When you’re investigating your financial aid options to help fund your education, always remember to go for the “free money” first. Free money is grants and scholarships that you don’t usually have to pay back.
The Pell Grant is a huge benefit for students who need help paying for school. Many factors go into deciding who is eligible for Pell grants, but three major factors are family income, household size and the number of people in the household who will be attending college. The maximum Pell grant a student can receive during the 2017-18 school year is $5,920, which is a $105 increase from last year.
If you must borrow student loans to pay for college, borrow only what you’ll need to pay your remaining expenses after the free money and college work study funds you expect to receive. For the 2017-18 school year, federal student loans will bear the following interest rates:
Direct Subsidized Loan (Undergraduate): 4.45%
Direct Unsubsidized Loan (Undergraduate): 4.45%
Direct Unsubsidized Loan (Graduate): 6%
Direct PLUS Loans (Graduate & Parents): 7%
To find out what types of federal and state aid you will be eligible to receive for college expenses, you must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 2017-18 FAFSA is available now, and the FAFSA for the 2018-19 academic year will be available on Oct. 1.
Welcome to the new school year! Here are a few pointers to help you get started on your road back to academia.
Check the Admissions section of the college website to see if there’s a freshman orientation you need to attend or any other tasks that must be completed before you start classes.
Find out who to contact about meal plans and parking permits.
Don’t have your books yet? Investigate your options—choosing used books and comparing sellers can save you money!
If you will be making payments to your school, be sure you know the procedures you will need to follow.
You’ve probably completed your 2017-2018 FAFSA by now, which determines your financial aid eligibility for your freshman year. Keep in mind that the 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available on October 1. Complete your FAFSA for your sophomore year as soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2017.
High School Seniors
If you haven’t decided which college you’ll attend next year, list three or four schools that interest you and compare them. Important things to consider are:
Programs and majors
Tuition and fees
Total financial aid available
Scholarships offered by the college
Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or soon after Oct. 1 this year, enabling your school(s) of interest to determine how much federal and state aid they can offer you to help you pay your college expenses.
Don’t say no to yourself! Take (or re-take) your ACT, submit your FAFSA and apply for as many scholarships as you can.
High School Juniors
Volunteer! Helping out in your community can give you great experience and make you more successful on your scholarship and college admission applications.
Start making a list of schools you would like to visit. It’s best to have more than one college in mind so that you can be well-informed about your options.
Keep up those grades! Your high school grade point average (GPA) will be an important factor in determining whether you are eligible for college admission.
Consider Advanced Placement and/or concurrent enrollment classes while you’re in high school. This can save a bundle on your college expenses. Ask your counselor for more details.
High School Sophomores
You must apply for the Oklahoma’s Promise (OKP) scholarship in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade. If you haven’t applied for OKP yet, your final deadline is July 2, 2018. The family income requirements are changing, so don’t assume you won’t qualify for OKP! Visit with your counselor to learn more.
As you choose your classes each semester, remember that the more advanced classes will make you more prepared for college. Along with your high school grade point average, colleges will also evaluate the courses you’ve taken to see how rigorous they were.
Volunteer in your community and participate in extracurricular activities at your school. When it’s time to apply for college and scholarships, this may help you earn scholarships.
High School Freshmen
Study hard and make the grade. Good study habits and a strong GPA will serve you well on your journey toward college.
If you didn’t apply for Oklahoma’s Promise during 8th grade, visit okpromise.org for program requirements and to sign up for this scholarship program.
Check out UCanGo2.org’s checklists for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors for more information on staying on track for college.
Seniors, you may not want to admit it, but summer break is quickly coming to an end. Now is the perfect time for you to take a break from the heat and get a jump start on your Senior Checklist! Here are a few things you can do now to help the fall semester run smoothly.
Research college options. Oklahoma has 25 public colleges and universities as well as several independent and proprietary institutions. Take a few minutes to check out your options!
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.
Create a Federal Student Aid ID. The 2018-19 FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2017. 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.
Gather tax documents. When the FAFSA opens in October, you’ll need several items handy to complete the application. Go ahead and track them down now! Keep them in a folder so you can easily find them this fall. You’ll need 2016 federal tax returns and W2s for both you and your parent(s).
Think about costs.FAFSA4caster provides an early estimate of what financial aid you may qualify for. Keep in mind this is an estimate and may change when you complete the FAFSA.
Search for scholarships. It’s never too early (or too late!) to apply for scholarships. Check out the UCanGo2 and OKcollegestart websites to search thousands of scholarships!
Stay cool out there, and enjoy the rest of your summer break!
Yes! If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, you can qualify for financial aid and should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular and adequate housing. This includes students 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. (Students who are 22 and 23 years old who are unaccompanied and homeless or self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless qualify for a financial aid dependency override.) Homeless youth determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.
While completing the FAFSA, you will answer questions about your income, assets and personal demographics. One of those questions is, “At any time on or after July 1, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison, (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or (c) the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program?” If you already have a determination and answer “yes,” you will be able to submit the FAFSA without including your parents’ information. Your school might request documentation of the determination.
If you haven’t been previously determined to be homeless or at risk of being homeless but believe you meet the qualifications, you should answer “No” and contact the financial aid office at the college, university or career technology center you plan to attend to explain your situation. The financial aid administrator will make a determination and advise you on how to proceed.
Visit the links provided below for more information. If you have further questions or wish to speak to someone about your personal status, contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend or visit with your high school counselor.
If you’ve completed the first of the five (fairly fast) FAFSA steps and have gathered materials needed to complete the FAFSA, then you are ready to complete step 2 and create an FSA ID.
“FSA ID” is just a fancy acronym for a username and password. To create an FSA ID, visit fsaid.ed.gov and follow the prompts onscreen. Parents of dependent students will need an FSA ID of their own for the FAFSA, too.
Once you have an FSA ID, save it somewhere safe! You will need your FSA ID to sign the FAFSA online and to access information about other financial aid programs as well.
Did you know that you can finish the FAFSA in five (fairly fast) steps? It’s true, and the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available Oct. 1! So now would be a great time to complete the first step by gathering materials. In order to complete the FAFSA, students (and in many cases their parents) will need the following information and items:
Remember to keep all of information you’ve gathered in a safe place until you’re ready to complete the FAFSA. If you complete your FAFSA in a public area, keep your documents hidden and safe to prevent identity theft. Be sure to clear the browser on any public computer when you’re done to ensure no one is able to electronically access your information.
With so many great colleges in Oklahoma, it may difficult to choose one!
If you’re having trouble choosing which college to attend this fall plan a few campus visits. A tour of a college campus can give you a more realistic picture of what college life will be like, as well as the opportunity to ask questions such as, “Where will I park,” “Does this campus have a gym or wellness center,” and “What’s the food like in the cafeteria?” Not only will you have your questions answered, but you will see all of the places that you may be asking about. Bring a copy of our “Making the Most of Campus Visits Guide” to help you along the way.
While you’re on your tour, be sure to talk to some students and ask them what they like/dislike about the college. Drop by the Student Union and check out the information about student organizations that are active on campus. And, last but not least, make it a point to drop by the financial aid office, where you’ll find valuable information about the financial aid process and scholarships that may be available to you.
There’s room for 10 different college codes on the FAFSA, so the form can serve as a great comparison tool if you’re still trying to decide which school to attend. It’s perfectly fine if you haven’t made your final decision before you submit your FAFSA. Just remember to go back and add any schools you’re interested in attending as soon as possible so the college can receive your financial aid data. To add a school code to your FAFSA, simple log in at FAFSA.gov and go to Make FAFSA Corrections. You’ll receive an updated Student Aid Report (SAR) within a few days showing the additional new school code(s).
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.