Category Archives: UCanGo2 Resources

HELPFUL FAFSA RESOURCES

Completing the Free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be stressful, especially for students who are already weighing the options of various universities or career techs, applying for scholarships and studying for the ACT or SAT—and all while still trying to be regular high school students! That’s why the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) offers various resources to help families understand and navigate their way through the FAFSA.

StartWithFAFSA.org offers a number of articles and links to help you as you complete your FAFSA application. Check out these great posts and resources:

Don’t forget: the 2018-19 FAFSA became available on Oct. 1, so high school seniors should complete this form as soon as possible. Visit FAFSA.gov to start the process today!

Completing the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA is as easy as 1, 2, 3… 4, 5!

  1. Gather Materials – You’ll need your social security card, current bank statements and, if you’re a dependent student, your parent(s)’ information. For the 2018-2019 FAFSA, you’ll also need your 2016 W2s and tax returns.
  2. Create an FSA ID – This username and password is used to electronically sign your FAFSA and other important financial aid paperwork. Visit fsaid.ed.gov to sign up.
  3. Fill It Out – The FAFSA is available at FAFSA.gov after Oct. 1 each year. Check out the Help and Hints box on the right side of the screen for assistance on answering each question.
  4. Sign & Submit – Enter your FSA ID to serve as your electronic signature. Don’t forget to click Submit at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Follow Up – Watch your email for a Student Aid Report (SAR) and information from the schools who’ve received your FAFSA results. Be sure to follow up with the financial aid office at your school if you have additional questions.

For more details, check out Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps or watch the Finish the FAFSA in Five videos, available in English and Spanish.

DON’T MAKE THE MISTAKE OF NOT APPLYING!

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been faster or easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents often make: not completing the FAFSA at all!

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 anyway.
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!
  • Your school might use the data for other financial aid. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, in addition to missing out on 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’re positive 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.
  • 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.

The FAFSA is available on Oct. 1, so apply as soon after as possible at FAFSA.gov!

Get Your FSA ID Before You Start the FAFSA

The Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID) is used to log in to certain FSA websites, such as FAFSA.gov. It’s comprised of a username and password. If you used a the old PIN system to sign your last FAFSA, you’ll be given directions on how to set up an FSA ID the next time you log in at FAFSA.gov.

Setting up an FSA ID is easy, and it’s strongly recommended that you set it up before you start the FAFSA. Simply visit fsaid.ed.gov, click ‘Create an FSA ID,’ and fill in the requested information.

Here are a few things you need to know:

  • If you are a dependent student (see our FAFSA Dependency Questionnaire in the resources section), one of your parents will also need to set up their own FSA ID. Parents will use the same website and follow the same steps.
  • Your email address cannot be the same as your parent’s email address on the FAFSA. Make sure you have two separate email addresses before you set up your FSA IDs.
  • Because many high schools have firewalls to prevent students from receiving external mail, it’s best not to use an email address that’s been assigned to you by your school.
  • If you have any questions about the FSA ID, click ‘Help’ in the top right corner at fsaid.ed.gov. You’ll find a wealth of information there.

Don’t forget to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible for priority consideration for some types of financial aid!

Get Ready, Get Set, FAFSA!

Oct. 1 is quickly approaching, and we all know what happens then, right? The 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) opens! Take these steps now to prepare.

  1.  Create your FSA ID. The Federal Student Aid ID is a username and password used to electronically sign your FAFSA and complete other important financial aid paperwork. The student and one parent will each need their own FSA ID. Be sure to keep track of the username and password you create. You’ll use your FSA ID for years to come, so be sure to use a personal email account when creating your FSA ID. You may not always have access to your school issued email account in the future.
  2. Gather your tax information. The 2018-2019 FAFSA will request 2016 tax information. Take the time now to locate 2016 income and tax information for both the student and parent(s). The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be available for students and parents to transfer tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA. However, it will still be important to have your tax documents with you when you complete the FAFSA.
  3. Think about where you’re headed. You’ll have the opportunity to send your FAFSA to up to 10 schools you’re considering attending. Keep in mind you can log back into your FAFSA to add and remove schools if your plans change. Check out OKcollegestart.org to learn more about schools that would be a good fit for you and your goals.
  4. Ask questions. If you have special circumstances that you believe impact your ability to complete the FAFSA, ask for guidance now! Ask us by clicking on “Email Us Your FAFSA Question!” on the right side of this page. You can also contact your high school counselor or the financial aid office at your college to discuss your situation.

Completing the FAFSA is an important step toward funding your education after high school. Be sure to complete the application as soon as possible after Oct. 1!

Are You Looking for Money?

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.

For more information about the types of aid that may be available to you, visit UCanGo2.org and read our popular booklet, Are You Looking for Money?

Welcome Back to School

Welcome to the new school year! Here are a few pointers to help you get started on your road back to academia.

College Freshmen

  • 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:
    • School size
    • Location
    • Programs and majors
    • Admission requirements
    • Campus diversity
    • 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.

Jump start your senior year!

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!

DO I QUALIFY FOR FINANCIAL AID IF I’M HOMELESS?

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.

Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth FAQs
Oklahoma School District Homeless Liaison Directory
McKinney-Vento Homeless Education FAQs
FAFSA Dependency Status Questionnaire for 2017-18

How to Finish the FAFSA, Step 2: Create an FSA ID

FAFSA Step 2If 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.