Category Archives: UCanGo2 Resources

Financial Aid Awareness Month

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.

Now 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.

Spring Scholarships

Well, 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 college?

The 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:

  • Your 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.
  • Your 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 weeks.
  • Online. Oh, 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.

For a list of additional scholarship websites, see UCanGo2’s publication called Are You Looking for Money?

New Year, New Habits

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 next.

Scholarships: By 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.

Gratitude and Grants

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.)

National Scholarship Month

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 applications:

  • 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.
  • Proofread 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.

Homelessness and the FAFSA

In recent years, questions about the circumstances surrounding homelessness have been added to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to give homeless students the help they need when considering college. Three questions about homelessness canned be summed up this way:

At any time on or after July 1 [in the year prior to the academic year covered by this FAFSA], did an official* determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

*This determination can be given by:

  • A high school or school district homeless liaison,
  • A director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or
  • A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

If you answer yes to any one of the ‘homelessness’ questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will not be required to provide your parents’ income information on your FAFSA. Later on, though, you may be asked by a financial aid administrator to provide a copy of the homeless youth determination. If you did not receive a determination provided by one of the officials listed above, you’ll be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA, but you may ask a financial aid administrator to consider making their own determination. The administrator will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

To clarify some of the terms used in the questions about homelessness, an unaccompanied student is one who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The term youth refers to someone who is 21 years of age or younger or is still enrolled in high school at the time they submit their FAFSA.  A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This includes students who are living in shelters, motels, cars, or parks, or who are temporarily living with other people because they have nowhere else to go. Students are also considered homeless if they are fleeing an abusive parent who would otherwise provide the student with financial support and a place to live. A self-supporting student is one who covers his/her own living expenses.

Often, homeless students ask about how to report their mailing address on the FAFSA. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “You must provide a mailing address where you can reliably receive mail. Your mailing address can be the address of a relative or friend who has given you permission to use it, or it can be your college’s address. If you want to use your college’s address, you must contact the school for permission and instructions to ensure that your mail reaches you.” Don’t forget to update your FAFSA later when you find more permanent housing.

For more information and a list of additional resources for homeless students, read:

Questions and Answers: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth and

FAFSA Tips for Unaccompanied Youth

FAFSA Now Available!

It’s 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 applicable.
  • 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

Welcome Back to School

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!

Summer Checklist for Incoming High School Seniors

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.

Summer Prep for Incoming College Freshmen

Preparing for college can be an exciting, yet nerve-wracking time. Now that you’ve made your final decision on the best college for you, what should you do next? Instead of hitting cruise control, take this time to ensure you’ll be ready for the first day higher education.

Follow up with your high school counselor to make sure your final transcript has been sent to the right college or university. Also, speak with the financial aid office at your college to confirm that you’ve completed and submitted all the required paperwork. Be sure to keep track of your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) and all other critical financial documents in case you need them later.

Talk with your family about your school’s financial aid offer, as well. Ask if they’re willing to help with additional college expenses that may arise. Another good option for covering school expenses is taking on a summer job. It’s never too late to save for your education. Scholarships can also assist with the cost of college, so apply for as many scholarships as possible during the summer. The more you apply for, the more likely your chances are of receiving one.

You should also plan to attend Freshmen Orientation. During this exciting event, you’ll learn more about your college and get a chance to register for classes. Constantly check your college-issued email account to receive updates about campus activities or programs. Follow your friends and your new roommate on social media to start making some great connections. This can make the transition to college easier. Additionally, consider using this time to brush up on your reading and writing skills.

While you have some free time, schedule a visit to your doctor and dentist for a regular check-up. Get a copy of your health insurance card from your parents to use in case of an emergency. Finally, enjoy this time with your friends and family. Talk with your parents about their expectations of you in college and agree to check-in with each other at least once a week. You’ve worked hard to get into college so make the most of this summer. Soon you’ll be on your way to a great freshman year!