Category Archives: Student loans

What’s all the hype about the FAFSA? Why is it so important?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application submitted to the federal government. It’s basically a snapshot of your financial situation. The information you submit on your FAFSA is used to determine how much federal and state financial aid you may be able to receive to help you pay for college.

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for financial aid, submit your FAFSA anyway. It’s not uncommon for students to assume they won’t qualify, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that they are eligible to receive one or more types of aid. Keep in mind that many scholarship applications now require a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is the report you receive after you submit your FAFSA.

By submitting the FAFSA, you’re not automatically signing up for student loans or committing to any colleges. You’re simply giving the college(s) you’re interested in attending an opportunity to discuss your financial aid options with you. So be sure to fill out the 2017-18 FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 this year. Visit FAFSA.gov for more information.

College Planning Tools for You!

StartWithFAFSA.org is part of the outreach initiative at the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP). OCAP provides college access, aid awareness, financial literacy and student loan management services that benefit students, parents, schools and community partners. OCAP’s initiatives include UCanGo2, Oklahoma Money Matters and Ready Set Repay, each of which offers resources and tools designed specifically for you, including:

College Planning Checklists – provide high school students detailed information about the steps they must take not only to gain admission to a college or university, but also to be successful in high school and college. From what classes to take to financial aid application guidelines, these checklists offer useful information for every high school student.

Your Money Matters Guides – designed to help students and adults manage finances, each guide is tailored to provide specific information based on your current financial situation.

Borrow Smart from the Start – provides information to help students understand the smart and responsible way to borrow student loans. Whether you’re preparing for college and considering student loans for the first time, in your grace period or currently repaying your loan, this publication provides everything a student loan borrower needs to know before borrowing.

Each of our initiatives offers a variety of information and resources designed to fit your needs. Check out our publications/resources pages at UCanGo2.org, OklahomaMoneyMatters.org and ReadySetRepay.org to find more useful tools and information.

Are You Looking for Money?

Well, who isn’t? Let’s rephrase to be more specific. Are you looking for money for college? If so, you should check out UCanGo2.org where you’ll find dozens of resources to help you plan, prepare and pay for college. Here are some of the highlights:

UCango2 Find Scholarships Buttong

Find hundreds of scholarships organized by deadline or category, and don’t forget to check back weekly for UCanGo2’s Scholarship of the Week!

 
Are You Looking for MoneyAre You Looking for Money is UCanGo2’s signature financial aid guide with specific information about Oklahoma’s programs. It offers information about grants, scholarships, work study programs, and student loans.

 

Finish the FAFSA in Five StepsFinish the FAFSA in 5 Steps is a step-by-step guide designed to help students and their parents submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in just five simple steps.

 

College Planning ChecklistsWhether you’re in sixth grade or 12th grade, UCanGo2 is here to help you determine your next steps for preparing for college. From what classes to take to when to apply for financial aid, the high school and middle school checklists offer useful information for every student.

 

Bonus! A complete list of our FAFSA tools for students and parents, including FAFSA Facts and the Dependency Questionnaire, can be found in the resources section here at StartWithFAFSA.org/resources.

 

Don’t Make this FAFSA Mistake!

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents continue to make.

Each year, many families don’t complete the FAFSA because they think they make too much money to qualify for aid. Counting yourself out before even starting is a huge mistake! Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid, you should still submit the FAFSA.

Here’s why:

    • You could be missing out. Billions of financial aid dollars are offered every year. Those funds will be awarded to someone… and that “someone” could be you. But you’ll never know if you don’t apply!
    • There’s no obligation. You’re not required to accept the aid offered to you. You’ll have the option to decline any aid offered, or you may choose to limit how much you borrow.
    • Your school might use the data. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, beyond federal funding, you could take yourself out of the running for school aid by choosing not to submit the FAFSA.
    • Federal student loans offer options. Even if you know you’ll only qualify for student loans and you’re unsure about borrowing money for school, federal loans could be your best option. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private or alternative loans, and they offer flexible repayment plans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.

When is the FAFSA Due?

We get this question a lot, and the answer can be somewhat confusing.

Technically, you can submit the FAFSA throughout most of the year; however, all high school seniors and current college students should submit the FAFSA as soon as the new form becomes available in each year they intend to enroll in college courses.

Why? Two reasons:

    1. The earlier you submit the FAFSA, the sooner you will know what aid is available to you.  If you’re considering more than one school, you may receive different aid offers.  Filing early gives you time to compare and make an educated decision.
    2. There are other deadlines to consider, including:

State Deadlines
Like federal financial aid, many state aid programs use information from your FAFSA for their award purposes. However, state programs have their own deadlines, often early in the year.

Students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG).

School Deadlines
In addition to specific financial aid program deadlines, some schools set their own deadlines for school-specific financial aid. Check with the college(s) you’re interested in attending to find out about any special deadlines.

See what we mean by “somewhat confusing?”

Your best bet: Aim to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible each year. 

If you miss a deadline, there are other types of financial aid to consider. Some forms of financial aid, including loans, are typically available throughout the year. Plus, many other aid programs offered throughout the year, including many grants and scholarships, don’t require information from the FAFSA.

Types of Financial Aid Offered Through the FAFSA

Financial aid comes in many forms, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the place to start to find out which types you’re eligible to receive. Remember, some of these programs have early application deadlines, so it’s important to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible each year you intend to enroll in college courses. Here are some of the types of financial aid offered through the FAFSA.

Grants and scholarships

Sometimes called gift aid, this type of financial aid is often based on financial need or merit and doesn’t have to be repaid. In addition to federal grants and scholarships, the FAFSA is required for some Oklahoma programs, like the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG) and Oklahoma’s Promise.

NOTE: There are also grants and scholarships offered by private corporations or non-profit groups that don’t necessarily require information from the FAFSA. You can search for scholarships by deadline or category at UCanGo2.org.

Work-study

A form of self-help aid, federal work-study provides part-time jobs for students (usually on- or off- campus) allowing them to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The program encourages community service employment and work related to the student’s course of study.

Student loans

Federal student loans are offered at low interest rates. Some are based on financial need and some aren’t. The amount you can borrow depends on many factors, including your grades, financial need, cost of attendance, the length of your school’s academic year and other sources of aid. All student loan funds borrowed must be repaid, regardless of whether you obtain a degree or drop out early. Remember, you don’t have to accept all student loan funds offered to you. Only borrow what you need to pay for your school expenses. Learn how to Borrow Smart from the Start at ReadySetRepay.org.

When paying for school, always go for free money first, including grants and scholarships. Then, use any funds you or your family have saved to contribute to your college costs. If you still need assistance, turn to the federal work-study program and low-interest student loans to help cover your expenses. For more information about paying for college, visit the Paying for College section at UCanGo2.org.

Time (Really) Is Money!

When it comes to submitting the FAFSA, it holds true that the early bird gets the worm (or in this case, the money).

Those who apply for financial aid early in the year:

  1. Receive their financial aid eligibility results earlier.
  2. Open more opportunities to earn scholarships and grants with early deadlines.
  3. Have one less item on their “To-Do Before College” list.

Remember, some types of financial aid, including the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG), are first-come first served. It’s important to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to make sure you miss out on any financial aid opportunities. However, many other types of financial aid are available throughout the year, so be sure to apply even if you think you may be too late.

Don’t Count Yourself Out!

Even if you think you or your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, submit the FAFSA anyway. Students are often surprised by the aid they’re awarded.

There’s not a specific income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid, and many other factors are considered. The only hard and fast rules of eligibility are that you must:

    • Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
    • Have a valid Social Security Number.
    • Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, or have completed homeschooling.
    • Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
    • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
    • Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
    • Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Even if you are not awarded grants, most students qualify for some type of federal student aid. Some schools use the data from your FAFSA to award state or school-specific grants and scholarships, so submitting the application may open more doors than you expect.

On average, it takes less than an hour to fill out the FAFSA online, so why not do it? It could turn out to be well worth your time!

 

What Happens If I Don’t Submit a FAFSA?

We get it. You may not think of fun when you think about the FAFSA. Few folks enjoy paperwork, and the FAFSA requires time, personal information and answers to tricky questions. But, like so many other aspects of adult life, there’s no reward without effort. If you need money to help pay for college, the FAFSA is the place to start. You must complete the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for federal (and some state) financial aid.

If you don’t complete the FAFSA, here’s what you could miss out on:

    • Grants
    • Scholarships
    • Work-study opportunities
    • Low-interest student loans
    • State Aid

If you’re planning to go to college this fall, submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to help maximize your financial aid offers. Save yourself some time by completing the form online at FAFSA.gov.