Category Archives: Students and Parents

The What and Why of the IRS DRT

The 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened on Oct. 1, and the IRS DRT is available for students once again. What is the IRS DRT, you ask? The Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) is a feature located inside the FAFSA. It allows students and parents to transfer 2016 tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA. There are several benefits to using the IRS DRT.

First, 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!

Second, 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.

Finally, 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.

If you’ve used the IRS DRT in previous years, you’ll notice that it looks a little different this year. The DRT no longer shows any dollar amounts to the student or parent. This change was made to increase the security of your information during the transfer process.

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.

DON’T MAKE THE MISTAKE OF NOT APPLYING!

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 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.
  • 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!

Welcome Back to School

Welcome to the new school year! Here are a few pointers to help you get started on your road back to academia.

College Freshmen

  • Check the Admissions section of the college website to see if there’s a freshman orientation you need to attend or any other tasks that must be completed before you start classes.
  • Find out who to contact about meal plans and parking permits.
  • Don’t have your books yet? Investigate your options—choosing used books and comparing sellers can save you money!
  • If you will be making payments to your school, be sure you know the procedures you will need to follow.
  • You’ve probably completed your 2017-2018 FAFSA by now, which determines your financial aid eligibility for your freshman year. Keep in mind that the 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available on October 1. Complete your FAFSA for your sophomore year as soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2017.

High School Seniors

  • If you haven’t decided which college you’ll attend next year, list three or four schools that interest you and compare them. Important things to consider are:
    • School size
    • Location
    • Programs and majors
    • Admission requirements
    • Campus diversity
    • Tuition and fees
    • Total financial aid available
    • Scholarships offered by the college
  • Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or soon after Oct. 1 this year, enabling your school(s) of interest to determine how much federal and state aid they can offer you to help you pay your college expenses.
  • Don’t say no to yourself! Take (or re-take) your ACT, submit your FAFSA and apply for as many scholarships as you can.

High School Juniors

  • Volunteer! Helping out in your community can give you great experience and make you more successful on your scholarship and college admission applications.
  • Start making a list of schools you would like to visit. It’s best to have more than one college in mind so that you can be well-informed about your options.
  • Keep up those grades! Your high school grade point average (GPA) will be an important factor in determining whether you are eligible for college admission.
  • Consider Advanced Placement and/or concurrent enrollment classes while you’re in high school. This can save a bundle on your college expenses. Ask your counselor for more details.

High School Sophomores

  • You must apply for the Oklahoma’s Promise (OKP) scholarship in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade. If you haven’t applied for OKP yet, your final deadline is July 2, 2018. The family income requirements are changing, so don’t assume you won’t qualify for OKP! Visit with your counselor to learn more.
  • As you choose your classes each semester, remember that the more advanced classes will make you more prepared for college. Along with your high school grade point average, colleges will also evaluate the courses you’ve taken to see how rigorous they were.
  • Volunteer in your community and participate in extracurricular activities at your school. When it’s time to apply for college and scholarships, this may help you earn scholarships.

High School Freshmen

  • Study hard and make the grade. Good study habits and a strong GPA will serve you well on your journey toward college.
  • If you didn’t apply for Oklahoma’s Promise during 8th grade, visit okpromise.org for program requirements and to sign up for this scholarship program.

Check out UCanGo2.org’s checklists for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors for more information on staying on track for college.

Five Things to Do the Summer Before College

Congratulations, Class of 2017! You’ve taken your final exams and walked across the stage…Now what? Taking care of a few things this summer will help smooth the transition to college this fall.

  1. Enroll in classes. Classes fill up quickly, leaving you with few choices if you wait too long to register.
  2. Check in with the financial aid office. Follow up to make sure all your paperwork is complete, ask how much and what type of funding you’ll receive, and find out when to expect the funds to arrive.
  3. Buy textbooks. Check with the college bookstore to find out what books are required for your classes. Once you know what you need, shop around! Compare prices at the campus bookstore, used bookstores, and online retailers like Amazon or Half.com to find the best deal. Keep in mind that if you plan to use financial aid to pay for books, you may be required to purchase from the campus bookstore.
  4. Keep applying for scholarships. Take a few minutes and apply for two or three scholarships each week. UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org have gathered thousands of scholarships to make the process easier for you.
  5. Attend orientation and welcome activities. Take advantage of orientation sessions available over the summer and welcome activities the first few weeks of school. You’ll have the chance to meet new people, learn your way around campus, and feel connected to your college.

Now, take a deep breath and enjoy time with your friends and family. Graduating high school is a great accomplishment, so be sure to celebrate while you look forward to your next adventure!

How to Finish the FAFSA, Final Step: Follow-up

FAFSA Step 5So you’ve completed, signed and submitted the FAFSA, now what? It’s time to follow up!

Keep an eye on your email for something called a Student Aid Report (SAR) as well as information from the schools to which you chose to send your FAFSA results.

Your SAR will provide you with some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid. When you receive your SAR carefully review it and make sure your information is listed correctly. If you find a mistake, you will need to correct and resubmit your FAFSA.

Some schools may ask for more information, so be sure to provide any additional documentation they may require. Follow up with the school’s financial aid office if you have questions.

How to Finish the FAFSA, Steps 3-4: Fill It Out and Sign/Submit

FAFSA Step 3Now that you’ve gathered materials  and created an FSA ID , it’s time to complete and submit the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov.

Applying online is fast, simple and best of all… it’s safe. The online form allows you to rapidly transfer previously filed tax information and has many “helps and hints” along to way to answer any questions that may come to mind. And, you may choose to send your FAFSA results to up to 10 schools that interest you.

FAFSA Step 4Be sure to enter your information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. When finished, you will sign with your FSA ID. Don’t forget to hit “Submit” when you’ve completed the form!

The 2017-18 FAFSA is Available!

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student AidThe 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid is now ready for you! Remember, the first word in FAFSA stands for FREE. Never pay someone to complete the FAFSA.

If this is not your first rodeo with the FAFSA, then you may be wondering why it’s available so early. Well, we have good news for you. The FAFSA will become available Oct. 1 of each year to help you make the most of financial aid programs. Furthermore, you will now use tax information you’ve already submitted and will no longer have to update your FAFSA when your latest tax information is ready. See our chart to determine which tax forms to use with your current FAFSA.

Whether this is your first or 10th time completing the FAFSA, we offer a wide variety of information to help families along the way. Check out our resources section for more tools, publications and helpful external websites.

How to Finish the FAFSA, Step 2: Create an FSA ID

FAFSA Step 2If you’ve completed the first of the five (fairly fast) FAFSA steps and have gathered materials  needed to complete the FAFSA, then you are ready to complete step 2 and create an FSA ID.

“FSA ID” is just a fancy acronym for a username and password. To create an FSA ID, visit fsaid.ed.gov and follow the prompts onscreen. Parents of dependent students will need an FSA ID of their own for the FAFSA, too.

Once you have an FSA ID, save it somewhere safe! You will need your FSA ID to sign the FAFSA online and to access information about other financial aid programs as well.

How to Finish the FAFSA, Step 1: Gather Materials

FAFSA Step 1Did you know that you can finish the FAFSA in five (fairly fast) steps? It’s true, and the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available Oct. 1! So now would be a great time to complete the first step by gathering materials. In order to complete the FAFSA, students (and in many cases their parents) will need the following information and items:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • W2 forms and tax returns specified on the FAFSA
  • Current bank statements
  • Dependency status

Not sure about your dependency status? Our handy dependency questionnaire will help you determine your status.

Remember to keep all of information you’ve gathered in a safe place until you’re ready to complete the FAFSA. If you complete your FAFSA in a public area, keep your documents hidden and safe to prevent identity theft.  Be sure to clear the browser on any public computer when you’re done to ensure no one is able to electronically access your information.

 

What’s Changing with the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is new and improved and will be ready for you faster than ever! Students and parents now have the opportunity to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as soon as Oct. 1—three months earlier than before! The earlier you apply, the better, as some financial aid options may be exhausted later in the year.

Another update to the FAFSA makes the process even more convenient. Families will now use tax information that they should have already filed. This means families won’t have to update the FAFSA after they file taxes next year. Use the chart below to find out which forms are right for you.

FAFSA Completion Chart

To complete and submit the FAFSA online, students and parents will both need to create an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) at FSAID.ed.gov. This username/password serves as your signature on the FAFSA and student loan applications and allows you to access other federal aid websites. It can be beneficial for families to create their FSA IDs now in order to speed up the FAFSA application process in October. Once the FAFSA is available, it can be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov.