So you’re finishing up your senior year of high school and about to transition to life as a college student. It may be tempting to use your summer break as a time to relax and recover from your final year of high school, but it’s important to begin prepping for your upcoming college experience.
If you haven’t already filled out the FAFSA, it’s not too late. You will need to complete the 2018-19 form if you are starting classes in the fall of 2018. It can take a couple weeks for your college to send you your financial aid award letter, so complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.
The summer is also the perfect time to apply for scholarships. Use some of your extra time to complete scholarship applications. The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances are of winning! Don’t forget about scholarships provided by your college or university, too. For more information on those, call the campus financial aid office. You can also find a list of scholarships at UCanGo2.org and OKCollegeStart.org
If you will be living on campus, you can use the summer to start coordinating dorm needs with your roommate. You should also take a look at the school’s website to start reviewing potential associations, clubs or activities to join. Make sure you don’t overextend yourself, though; transitioning successfully from high school to college takes focus.
For more tips on preparing for college, check out our primer for high school seniors, Your Transition to College.
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:
- The Federal government
- The State of Oklahoma
- The institution you wish to attend
- Tribal, non-profit and private organizations
One thing that’s not listed here is a tuition waiver. So, what is a tuition waiver and how does it affect the cost of attending college?
A tuition waiver differs from a scholarship; while a scholarship is a cash award that helps you pay for various college expenses, a tuition waiver 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 are of Native American descent
- You’ve overcome a significant hardship
- You were adopted, or you were a foster child
Each college and university has its own policy regarding who meets the qualifications for a tuition waiver. Call your institution’s financial aid office to see what waivers the campus may offer and how to qualify for them. Asking a simple question could save you money.
Before applying for federal student aid, you’ll want to pull together all the necessary documentation, such as your drivers ID, Social Security card, current bank statement and your W2 and tax returns. When gathering your tax information for the FAFSA, remember that you’re required to use your tax return from two years prior. This means that if you’re completing the FAFSA to begin school in fall 2018, you’ll need your tax information from 2016. Because you must complete the FAFSA each year you need student aid, you’ll need to keep your tax information handy for the FAFSA’s you will complete while in college. Try to keep all relevant documentation together in a safe location. This will help you quickly and accurately finish all future FAFSAs.
If you’re unsure when to complete the FAFSA or what year’s tax return you will need, check out the FAFSA Completion Chart below.
Today is Oklahoma’s Promise Day! Since 1992, the Oklahoma’s Promise (OKP) scholarship has paid college tuition for over 80,000 students in our state.
If you’re an OKP recipient, you are now required to submit a FAFSA each year that you’re in college. The Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from your FAFSA will be used to determine whether or not your parents’ income exceeds $100,000 (or your income if you have been determined to be financially independent). For any year that the AGI exceeds $100,000, you won’t be eligible to receive the scholarship.
For more information about OKP requirements while you’re in college, be sure to read the FAQs for college students at okpromise.org.
When you submit your FAFSA, you’ll be checking out your eligibility for different types of federal and state financial aid to help you pay for college. You’ll also want to investigate scholarships that come from private sources, so make sure to include a regional community foundation in your search for gift aid.
Community foundations are public charities whose goal is to improve the lives of citizens who reside in a particular geographic region. To achieve this goal, they strive to build permanent funds used for various purposes. Scholarships are often included in the donors’ choice of investments. Scholarships available through a community foundation are considered to be ‘local,’ which means there aren’t as many contenders for the prize as those offered nationally, improving your chances of receiving an award. Here are the websites for a few community foundations across the state:
Remember to take advantage of all the ‘free money’ you can find. Apply for as many scholarships as possible, and consider finding them before you apply for student loans.
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!