Back-to-school season is well underway! Before you let out a sigh of frustration because the summer flew by, decide how you’ll make this school year the best one yet. Will you be engaged in class? Will you intentionally make a new friend? Will you take on a new interest? The ball is in your court this month, so make a plan to seize the opportunities of a new school year.
To get you started on the right foot, think about joining a club or sports team. If you’re already involved in a certain activity, think about taking on a leadership role. You’ll gain communication skills and meet new people. You may also enjoy a school play or music recital. Attending different types of events like these could give you a greater appreciation for your school. Additionally, consider volunteering. Devoting some time to a cause that’s important to you is a good way to give back to your community, and you may discover a few interesting career options as you volunteer. Volunteer work can also be an asset when applying for scholarships.
Own your education this year. Challenge yourself to maintain good grades and if you’re struggling in a specific subject area, ask questions. Find resources that can help you understand difficult concepts. Conversely, if you’re excelling in a certain course that others may find tough, contemplate tutoring a few classmates. Doing this will show your concern for others and increase your own knowledge. Practice time management skills, as well. Make it a goal to turn in all assignments on time and keep the lines of communication open with your instructors. Let them know if you’ll miss a deadline.
Finally, prepare for what’s next. High school students can take FREE practice tests for the ACT and SAT to increase their scores. Free test prep material can be found at OKcollegestart.org. Seniors and college students who will need financial aid next year should complete and submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon after Oct. 1 as possible. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for various types of financial aid – resources to help you cover college expenses. College students can start developing their resumes. Visit your campus Career Services department to learn about all available opportunities. And all students should apply for scholarships! Whether you’re a junior in high school or a sophomore in college, it’s never too early or too late to take advantage of these opportunities. You can find numerous scholarships at UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org.
There are plenty of things to look forward to as you begin a new school year. So instead of dragging your feet on your first day of class, decide that you’ll make this school year the best yet! Welcome back and have a great year!
If you’ve decided to go to college as a nontraditional student or as an adult learner then congratulations! It’s never too late to learn and grow. Now that you’ve made this decision, it’s time to think about financial aid – monetary support that helps cover the costs of college such as grants, student loans and scholarships. You might assume that you won’t qualify for financial assistance because you’re a nontraditional student, but there are various financial resources to help you on your college journey. One resource that you should utilize first is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Regardless of your educational background or age, you should always submit a FAFSA every year that you’re in need of financial aid. The FAFSA allows you to apply for federal and some state financial assistance for college. Your school’s financial aid office will use the information you provide on the application to determine your aid eligibility. They will be able to see if you qualify for grants, work-study and/or student loans. In case you haven’t decided which school you’ll attend, the FAFSA can be sent to up to ten schools at one time. Once you’ve submitted your FAFSA, be sure to contact the financial aid offices if you have any questions.
Whether this is your first time submitting a FAFSA or it’s been a while since you’ve seen the application, here are a few tips to help you successfully complete the form:
Gather your materials – Before you start the application you’ll need to round up a few necessary items: your social security card, tax returns and other financial information. The FAFSA will ask you to provide your income figures as well as your personal identification information. Your W-2s and other bank statements will be helpful with this section of the FAFSA.
Create an FSA ID – An FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) is your username and password for logging into FAFSA.gov. This login will also serve as your electronic signature for completing the FAFSA. It only takes about ten minutes to create an FSA ID. During the process you will be asked to provide your identification information and select a few challenge questions to answer in case you need to reset your ID at a later date. Use this FSA ID Worksheet to help you keep track of your FSA ID information. To create your FSA ID, go to fsaid.ed.gov.
Use the correct website – FAFSA.gov is the official website to access the FAFSA form. You can also find the application by using the myStudentAid mobile app. The first “f” in FAFSA stands for “free”, meaning you should never be charged a fee to submit your FAFSA. Using one of the above options guarantees that you’ll not have to pay to complete your application.
Remember Oct. 1 – The FAFSA opens each year on Oct. 1. You should complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after this date. Some financial aid that you’re eligible to receive may be on a first-come first-serve basis, concluding that funds will be given to those who apply first and will eventually run out after a certain point. Therefore, to ensure that you don’t miss out on any financial aid, complete your application in a timely manner.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) currently has over 100 questions. One of those questions is about Selective Service and it’s often answered incorrectly. So, what is Selective Service and why do you need to be registered?
The Selective Service system is an independent agency of the U.S. government tasked with providing manpower to the Department of Defense should there be a national emergency. Federal law requires all male U.S. citizens, regardless of where they live, and male immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, residing in the U.S. to register with Selective Service. If you’re a male student completing the FAFSA, you must register with Selective Service to be eligible to receive federal student aid. Female applicants aren’t required to register and won’t see this question on their digital FAFSA.
Registration with Selective Service must be completed between the ages of 18 through 25. If you’re not yet 18, no worries! By checking ‘Register Me’ on your FAFSA, you’ll automatically be signed up for Selective Service once you reach 18. In either case, all males are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. You also have the option to pre-register when you’re at least 17 years and 3 months old. If you’re 26 or older and didn’t register for Selective Service, you should contact your school’s financial aid office. They will provide you with instructions on the next steps to take.
Males may visit SSS.gov to find more information about the Selective Service requirement.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been available since October 1, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to apply! You can still apply to receive federal and state student aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans by submitting your FAFSA. Many students don’t apply at all and forgo FREE money for college! Below are some common reasons students miss out on financial aid.
Myth: If I’m not poor, very smart or super-talented, I won’t qualify for financial aid.
Reality: While it is true that the FAFSA is a need-based program, there are many factors other than income that go into the calculation. You never know if you qualify unless you apply. Plus, the FAFSA is used for more than just federal aid. Many universities and foundations require that you complete a FAFSA to be eligible for their scholarships.
Myth: I have several scholarships lined up, so I don’t need to submit a FAFSA.
Reality: College expenses include more than just tuition and fees – don’t forget about, books, room and board and transportation, among other potential costs. Submit your FAFSA to explore other funding possibilities in the event that your scholarships don’t cover all of your costs. You can always turn down aid that’s offered to you.
Myth: I’m going to pay my own way through college, so there’s no need to complete a FAFSA.
Reality: Paying your own way through college is a great plan, and completing the FAFSA could allow you to keep more of that money in your pocket. Applying for federal aid has become easier and can significantly reduce your financial burden. A few minutes of your time is definitely worth the potential for thousands of dollars in aid.
Complete your application for federal student aid today at FAFSA.gov!
After completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will receive an email with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is a document that recaps the data you provided on the FAFSA and offers some basic information about your eligibility for federal financial aid. On this SAR, you may read that you’ve been selected for verification. Typically an asterisk appears next to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number near the upper right corner on the SAR, which indicates your information must be verified.
Verification is a process in which the school’s financial aid office must confirm the information provided on your FAFSA is accurate. About one-third of all students are selected for verification because questions may have been left blank, the data provided is inconsistent, or they’re just randomly chosen. If this happens, don’t worry. The financial aid office at the schools you’ve applied to will contact you and request additional documentation they’ll need to complete the verification process. Be sure to respond promptly and meet all deadlines set by financial aid personnel.
After you submit the requested materials to your school’s aid office, follow up with them to ensure it’s been received. Remember, you must complete the verification process in order to receive any federal or state student aid. If you have questions about the process, contact your school’s financial aid office.
Completing the FAFSA is just the first step in applying for financial aid. After your application has been processed, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is a summary of all the information you entered on the FAFSA form. Included in the report will be your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a number that helps determine your financial aid eligibility. When you receive the SAR, review it and make any necessary changes. You can make changes by logging into FAFSA.gov, accessing your original FAFSA application, and correcting your information. Don’t forget to resign and submit! Once you’ve updated your FAFSA, your SAR will be sent to the schools that were listed on your application. If you’re selected for verification, schools will ask you to provide more documentation to confirm that you reported the correct information. Be sure to submit documents as soon as possible to the financial aid office.
Colleges and universities will eventually send you award letters, notifying you of the amount of financial aid they’re able to offer you. Most award letters will be sent electronically, while a few others might come in the mail. Ask your campuses or choice how their notifications will be sent. The award letters will also tell you the cost of attendance. Carefully review those letters and only accept the aid you need. Always accept free money first: grants and scholarships. If you need to take out a student loan, only accept the amount you need to cover the cost of attendance. Be sure to compare different schools’ award letters as well. Consider the financial aid packages and the campus environment to decide which would be the best fit for you.
Follow up with every campus you received an award letter from and let them know how much of the financial aid package you would like to accept. Check for deadlines! Each award letter will ask you to respond by a certain date or you could lose the aid offered. Remain in constant contact with the financial aid office to make sure you take all necessary steps to secure your financial aid award.
A 529 Plan can be a huge benefit in paying college expenses. However, this college savings account can be tricky to report on the FAFSA. If the account is in the student’s name or in the custodial parent’s name, then the 529 Plan should be reported as a parent asset on the FAFSA. If the student is independent, meaning s/he doesn’t have to report parental information, then the plan should be reported as a student asset. The plan doesn’t have to be reported as an asset if someone other than the student or custodial parent owns the account, such as a grandparent or family friend.
Another aspect of the 529 Plan that can be challenging is distributions from the account. Distributions are funds taken from the 529 Plan for any reason. Students and parents only have to report a distribution from the account if the plan wasn’t reported on the FAFSA as an asset. Here are some guidelines to ensure that you accurately report any 529 Plan distributions:
- A non-qualified distribution – funds taken from the account for non-educational expenses – will be included in the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of the student’s federal income tax return. The AGI will be a part of the student’s total income, so the student will just need to report his or her income on the FAFSA.
- A qualified distribution – funds taken from the account for educational expenses – should be reported as the student’s untaxed income on the FAFSA.
- A distribution made from an account that the student or the custodial parent does not own must be reported as the student’s untaxed income on the FAFSA, as well.
The best option for reporting a 529 Savings Plan is to leave the account in the student’s name or in the custodial parent’s name. By doing this, the Plan will be reported as an asset and the family won’t have to report distributions made from the account. For more information on how to report the 529 Plan on the FAFSA, visit Edvisors.com/plan-for-college.
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.
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.
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.