Category Archives: Money Management

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!

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

Make a Plan for Your Holiday Break

What do you have planned for your holiday break? Family time? Catching up on homework? Taking a part-time job? Whatever your plans may be, focus a little on your future plans…college.

If you’re a senior this year, make sure you’ve completed the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid serves as your application for federal and state financial aid for college. It becomes available every Oct. 1 so always complete and submit this form as soon after that date as possible. If you haven’t submitted your FAFSA, do it now! 

Scholarships should also be on your mind. Use your holiday break to apply for as many as possible. There are numerous scholarships available and you can apply all year for funding that can be used throughout your college career. Take advantage of this free money!

And if you choose to work on your break, stash a portion of your earnings in your savings account for college. Choose to save 20, 30 or 40% of your take-home pay. Any monetary gifts you receive for the holidays can also be added to your savings. Remember, every dollar you save is one less dollar you’ll have to borrow.

Enjoy your holiday and take some time to plan ahead!

National Scholarship Month

November is National Scholarship Month! Scholarships are, what we like to call, free money. This means you don’t have to pay them back after college. What’s the first step in receiving free money? Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some scholarship applications are determined by financial need and require proof of a completed FAFSA.

Next, it’s time to start searching for scholarships that you qualify for. We encourage seniors to apply for 2-3 scholarships a week starting now. There are billions of dollars in scholarships available to students, so the more applications you submit, the higher your chances are to receive free money. 

Each scholarship has its own requirements and qualifications. Some scholarships are merit or financial based while others can be based on skill or religious affiliation. Always follow directions and double check that you have all of your required documents. If an application requires a recommendation letter, make sure you give your mentor or teacher plenty of time to write it.

There are many different resources for finding scholarships. We suggest you start with UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org. Both of these websites have regularly updated scholarship databases. Make sure you create a Scholarship Profile on OKcollegestart. You’ll share information such as your GPA, skills, hobbies, intended major, ancestry and more. The answers you provide will help narrow down available scholarships that you qualify for. If you need a little more guidance on the scholarship process, check out our new Scholarship 101 video.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a scholarship award. Keep applying! Get creative and ask local businesses, libraries and your school about additional scholarship opportunities. Your perseverance will pay off!

IRS DRT

The 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened on Oct. 1. The FAFSA is a form that details a student’s financial situation, which is shared with selected colleges and universities to determine how much financial aid to offer the student. 

In order to share financial information, students and parents must submit their 2019 W-2 forms and tax returns. Families have the option to input this information manually, but there is another tool available that can make the process easier.

The Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) is a feature located inside the online and mobile app FAFSA. It allows students and parents to transfer 2019 tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA.

There are several benefits to using the IRS DRT:

1. It saves time as you’re completing the FAFSA. Instead of hunting for the correct numbers on your tax forms and running the risk of making an error, you’ll simply type a few words, click a few buttons, and the bulk of the tax questions on your FAFSA will be complete!

2. Using the IRS DRT reduces your chances of being selected for verification. Verification is the process your school uses to confirm the information provided on the FAFSA is accurate. During the verification process, your school may request various documents to verify the information provided on your FAFSA. Errors that occur when entering tax information manually can cause a student to be selected for verification.

3. If you do happen to be selected for verification, having used the IRS DRT will simplify the process. If you use the IRS DRT and are selected for verification, you will not have to provide any documentation to verify tax data. Your school will know it is accurate since it was transferred directly from the IRS into your FAFSA.

While using the IRS DRT is optional, students and parents are encouraged to use the tool to create a smoother and more accurate application process.

The FAFSA Is Now Available

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available!

It’s the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college or other education after high school. Students often ask if the FAFSA is a scholarship, it’s not. The FAFSA is simply a statement about a family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive.

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. You can submit your FAFSA even if you haven’t applied to any colleges yet. In fact, if you’re not sure which college you want to attend, you can request that your FAFSA information be shared with up to 10 different campuses that you may want to learn more about. Every student who may need money for college for the 2021-22 school year should complete this FAFSA.

The current FAFSA is available online at FAFSA.gov.

Need some guidance to get started on your FAFSA? Check out our resources:

FAFSA in Five Steps: This publication explains the steps to completing the application and provides reminders for additional materials you might need.

FAFSA Modules: These five PowerPoint presentations walk through the details of each step of the FAFSA process.

FAFSA and Financial Aid Video: Sometimes it helps to hear someone explain the FAFSA process. Our new FAFSA video walks students through common FAFSA questions.

If you’re still wondering why the FAFSA is so important, keep in mind that during the 2018-2019 school year, $2.6B dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students. They would have been qualified to receive the aid, but they didn’t simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA. Discover what you’re eligible for by submitting your FAFSA today!

New Videos

Our friends at UCanGo2 have produced two new videos about financial aid!

FAFSA and Financial Aid provides an overview of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and how it is the first step in successful financial aid!

Scholarships 101 provides an overview of looking for and applying for scholarships.

You can also view these two videos on our Videos page!

FAFSA Preview

If you’re an incoming high school senior, you’ll probably be hearing an important question this fall that you haven’t heard before: “Have you completed your FAFSA yet?” Let us tell you what the FAFSA is, and why it’s so important.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to unlock money that will help you pay for your education after high school. It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ of your family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive.

Now that you know what the FAFSA is, let’s talk about what it’s NOT. It’s not an application to college, a loan application or any type of commitment to accept the aid you’re offered. It’s not a credit check, and it’s not limited only to students with stellar grades; the application won’t even ask for your grade point average (GPA).

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means yours will be ready for you to submit this October – almost a year before you begin college. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t picked a college yet. One great thing about the FAFSA is that you can have your information sent to up to 10 different campuses.

Even though your FAFSA won’t be ready until October, you can take a look at the current form to see what it’s like. There are two options you may want to consider.

Please keep in mind that neither of these tools is a replacement for the real FAFSA. You’ll still need to complete the actual form online ASAP after October 1 in order to apply for federal and some state-based financial aid.

According to the National College Attainment Network, billions of dollars in federal financial aid for college is left unclaimed each year by students who would have qualified to receive the aid; they just didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.

For more information about the FAFSA and the types of aid that are available, visit FAFSA.gov and studentaid.gov.

Welcome Back To School

Welcome back to campus! This year may look a bit different than last year, but it’s still important to have the right supplies to be successful. Here are some suggestions of items that can help you throughout the year.

  • The Basics. This includes notebooks, binders, pencils and pens, and of course, a bag to carry everything. You can get these supplies at the campus bookstore, most big box stores, t or even the grocery store. It’s more budget friendly to plan ahead and take advantage of sales.
  • Calendar/Planner. It takes some time to get used to your new schedule every semester. Make sure you don’t miss a class or an assignment by keeping track of your schedule and to-dos. If you prefer a hard copy tool over digital options – or to supplement them – you can browse online stores or check out a local bookstore to find your favorite calendars and planners.
  • Course Specifics. Some classes will require additional materials such as calculators, art supplies or lab equipment. You won’t know about some of these items until you get your syllabi, but be prepared and budget for additional supply costs.
  • Snacks. With late-night study sessions and back-to-back classes, you need to keep your brain fueled. Remember to pack some snacks for busy days. Need some snack inspiration? Try granola bars, pretzels, or gummy bears!
  • Organization. Everyone has a different process for organizing papers and information. Whether you use files, folders or you scan it all for digital reference, have a plan to store and keep track of key documents. During the first weeks of classes, you’ll receive an enormous amount of information, including campus event details and course syllabi. 
  • Financial Aid File. When organizing your syllabi and papers, keep a separate file specifically for financial aid information. You can keep track of the award offers you accepted and information on the additional scholarships you’re receiving. If you’ve taken out student loans, you can keep your account information, loan amounts and payment information in a safe and accessible place. It’s also good to keep a record of any information you have or will need for the FAFSA. This could include information such as your FSA ID, current Student Aid Report, tax information and more. Keeping a secure record of all of this information (whether printed out and stored in a locked location or saved in a password-protected file on your computer) will help when it comes to paying your bursar bill or submitting a renewal FAFSA.

Set yourself up for success with the right supplies to get started. It’s going to be a great year!

Budgeting While in College

Before your first day of college, it’s important to consider creating a budget for the upcoming school year. If you know how much financial aid you’ll receive, evaluate your other monthly expenses that are a priority. You may have responsibilities such as car payments and maintenance, cellphone service and miscellaneous items. Remember that financial aid can only be used for educational, and some living expenses, so a budget can help with planning for other important purchases. Here are a few tips to assist with developing a budget while in college.

Talk it out. Talk to those who are helping you pay for college. Whether it’s a parent or guardian, conversing with those who are supporting your educational pursuits allows expectations to be set for everyone involved. Even if you’ll be supporting yourself financially in college, inform others that you’ll need to be wise with managing your resources and may not be able splurge on certain items or activities. Talking it out allows everyone to be on the same page.

Essentials first, fun second. When developing a budget, account for necessities first, – housing, transportation, utilities etc. – then designate money for entertainment. Using this order can ensure your living needs are taken care of while still giving you room to enjoy leisure activities. Some college campuses host many fun, free events that could make the most of a small entertainment budget.  

Discounts and sales help. Check to see if your favorite stores offer a college student discount, as many companies do. While this tip may not directly relate to developing a budget, it can help you stick to the one you create. Clipping coupons along with shopping on sale can also assist with managing your finances. Browse retailers’ websites or apps for coupons and sales that may help with purchasing items on your shopping list.

Avoid budget busters. Daily coffee runs or trips to the vending machine can eat away at your budget. You don’t have to stop these altogether, but limit yourself to one or two splurges a week. Buying a coffeemaker and snacks from the grocery store can minimize the impact of these habits on your budget. Additionally, instead of eating out often, utilize your college meal plan or pack a lunch. You can see what habits are busting your budget by using a budget tracking app. Trackers can show your spending behavior and give you insight to routines that may need to change.

To learn more about tips for budgeting while in college, visit OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.