Ever wonder what the difference is between scholarships and grants? Both categories are considered “free money” since they generally don’t have to be paid back, but that’s about all they have in common.
Scholarships are often called “merit based” aid, since they’re given based on a student’s talents, abilities, skills or participation in extra-curricular activities. They can also be given because of a student’s ancestry or religious affiliation, or for a variety of other reasons. There are numerous ways to search for scholarships. We suggest starting your search at UCanGo2.org and okcollegestart.org, where you will find hundreds of scholarship opportunities. Also, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide, where you’ll find many more websites that you can use to investigate scholarships of all types.
Grants are commonly called “need based” aid because those who qualify for grants have demonstrated a financial need based on their family income. The most well-known grants come from the federal and state governments. To apply for government grants, you simply need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after Oct. 1 during your senior year of high school and then again each year that you you need financial aid for college.
For more information about the types of financial aid that are available, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s booklet entitled Are You Looking for Money?
The Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) is available to students who meet certain qualifications as they are applying for financial aid for college. Students without social security numbers often assume they won’t be eligible to receive an OTAG award, but if you meet certain conditions you may qualify.
Here are four questions that will be asked of you to determine whether you are eligible for OTAG at the time you enter college:
- Did you graduate from a public or private high school in Oklahoma?
- Did you live in Oklahoma with a parent or guardian while attending an Oklahoma high school for at least two years before you graduated?
- Have you satisfied all of the admission standards for the institution you plan to attend?
- Have you provided the institution a copy of a true and correct application or petition filed with United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to legalize your immigration status?
If you are able answer yes to all four questions, you should apply for OTAG as soon as possible after October 1. Since OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded each year, it’s important to apply early. If you are a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen, you do not have to submit a separate OTAG application; you simply have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, if you are a qualified undocumented immigrant, you must use the Application for Undocumented Immigrants form to apply for OTAG. Remember to apply as soon as you can!
“How will I pay for college?” That’s a question that everyone considering higher education is asking. Investigating your financial aid options can seem overwhelming, especially if no one in your family has ever been to college.
Here are some great resources to help you learn what options are available to you.
- Your high school counselor. Counselors love talking about college—college preparation, choosing a college and financial aid options. Make an appointment with your counselor soon!
- The financial aid office at your school(s) of interest. Each college, technology center and career school is different. Be sure to speak with someone in Financial Aid at each school you are considering to find out what types of aid you may be able to receive at their school.
- Internet resources.
- The FAFSA. The first step in applying for many different types of aid is completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it’s available! Students who will be attending college during the 2017-2018 school year can apply now at FAFSA.gov. You’ll need to wait until Oct. 1, 2017 to apply for financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year.
Before you get too far into summer mode, break out your calendars one last time. June 30 is a very important scholarship deadline you don’t want to miss! Students in the eighth, ninth or 10th grades must submit their Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship applications by June 30, 2017.
For those of you who just completed 10th grade, June 30 is your final deadline to apply. Don’t miss out on thousands of dollars in scholarship funds by missing this deadline! Submit your application right away.
To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise and the qualifications for receiving the scholarship, visit okpromise.org.
Oklahoma’s Promise allows eighth-, ninth- or 10th-grade students from families with an income of $50,000 or less to earn a college tuition scholarship. Family income may not exceed $100,000 at the time the student begins college and before receiving the scholarship. Students must also complete a specific high school curriculum, achieve at least a 2.50 GPA in the curriculum and overall abide by certain conduct requirements in high school.
On Tuesday, April 18, Oklahoma’s Promise will hold a rally at the State Capitol to celebrate the program’s 25th anniversary. Please join us to show appreciation for Governor Mary Fallin and the Legislature’s ongoing support of the Oklahoma’s Promise program and to encourage elected officials to continue to protect the program’s dedicated funding source.
The rally will be held at the Oklahoma State Capitol, first floor rotunda at 12:30 p.m. A reception will follow on the fourth floor rotunda at 1:30 p.m.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm you will join us for Oklahoma’s Promise Day!
Once you’ve been accepted to a college, university or career technology center, and you’ve completed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you will receive a financial aid award letter. This letter is very important. It will notify you of the types of federal and state assistance you can receive to pay for college.
Most financial aid award letters are sent to you electronically, but a few schools may provide paper documents. Be sure you know the system your school uses so you don’t miss out on any deadlines. Award letters will state the amount of financial aid you can receive, but you will be required to accept or decline this money and notify your school by a specific date. If you miss the deadline, you may be missing out on money for college!
You don’t have to accept everything listed to you in the award letter. Research the aid programs that you’re being offered and make an educated decision. Remember: grants and scholarships are typically considered free money, work-study offers you the chance to work for your funds and student loans must be paid back in full with interest. If you have accumulated several scholarships and don’t need loan money, then don’t accept it! Loan funds that are declined will most likely still be available if you learn you need additional money later in the school year.
If you have questions about the aid you’re awarded, please contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. To learn more about financial aid programs, visit UCanGo2.org or StudentAid.ed.gov.
If you don’t already plan to work while attending college, you should be aware that there are some real advantages to it. It can help pay for college without adding to your future student debt and help you build your resume.
When you fill out the FAFSA, you may find that you qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program. Work-Study provides part-time jobs for eligible students on a college campus or in an approved nonprofit organization or public agency. The program encourages community service work and employment related to the student’s course of study. Students work a specified number of hours each week and typically earn minimum wage. When assigning work hours, your employer or your school’s financial aid office will consider your class schedule and your academic progress. You will be paid directly unless you request that the school use the money to pay for your outstanding education-related institutional expenses such as tuition, fees and room and board.
Whether through Work-Study or not, having a job while attending college will give you a head start in job hunting after you graduate. Most entry-level jobs will give you skills that employers are looking for, like customer service, money handling and organization. If you can find a job or workplace related to the career field you’re planning on, all the better. You’ll also meet people that you can list as references for future job applications.
Any student that needs money for college expenses in 2017-18 should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) now! The FAFSA underwent a lot of changes this year, including moving the application start date from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1. Since the FAFSA is available now, students should submit the form as soon as possible to maximize opportunities for financial aid for college. Get ahead of the game and set a reminder to submit the FAFSA Oct. 1 of next year, too!
Many types of financial aid are awarded on a first come-first served basis. This includes various types of federal aid as well as some aid through the state of Oklahoma. For example, this year, the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), does not have a deadline for FAFSA completion. Instead, students are told it’s important to apply early. 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.
The FAFSA is THE application for federal grants, college work-study and many student loan programs including:
Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
Work Study Program:
Federal Student Loans:
Direct Subsidized Loan
Direct Unsubsidized Loan
Direct PLUS Loan
Federal Perkins Loan
So submit the FAFSA now. You may qualify for money for college!
So 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.
The 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.