It’s National Scholarship Month! That means we’re raising
awareness about the numerous scholarship dollars that are available to help you
cover college expenses. For the 2016-2017 school year, the National Scholarship Providers
Association awarded over $2 billion in scholarship funds to deserving
students. That’s just one organization! There are many other companies that
offer scholarships to students preparing for college. To help you put your best
foot forward, here are a few tips to help you submit excellent scholarship
- Follow directions. It’s
important to read all scholarship instructions carefully before starting the
application. If there is a word count to abide by, be sure to meet the
requirements. Also, submit all necessary documents. Ask for letters of
recommendation, copies of your transcript and other documentation weeks before
the scholarship deadline.
- Be creative.
Think outside the box on
scholarship questions. Be creative and original when writing your essay
responses. If you’re asked why you deserve the scholarship, explain why it’s
important for you to go to college. Talk about your academic and career goals,
as well as the challenges you’ve overcome to reach those goals. Also, tell a
story only you can tell. Discuss your involvement with a school organization or
a part-time job and describe the skills you’ve gained from those opportunities.
Remember that with every experience you’ve encountered, you’ve learned
something. Use those learned lessons to fuel your essay responses.
your work. Completing a scholarship application can feel very rewarding;
however, it’s only the first step. Proofreading is the next crucial stage in
this process. Read your scholarship essay aloud to see if you need to make any
adjustments. Also, ask a non-relative, such as a teacher or counselor, to read
your essay – and be open to the constructive criticism they give you.
- Find options
that reflect your interests. Applying for scholarships can seem
like a lot of work. Yet, if you find scholarships that are interesting to you,
the application process can be enjoyable. Search for opportunities that align
with your passions. Then writing essays and creating scholarship videos will be
fun and exciting, instead of time consuming and tedious.
- Never give up! Don’t get
discouraged when you don’t receive a scholarship award; just keep applying.
Your persistence will win out in the end. Keep searching for unique
scholarships. Ask local businesses about scholarship opportunities, as well as
your current education institution. The goal of scholarships is to assist you
with covering the costs of college. The more scholarships you apply for, the
more likely you are to gain that extra assistance. To learn more about
scholarships or to search for interesting opportunities, check out our Scholarship
Success Guide or go to UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org.
October 1! That means the 2020-2021 FAFSA is available! All students planning
to start college in the fall of 2020 can now submit their application for
federal and state financial assistance. The Free Application for Federal
Student Aid, or FAFSA, allows colleges to determine your eligibility to receive
financial aid. Financial aid, which comes in the form of grants, work-study and
student loans, can help you pay for college expenses. To start your FAFSA, here
are a few tips that will help you successfully complete the form:
- Create Your FSA ID
– If you haven’t already done so, you and your parent will need to create an
FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). This username and password allow you to electronically
sign the FAFSA. It will also give you access to other financial aid documents
and websites. To create your FSA ID, go to fsaid.ed.gov.
- Gather Your Documents – For the 2020-2021 FAFSA, students will need their
parents’ tax return, W-2 and other financial information for the 2018 tax year.
If the student filed a tax return in 2018, they will need the same information.
Students should also gather their Social Security card and driver’s license, if
- Use Your Official Name – When creating your FSA ID and completing the FAFSA,
you’ll need to enter your name exactly as it’s shown on your Social Security card.
No nicknames are allowed on the FAFSA. If your name has special characters
include those as well.
- Pick Your Venue
– There are two electronic options for submitting your FAFSA. You can use the
website format, FAFSA.gov,
or you can use the mobile app, myStudentAid. These are the only two official means
for submitting your application. Remember the first “F” in FAFSA stands for
Free, so you should never pay for completing your FAFSA. Using one of these two
methods will ensure that you aren’t charge for a free application.
- Watch Your Inbox
– Once you submit your FAFSA, you’ll begin to receive information about your
application status and updates from your future school’s financial aid office. Be
on the look out for these updates and follow-up with your financial aid office
if they need additional documentation.
Utilizing these five tips
can save time and make your FAFSA completion much easier. Don’t forget, you
need to complete a FAFSA each year you need funding for college.
For more information
about the FASFA, check out www.ucango2.org
Short answer: Yes! No separate application is necessary, but you DO have to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply.
The Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG) is a need-based grant program for Oklahoma residents who attend eligible colleges, universities and career technology centers in the state. Awards are approved for full-time or part-time undergraduate students. Children of military personnel from other states who currently reside in Oklahoma may also qualify for OTAG.
OTAG is a grant based on financial need, which is determined by the data students submit on their FAFSA. To apply for OTAG, a student simply has to complete a FAFSA. Typically, OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded with available funds, so it’s important that your FAFSA is submitted on or shortly after October 1 each year.
Currently, the maximum annual OTAG award is the lesser of 75 percent of enrollment costs or $1,000 for students attending public colleges, universities or career technology centers, and $1,300 for students attending eligible private colleges or universities.
Another grant available from the State of Oklahoma is the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG). It’s a need-based grant for Oklahoma residents enrolled as full-time undergraduates at certain qualified Oklahoma not-for-profit, private/independent institutions of higher education. Students must complete a FAFSA to apply. To receive OTEG, a student must also have an annual family income of $50,000 or less. OTEG award amounts are $2,000 per academic year or $1,000 per academic semester. To see a list of schools eligible to offer OTEG awards, visit OKcollegestart.org/Financial_Aid_Planning.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college, vocational school or other education after high school. It’s 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. You have an 85% chance of getting money for college just by completing this important form.
A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means yours will be ready for you to submit in October, almost a year before you begin college! 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.
The current FAFSA is available online at fafsa.gov. If you’d like a sneak peek at the FAFSA, there are two options you may want to consider.
• The FAFSA4caster can give you a free early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. Visit fafsa.gov and scroll down to Early Aid Estimate.
• The FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, giving you an idea of what information you’ll need to have with you when you begin to fill it out.
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 after October 1 in order to apply for financial aid.
During the 2018-2019 school year, $2.6B dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.
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!
By now you probably know that it’s important to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, but do you know what you’re actually submitting? This application allows colleges to see which types of financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Financial aid can help you cover educational expenses and comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans.
Grants, sometimes referred to as gift aid, are need-based aid that usually don’t have to be repaid. The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. This form of financial aid is available for undergraduate students (those who haven’t received their first bachelor’s degree). The maximum amount of Pell Grant a student can receive is $6,195 for the 2019-2020 school year. Financial aid offices will determine students’ financial need and inform them of their Pell eligibility. Another federal grant that’s available is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG. Only students who have extreme financial need are eligible to receive this grant. Other grants require students to meet certain criteria. The TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant is an example of aid that has conditions attached to it, as it requires students to take certain courses and work specific jobs. There is also the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant that’s available for students who lost a parent or guardian as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. Eligible students should contact their school if they have any questions. Some states offer grants to their residents as well. Oklahoma has the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant, or OTAG, for eligible state residents who will be attending an Oklahoma public or private institution.
Work-study is also a type of financial aid that can help with the costs of college. Eligible students who receive this aid will have the chance to work a part-time job and earn money for educational expenses. Undergraduates and graduates with financial need are able to receive a work-study opportunity. Talk with your financial aid office to learn about potential places, on or off campus, that are hiring.
Student loans are another type of financial assistance. Different than other aid, student loans must be repaid with interest. There are various federal loans available for students. One type is the Direct Subsidized Loan for undergraduates who demonstrate financial need. The maximum amount for freshmen in the 2019-2020 school year is $5,500, with a fixed interest rate of 5.05 percent. A fixed interest rate means that the interest won’t change over time. The federal government will pay the interest on a subsidized loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. In contrast, Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need and are given to undergraduates and graduates. Students are responsible for the interest on this loan during all periods. The interest rate on an unsubsidized loan is 5.05 percent for undergraduates and 6.6 percent for graduate students. Other borrowed aid that isn’t based on financial need is the Parent PLUS Loan. This is available for parents of dependent students who need extra assistance with college expenses. In addition, parents must also be credit worthy to qualify for this type of aid. PLUS Loans have a 7.6 percent fixed interest rate. Speak with your financial aid office to learn more details.
There are a variety of resources available to help you pay for college. Not all schools offer each program, so be sure to contact your financial aid office with any questions. For more information about grants, student loans and work-study go to studentaid.ed.gov.
You made it! School’s out for the summer. If you’re looking for something to do this summer, why not get a jump start on your senior year of high school? Here’s a preview of what to do as you finish up high school and prepare for college:
- Stay on track. Review courses with your counselor to make sure you’re meeting high school graduation and entrance requirements for the schools that interest you.
- Pick your top five. Oklahoma has 25 public colleges and universities as well as several independent and proprietary institutions. Take a few minutes to check out your options!
- Search for scholarships. It’s never too early (or too late!) to apply for scholarships. Check out UCanGo2 and OKcollegestart to search thousands of scholarships!
- Test again. Even if you’ve already taken the ACT or SAT, register for the fall ACT and/or SAT tests; you might boost your score! For extra help, try the free practice ACT and SAT tests on OKcollegestart.org. Find test locations and dates at ACT.org and SAT.org.
- Create a Federal Student Aid ID. The 2020-21 FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2019. You and one of your parents will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA online. Be sure to keep track of these usernames and passwords. Creating FSA IDs now will save time this fall when you’re ready to file the FAFSA.
- Prepare for college fairs. This College Fair Worksheet will help narrow down what types of schools you may be interested in attending. You’ll also find a list of questions to ask college representatives. College Fairs typically begin in September. Registration for fall fairs isn’t open yet, but you can create an account on GoToCollegeFairs.com now, allowing you to easily register when the time comes.
Check out UCanGo2’s full Senior Checklist for reminders and tasks that need to be completed during your senior year of high school.
The Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program offers qualified Oklahoma students an opportunity to earn a scholarship for college tuition. To qualify for enrollment:
- You must be an Oklahoma resident.
- You must enroll for the scholarship in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade
(at the age of 13, 14 or 15 for homeschool students.)
- Your parent(s)’ federal adjusted gross income (AGI) must not exceed $55,000 per year.
Special income provisions apply to legal guardians and certain adoptive parents.
High school students who have just completed 10th grade must apply for Oklahoma’s Promise before July 1, 2019 in order for their application to be considered. If students in the 8th or 9th grade miss the July 1 deadline, they’ll have the opportunity to use the 2019-2020 application this fall.
In the 2017-18 school year, 83% of Oklahoma’s Promise recipients were also eligible for federal Pell Grants, which is more ‘free money’ for college that doesn’t have to be repaid. Oklahoma’s Promise students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in their senior year to verify their family income a second time and to determine their eligibility for the Pell Grant and the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG). To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise, federal financial aid and OTAG, visit:
May 29 is Oklahoma 529 Savings Day! The Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan is a program that allows families to deposit funds into an interest earning savings account and use the funds to help pay for their child’s higher education expenses. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account online and users can choose from a variety of low-cost investment options. When adding to the account the funds can be electronically deposited or mailed in.
529 Savings Plan funds can be used at most accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Funds will typically cover tuition, fees, books, supplies, certain room and board expenses, and some technology equipment required for certain courses. If your student doesn’t need all the funds that go into the account, you can transfer the remaining savings to an eligible family member for their college expenses.
Saving for the future isn’t always easy, but being financially ready when your child goes to college will be well worth the investment. If you’re contemplating opening an Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan, here are a few things to consider:
1. Contributions made to the 529 Plan grow as tax-free earnings in the account and can be deducted from your Oklahoma taxable income.
2. Regular contributions, even if they start as small amounts, add up over time. Consider making small automatic contributions or direct deposits into the account every pay period.
3. Don’t wait to start contributing to your account. Whether your child is in pre-school or high school, start saving for your higher education expenses today.
4. A 529 savings account can be a community effort. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family friends can contribute to your child’s 529 Plan. Encourage family members to make a donation to the fund for children’s birthday and holiday gifts.
For complete information about the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan, visit OK4saving.org.