for new beginnings and opportunities to change some habits in order to achieve your goals. In addition to health and financial goals, there are some helpful academic goals that will give you a jump start in the new year.

Federal Financial Aid: By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re investigating your eligibility for different types of federal and state financial aid to help you pay for college. The FAFSA for the 2021-22 college year is now available, so be sure to submit it ASAP at FAFSA.gov. We encourage you to “start with FAFSA,” and then continue seeking scholarship opportunities throughout the year.

Scholarships: Not sure how to start your scholarship search? Here are some ideas:

  • Check out UCanGo2.org for new scholarships by category and by deadline.
  • While you’re there, take a look at the Scholarship Success Guide to review tips for applying for scholarships and find a list of additional scholarship search websites.
  • Create a profile on OKcollegestart.org to view scholarship applications that are the perfect fit for you. It’s important to apply for as many scholarships as possible year-round, so make a habit of applying for 2-3 scholarships a week.  

Study Habits: While the FAFSA doesn’t take your grade point average (GPA) and class rigor into consideration, schools will look at them when considering your eligibility for academic scholarships as well as acceptance to their school. Your grades in college will also determine if you can maintain certain scholarship offers from year to year. To start or improve good study habits, check out the tips listed in The Perfect 10 Study Habits Guide.

Extracurricular Involvement: Many colleges will also ask if you’ve participated in any school or community programs outside the classroom. Join a club or volunteer in your community after school hours. Not only will your involvement look impressive on a college application or a resume, it will also give you opportunities to serve others and make a difference in your community. Are you already in college? Join a club or find opportunities in your community to share the skills and knowledge that you’re developing. Whether you’re still in high school or you’re headed into the career field, extracurricular involvement is an important commitment to make in the new year.

Happy New Year! Be sure to share your optimism with everyone around you!

The New FAFSA Mobile App

Have you completed your 2021-2022 FAFSA yet? If not, now’s the time! In fact, you can complete this important financial aid application directly on your phone or tablet.

The new myStudentAid mobile app has recently been released with an updated look and a variety of new tools provided by Federal Student Aid (FSA). This app offers a more user-friendly design, as well as a Financial Aid Summary that allows you to keep track of your student loan and grant history. It also offers the ability for borrowers to track their loan repayment progress.

To access this tool, students, parents and borrowers will need to download FSA’s myStudentAid app. From there you can set up your FSA ID, or use your current ID to complete and submit your FAFSA as well as take advantage of these new features. Check out the updated myStudentAid app today!

Mobile phone screenshots of the app

Make the Most of Your Holiday Season!

This time of year brings merriment and joy to those as they celebrate the holiday festivities. And while you’re enjoying a few weeks off from school, why not spend a little time preparing for college? If you’re currently a high school senior you should complete and submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to apply for federal and state aid.

You should also do a little scholarship searching. Scholarships provide FREE money to help you pay your college expenses. Whether you’re in high school or college, scholarships are available to you. There are even awards for students in middle school and younger. You just need to do some research.

Below you’ll find links to some great festive scholarships to get you started.

Holiday Celebration Scholarship
Amount:  $1,000
Deadline:  December 31, 2020

Timber Works Tree Care Scholarship
Amount:  $1,000
Deadline:  January 18, 2021

Scholars Helping Collars Scholarship 
Amounts:  $1,500, $300, $200
Deadline:  February 28, 2021

Sweet and Simple Scholarship
Amount:  $1,500
Deadline:  February 28, 2021

Angel Scholarship
Amount:  Varies
Deadline:  March 1, 2021 (New posting in January)

Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship
Amount:  $10,000
Deadline:  March 9, 2021

National Candy Technologists Scholarship
Amount:  $5,000
Deadline:  April 3, 2021

Flavor of the Month Scholarship
Amount:  $1,500
Deadline:  July 31, 2021  

Ornament Scholarship
Amount:  $1,000
Deadline:  Watch for new 2021 scholarship posting

Sugar Spun Run Scholarship
Amount:  $500
Deadline:  Check for new scholarship posting on Jan. 1

Have You Submitted Your FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for next fall became available Oct. 1. That means people are applying for financial aid almost a year before they’ll need it for college. It’s a long time until the next fall semester starts, so why is it so important to file now?

It’s best to file your FAFSA as soon as you can once it becomes available. While some types of financial aid are available year-round, other forms are not.

Federal Work-Study
Work-study is a type of aid that is earned, rather than borrowed. Your eligibility is determined by your financial need. Students use the money they earn at a part-time job to pay toward their college expenses. There is a limit to the number of work-study jobs available each semester, so if you don’t submit your FAFSA early and answer yes to the “I’m interested in work-study” question, those jobs could all be filled before you start the school year.

Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG)
OTAG is a grant funded by the state of Oklahoma for students who are Oklahoma residents and will be enrolled at an Oklahoma college or technology center. It’s an example of first-come, first served aid because it’s funded only once a year. Typically, OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded with available funds, and how early a student applies can be the deciding factor in whether that student is offered an OTAG award. To apply, you simply have to complete a FAFSA. Your eligibility for OTAG is determined by your financial need, and the amount of the award is $1,000 ($500 in fall and spring).

Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG)
OTEG is also funded by the state of Oklahoma, and goes to students who demonstrate financial need on a first-come, first served basis. Recipients must be Oklahoma residents. To receive this grant, your annual family income must be at or below $50,000, and the grant can only be used at an approved private/independent, not-for-profit postsecondary institution in Oklahoma. OTEG funds are sent to the approved institutions; students to be awarded OTEG will be selected and notified by the institutions. The grant pays $2,000 ($1,000 in fall and spring).

Visit OKcollegestart.org to learn more about OTAG and OTEG and a list of approved OTEG schools.

Be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as you can. You don’t want to miss out on these chances for earned and free money for college that doesn’t have to be repaid!

Homeless Students and the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks up to three questions about homelessness. They ask if you’ve been determined as an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, or you were self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless any time since July 1, 2020…if you’re completing the 2021-2022 FAFSA. This timeframe is based on the year prior to the academic year for which you will need financial aid for college.

The homeless 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.

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, 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.

If you answer yes to any one of the questions about homelessness on the FAFSA, you’ll be considered an independent student; therefore, you won’t have to provide your parents’ income information on the application. Later, 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 decision. The aid officer will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

When providing a street address on your FAFSA, follow these instructions given by 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.

We wish you the very best as you begin your journey to a bright future!