Category Archives: Students and Parents

About the SAR

After you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be on the lookout for your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is an electronic or paper document that summarizes the data you put on your FAFSA. It also provides some basic information about your eligibility for federal student financial aid. If you completed, signed and submitted your FAFSA electronically, this document will be sent to your email address within 3-5 days. If you did not include an email address, a paper version of the SAR will be mailed to your postal address in approximately 2-3 weeks. You can also access your SAR by logging in to your account at FAFSA.gov.

The SAR contains important information, like your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and your Data Release Number (DRN). The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. It’s based on the information provided on the FAFSA, but the EFC is NOT the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. It’s a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.

Your DRN is located below your EFC on the SAR and is needed if you want your college or career school to change certain types of information on your FAFSA. Speak with someone at your college Financial Aid office if there has been a significant change in income for you or your parents or you have a special circumstance you need to discuss with the aid administrator.

Your SAR might indicate that you’ve been selected for verification. This is a process schools use to confirm the information on your FAFSA is correct. Your college financial aid office will notify you if additional paperwork is needed to fulfill this requirement.

Review the remainder of your SAR for any errors. If you find anything that should be corrected, log back in to FAFSA.gov, access your FAFSA, and make the necessary changes. Then enter the appropriate FSA IDs and submit your FAFSA again.

Making Corrections to a FAFSA

How do I fix an error on my Student Aid Report?

Since most students file their FAFSAs electronically, it’s quick and easy to make your corrections online, as well. On the home page at FAFSA.gov, click ‘Log In’. If you’re making changes to your answers, click ‘I am the student’. If your parents are making a change to their answers, they should click ‘I am a parent’. Your parents can log in using your personally identifiable information, and they’ll also need your Save Key. Don’t let anyone else log in with your FSA ID!

Find the section where the correction(s) will be made. Make your changes, and don’t forget to click the ‘Submit’ button on the last page when you’re done. In a few days, another Student Aid Report (SAR) will be sent to your inbox. Review it once more to make sure your changes have been made.

If you aren’t able to make a change, notify the financial aid office at your college or university. A financial aid professional will need your Data Release Number (DRN)–a four-digit code found in the top half of your Student Air Report–to access your FAFSA. Don’t give anyone in the financial aid office your FSA ID.

If you encounter any problems while making corrections, call Federal Student Aid (FSA) at 1.800.433.3243.

529 Plan on the FAFSA

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:

  1. 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.
  2. A qualified distribution – funds taken from the account for educational expenses – should be reported as the student’s untaxed income on the FAFSA.
  3. 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.

Aid Eligibility for Undocumented Students

Although a student must have a valid Social Security Number to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and qualify for federal student aid, undocumented students are eligible for other forms of financial aid for college.

*Remember, if your parent does not have a Social Security Number, but you do, you are eligible to complete a FAFSA and receive federal student aid. Your parent, however, will not be able to set up an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) to electronically sign the FAFSA. Instead, he or she can print, sign and mail in a paper signature page.

One form of aid undocumented students can receive is the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG). This is available to students who can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Have you graduated from a public or private high school in Oklahoma?
  • Have you resided in Oklahoma with a parent or guardian while attending a public or private high school in Oklahoma for at least two years prior to graduation?
  • Have you satisfied the admission standards for the institution?
  • Have you provided to the institution a copy of a true and correct application or petition filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to legalize the student’s immigration status?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should apply for OTAG as soon as possible after October 1 prior to each year you plan to attend college. You can find the application for undocumented students at: https://content.xap.com/media/8335/2019-20-OTAG-undoc.pdf.

Undocumented students may also receive scholarships through their college or university, foundation offices or private companies. Check out a list of scholarships for DACA and Dreamer Students here and search and apply for additional scholarships by visiting UCanGo2.org, OKcollegestart.org and OCCF.org.

FAFSA Homelessness Status

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.

IRS Data Retrieval Tool

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.

FAFSA Resources

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be stressful, especially for students who are already weighing the options of various universities or technology centers, applying for scholarships and studying for the ACT or SAT—all while still trying to be regular high school students! That’s why the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) offers various resources to help families understand and navigate through the FAFSA.

StartWithFAFSA.org offers a number of articles and links to help you as you complete your FAFSA application. Check out these great posts and resources:

FAFSA Now Available

On Oct. 1 (today) the 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, becomes available for students to complete in order to receive financial assistance for college. In order to receive most types of federal and state aid, students must submit a FAFSA annually. To make sure you apply for all the financial aid that’s available to you, complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1.

This year students can access the FAFSA by visiting FAFSA.gov or by using the myStudentAid mobile app. Prior to completing the application, set up your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) and gather personal documents and financial information. Students and parents will each need to create an FSA ID in order to electronically sign the FAFSA. It’s best to create your FSA ID now before starting your FAFSA, if possible. Go to fsaid.ed.gov to create your FSA ID and utilize our FSA ID worksheet to help you keep up with your login information for the FAFSA.

It’s best to gather all the materials you’ll need before you start the FAFSA, such as your Social Security card, driver’s license and important financial information. Parents and students will need their tax return and other income information from tax year 2017 to accurately report their data. By taking the time to create your FSA ID and to gather your important documents before you start the application, you’ll be ready to successfully complete the 2019-2020 FAFSA when you start the application.

For additional information, please visit StartWithFAFSA.org.

FAFSA on the Go

The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has started making improvements to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), creating a more mobile and user friendly application process. They have already begun implementing some of the new mobile friendly features, which were released on July 22. This updated application has a redesigned look, better display on phones, laptops and tablets and has an easy to follow question flow. They have also replaced the “Help and Hints” feature with new “tool tips” to help guide you through the various steps of the application.

A beta version of the mobile app will be released later this summer, with the complete version of the app slated to launch on October 1. This will allow you to access your myStudentAid account through a mobile app, rather than through your internet browser. The myStudentAid mobile app will let you complete the FAFSA, make student loan payments and accomplish other financial aid tasks, like tracking your loan spending, all from the palm of your hand. Below is an example of what you can expect to see when you login to the mobile app.

fafsa mobile app screenshots

FAFSA Resources

StartWithFAFSA.org is dedicated to informing you about all things FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). With this mission in mind, we have developed numerous resources to help you navigate the FAFSA process. On our Resources page, we provide links to local and national websites to help you learn about and complete the FAFSA. You can also find a list of publications, tools and videos that highlight specific areas of interest.

If you’re looking for a quick overview of FAFSA completion, check out our YouTube page and learn about The FAFSA in Five (also in Spanish). This short video will give you the highlights of FAFSA completion in five easy steps. Not a video person? You can also learn how to Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps through our online brochure.

To learn essential details about the FAFSA, look over the FAFSA Facts and FAFSA Parent flyers. Both of these resources offer guidance and aim to answer common questions and concerns that students and parents have about the application.

Before you start the application, you’ll need to create your FSA ID, which will be used as your electronic signature for the FAFSA. The FSA ID Worksheet (also available in Spanish) will guide you and your parent through the FSA ID creation process. You will also need to make sure you use the correct version of the FAFSA. To learn which year’s application you need to complete, review our FAFSA Completion Chart and match-up your information.

By completing the FAFSA, you are applying for federal and some state financial aid. You can continue looking for financial aid in the form of scholarships by visiting UCanGo2.org and OKCollegeStart.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook to find more scholarships and FAFSA info!