receive your financial aid offer from a college you may be interested in
attending, it’s quite possible that one or more student loans will be included
in the offer. If you need a student loan(s) to help cover the costs of college,
you’ll want to borrow smart from the very start of your college experience to
minimize your debt after graduation. Here are some things you need to know as
you consider student loans.
- Use ‘free money’ first. Take advantage of all the gift aid you’re
offered—grants and scholarships—before deciding how much you’ll need to borrow.
- You don’t have to accept student loans. You can decline any amount of
financial aid that is offered to you. If you must borrow to pay college costs,
only borrow what you’ll need to get you through one year of college. Review
your finances each semester, and keep that commitment to borrow only what you
need to cover school expenses.
- Do your research. Some experts recommend that your monthly
loan payment should be no more than 8-10% of the monthly income you expect to
earn during the first year after graduation. To estimate your loan payments,
try the Loan Calculator found at ReadySetRepay.org.
- Subsidized = less expensive. Interest won’t be added to a subsidized
federal student loan balance until after you graduate, withdraw or drop your
class load to less than half-time status.
- Make interest payments. Students who borrow federal unsubsidized
loans are responsible for all interest on the loan as soon as their
institutions receive the first disbursement. Student loan interest payments are
generally affordable, even on a college student’s budget. If possible, keep the
interest paid down while you’re in school and during your grace period. To help
you think it through, see how two students took different paths to repay their
- Keep in touch with your lender(s) and
loan servicer(s). Always
make sure you let them know your current address, and contact them if you’re
having trouble making your payments. You can find contact information for your
lenders/servicers at StudentAid.gov under Manage
Loans. Be sure to have
your FSA ID handy—it’s the username and password you created when you submitted
your FAFSA. You’ll need it to access your federal student loan information.
- Stay informed. Find more information and FAQs at ReadySetRepay.org and StudentAid.gov.
Happy Financial Aid
Awareness Month! February is the time to learn how you can fund your education
with various financial aid options. In order to receive federal financial aid,
you must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Once your
FAFSA has been submitted, your school’s financial aid office will notify you of
your aid eligibility. Before you decide which options you’ll accept, take time
to learn about the different kinds of aid that are available to you. Since they’re
all beneficial, here’s an overview of each type of financial aid.
- Scholarships. Potentially the most significant type of financial aid available is a scholarship. It’s free money you can earn from your own hard work, financial need, merit, family history, skills, hobbies or athletics. The more scholarship applications you complete, the more likely you are to win an award. While you don’t have to submit a FAFSA to apply for a scholarship, some programs may request that you do. Scholarship applications could ask you to write an essay, submit a video, take a photograph or complete a service project. To make sure your application matches the scholarship requirements, read all directions carefully before you start the process. If you’re not sure where to look for scholarships, UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org are great places to start your search. Remember that scholarships can be the additional assistance you need to help you reach your educational goals.
- Grants. Sometimes referred to as free money since they usually don’t have to be repaid, grants are given to those who demonstrate financial need. A common type of grant is the Pell Grant. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG, is not as common since it is only given to students who show extreme financial need. For students interested in becoming teachers, there’s the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, or TEACH Grant. Students interested in the TEACH Grant should carefully read all guidelines. If the grant requirements are not met, the money could turn into a loan that must be repaid with interest. Additionally, there’s the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant for those who’ve lost a parent or guardian due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11. As with any type of financial aid, be sure to speak with your financial office if you have questions about grants.
- Work-study. Also called earned aid, work-study allows students to work and earn money for college expenses while they’re in school. Work-study positions are part-time jobs that can be on or off campus. The supervisors over these positions tend to recognize that school is a priority and are usually mindful of your class schedule. Take advantage of these positions because they can give you work experience and time to focus on your academic responsibilities. Each school will have different ways to apply for a work-study job, so talk with your school to learn more about the application process.
- Student Loans. While this type of aid is borrowed money that must be repaid with interest, student loans can help you bridge the gap between grants and scholarships. When it comes to borrowed money, it’s important that you borrow only the amount you need to pay school expenses! Federal loans can be beneficial due to their fixed interest rates (it will not change over time) and flexible repayment options. One type of federal student loan is the Direct Subsidized loan. This aid is for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The government will pay the accruing interest on a subsidized loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. Another federal loan, the Direct Unsubsidized student loan, is for students who do not show financial need. With this loan, the interest will always be accruing on the loan and students will be responsible for paying the interest. For those who need extra financial assistance there’s the Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students or the Direct PLUS loan. Parents of dependent undergraduate students can apply for the PLUS loan to help cover additional college expenses for their child. In order to receive a Direct PLUS loan, parents must complete the loan application and meet certain credit requirements. Students will have six months from the time they graduate, drop below half-time enrollment or leave school to start repaying Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. Those who take out a PLUS loan will have to start repayment once funds have been disbursed.
that you know a little more about financial aid, use this month to decide which
options could be right for you. For more financial aid information, go to StudentAid.gov.
here you are, right in the middle of the academic year. How are things going so
far? Do you have enough financial aid to pay for your spring semester in
fall semester can often reveal expenses you didn’t anticipate when you accepted
your financial aid offer at the beginning of the school year. If your budget’s
being stretched to the limit, remember to explore opportunities for
scholarships. Believe it or not, new scholarships can pop up in the spring semester,
too! Here are some places to look:
financial aid office. There may be new scholarships available, or
there may be some funds left over from a scholarship given to a student who
didn’t return for the spring semester. If you’re a high school student, check
in with your counselor and take advantage of the resources he/she has to offer.
college’s website. Institutional scholarships are often
available at various times throughout the year. It’s a good idea to check the
scholarship listings on your school’s website every week, or at least every two
the possibilities! Where do you start? Here are a few suggestions:
- UCanGo2.org/Scholarships –
Learn about the Scholarship of the Week, then search by month and scroll down to
make sure you don’t miss any application deadlines. You’ll also find a table
full of additional scholarship opportunities for each month.
- Search for brand names of restaurants, chain
stores and food producers. Search the websites of health care systems and
various law firms. Your search engine could become your best friend.
list of additional scholarship websites, see UCanGo2’s publication called Are
You Looking for Money?
The new year often comes with fresh enthusiasm for a renewed
lifestyle. Whether it’s working out regularly, eating out less or resisting the
snooze button, there is no time like the present to commit to new habits.
In addition to health and financial goals, there are some
helpful academic goals that will prove beneficial from this school year to the
completing the Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re considered for a variety of state
and federal financial aid. We encourage you to “start” with FAFSA, and then
continue seeking scholarship opportunities throughout the year. Check out UCanGo2.org for new
scholarships by category and by deadline. Make a profile on OKcollegestart.org
to view scholarship applications that are the perfect fit for you. It’s
important to apply for as many scholarships as possible year-round, so make a
habit of applying for 2-3 scholarships a week.
Study Habits: While
your grades and GPA are not taken into consideration with your FAFSA, schools
will look at your academic achievements when deciding academic scholarship
offers as well as acceptance to their school. Your grades in college will also
determine if you maintain certain scholarship offers from year to year. To
start or keep up good study habits, check out these study tips: https://ucango2.org/publications/student/Perfect_10.pdf
Extracurricular Involvement: Many schools take more than just your
grades into consideration. Join a club or volunteer in your community after
school hours. Your involvement will look impressive on a college application.
Are you already in college? Join a club or find opportunities in your community
to share the skills and knowledge that you’re developing. It looks great on
resumes for future employers. Whether you’re still in high school or you’re
headed into the career field, extracurricular involvement is a good commitment
to make in the new year.
Thanksgiving is a time to practice gratitude.
Here are some ways we can remain thankful during FAFSA (Free Application for Federal
Student Aid) and college application season.
1. Celebrate the fact that the FAFSA is a free resource for financial aid. The FAFSA serves as your
application for federal and some state financial aid for college. Whether you
receive grants, scholarships, student loans or work study, all of these will
help get you one step closer to your future goals.
2. Be grateful that you created your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) before starting your FAFSA application,
and kept it safe on your handy FSA
ID Worksheet! The FSA ID is a username and password that you and one of
your parents create to sign the FAFSA electronically. This short task can save you time, as
submitting and signing your FAFSA online will speed up the processing period
for your application. Save your FSA ID worksheet so when you complete the FAFSA
next year you won’t have to struggle to remember your ID; you’ll only have to
reference your FSA ID worksheet for the information.
3. Remember to show your educators how much you appreciate
them. Is there an administrator, teacher or counselor who’s been especially
supportive as you plan for college? It’s easy to get caught up in the essays,
application requirements and test scores, and educators can encourage us to
persevere and answer our endless questions. Educators are an essential resource
when it comes to choosing the school you want to attend.
4. Having trouble picking your top schools? The FAFSA allows you to apply for financial
aid at up to 10 different schools. Ask your teacher or counselor to help
you find the best-fit colleges, universities or technology centers. After you’ve
narrowed down your choices and determined which schools are a good match, take
the time to thank your teacher or counselor for everything they’ve done to help
make your education journey successful.
5. Finally, be proud of your own perseverance. Once you’ve followed
the tips in Finish
the FAFSA in Five Steps and submitted your application, you can be grateful
that it’s done! (Until next year, that is.)
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.
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.
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.
When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re giving the college(s) of your choice a snapshot of your family’s current financial situation, enabling them to develop a plan for your financial aid ‘package’. That package may contain aid from one or more of these sources:
• The federal government – grants, work-study program, student loans
• The state of Oklahoma – grants and scholarships
• The institution you wish to attend – scholarships and tuition waivers
• Tribal, non-profit and private organizations – grants and scholarships
Your higher education institution may offer you a scholarship, tuition waiver, or both. You may wonder what the differences are between the two and whether you would qualify to receive them.
• A scholarship is usually ‘free money’ that doesn’t have to be paid back, and is used to pay various college expenses. It can be awarded to you by the school you plan to attend, by the state of Oklahoma, or by various private and tribal organizations. A scholarship is often awarded for above-average grades or other achievements, talents and/or community involvement.
• A tuition waiver is granted by your chosen school and reduces the amount the college charges you. The waiver will eliminate the cost of tuition for a designated number of credit hours, but it can’t be used for any other educational expense. While there can be many reasons a school might grant a waiver, here are some of the most common:
• Your family income demonstrates a high financial need.
• You’re of Native American descent.
• You’ve overcome a significant hardship.
• You were adopted, or you were a foster child.
It’s possible that you’d be able to use a scholarship and a tuition waiver simultaneously. Each college has its own policy regarding who meets the qualifications for one or the other. Call your institution’s financial aid office to see how to qualify for any scholarships and waivers they may offer.