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.
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.
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.
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:
- Receive their financial aid eligibility results earlier.
- Open more opportunities to earn scholarships and grants with early deadlines.
- 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.
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!
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:
- 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.