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Questions to Ask Your Financial Aid Office

As you navigate the college financial aid process, you may experience some twists and turns that you didn’t expect. When you’re enrolling in a technology center, career school, community college, or four-year college or university for the first time, you may not be sure what questions to ask the financial aid personnel at your school of interest. Here is a list of questions you may want to ask in order to have a better understanding of how it all works.

  • What types of financial aid do you offer?  
  • If I’m awarded a scholarship, will it change the amount of aid you can offer me?
  • Does your school have a deadline for FAFSA submission? What are the consequences if I don’t meet the deadline?
  • When will I know how much financial aid I’ll be eligible to receive?
  • Am I considered to be a dependent student, or independent?
  • Is there a way to change my dependency status?
  • What should I do if I have a circumstance that causes my/my parent(s)’ income to change?
  • Are there resources available to help me investigate other types of aid, such as state grants and scholarships?
  • Do you offer an installment plan that would allow me to make monthly payments through the year? If so, are there any associated fees?
  • What is the average student loan debt for your graduates?

Most of these questions can only be answered by a knowledgeable financial aid officer, since no two students’ circumstances are the same. Many factors are considered to determine your financial need, which is based on the data you supply on your FAFSA. Always be patient with those who work in the financial aid office! They want you to attend their school, but they must follow federal regulations to the letter. The more you know, the more you can help them assess your situation.

Military Benefits on the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid asks three questions related to military benefits. This includes information about combat pay, housing allowance and noneducational veteran benefits. If you or your family aren’t sure how to report these benefits on the FAFSA, here are some helpful tips about the military questions.

  • Combat Pay: The first military benefits question asks about the service member’s total combat pay. If the service member is an enlisted member or a warrant officer, they don’t have to provide this information. However, if they are a commissioned officer, they will need to report their combat pay. This amount can be found on the service member’s W-2 form in box 12.
  • Housing Allowance: Reporting this information is dependent on several factors. If the member receives a subsidy for on-base military housing or a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), then the member doesn’t need to report the benefit. Those who receive housing allowances other than the ones mentioned above must include that information on the FAFSA.
  • Noneducational Veteran Benefits: Those who receive the Montgomery GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill, Dependents Education Assistance Program or Vocational Rehabilitation Program don’t need to provide this data. Those who receive other noneducational assistance, such as benefits including Disability, Death Pension, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and VA Educational Work-Study allowance, must report that information. Noneducational veteran benefits can be found on the service member’s monthly VA benefit statement.

Knowing which types of military benefit information to include on the FAFSA and gathering the right documents can make the process easier. The service member should collect the appropriate year’s tax return, W-2 forms and benefit statements to answer these three questions accurately. For more information about military benefits and the FAFSA, please visit MilitaryBenefits.info.  

Financial aid Valentine’s Day Poem

Roses are red, violets are blue.
College is great – You can go, too!

“How do you pay for it?” students will ask.
Find the free money! It’s your first task.

Focus on scholarships, grants and work-study.
Remember you need a FSA ID.

Complete the FAFSA for financial aid love,
Sign and submit at FAFSA.gov!

There are quite a few questions on that free application.
Confused? Visit StartWithFAFSA without hesitation!

You’ve found extra scholarships! How very smart.
Search for more aid at OKcollegestart!

On your award offer, there may be some loans.
Borrow just what you need to reduce what you’ll owe.

Stay the course through graduation,
and keep preparing for higher education!

Questions to Ask Your Financial Aid Office

The financial aid office is an ally to students who have questions about affording college. It’s good to engage with your college’s financial aid officers early on, so they can advise and assist you the best way possible. Not sure where to start? Here are some helpful questions to ask.

  • Are there other scholarships available?

If you’ve already received your financial aid offer letter, you can ask them to talk you through the awards listed. During this time, you can ask if the campus offers additional scholarships that you might qualify for. They may also know of other resources for receiving additional aid.

  • How will outside scholarships affect my financial aid?

If you receive an outside scholarship (for example, from a private program), they may adjust the amounts on your financial aid offer letter. It varies by school. While some colleges will reduce your unmet need and student loans first, others may reduce the grants first. It’s important to ask your financial aid office so you know what to expect.

  • Do you offer a tuition payment plan?

This is a question that the financial aid office can answer, however, they may direct you to the Bursar’s office to set it up. The Bursar handles all student charges and payments. The financial aid office will be able to explain to you the exact cost of attendance and what you will be expected to pay, when. From there, you can ask the Bursar if you have to pay your balance in one payment or if you can pay in installments. Many schools offer payment plans, so be sure to ask what options are available to you.

  • What is the appeal process if I don’t receive enough financial aid?

While an appeal isn’t always guaranteed to work, some campuses offer a process to allow you to demonstrate why the current financial aid offer doesn’t meet your needs. Any increase in financial aid helps, so it never hurts to ask.

  • Will my financial aid offer be similar all four years?

Some scholarships can be renewed every year, so it’s important to find out what you need to do to maintain those awards. Ask your financial aid office what’s expected of you. Sometimes awards can be lost based on GPA or enrollment status. Also, ask if there are any awards that will not renew after your freshman year. If your financial aid is going to change, it’s good to plan ahead by finding additional resources to bridge any gaps.

NonTraditional Students and the FAFSA

Traditional (or ‘typical’) college students earn a high school diploma, enroll full time immediately after finishing high school, depend on parents for financial support, and either work part time during the school year or choose not to work. However, recent data shows that the majority of today’s college students are not ‘typical’ at all.

At times, over 70% of those enrolled in undergraduate studies nationwide have been adults over the age of 24 who often work and attend college part time. Evening and weekend classes, online courses and economic twists and turns have changed the landscape of higher education. If you’re an adult who is 25 years of age or older and you’ve been thinking about enrolling in college for the first time or returning to college to complete your degree, you are definitely not alone. But where do you start?

First, if you’re not sure which college you would like to attend, research your options by using tools such as OKcollegestart.org and NCES.ed.gov/CollegeNavigator to find schools that have the program and/or major you’re looking for.

When you have your choices narrowed down, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is simply a snapshot of your family’s financial situation used to help technology centers, career schools, colleges and universities determine your eligibility for various types of student financial aid . Things may have changed since you submitted your last FAFSA, if you submitted one at all. The vast majority of FAFSAs are now done online, and you can begin yours at StudentAid.gov . To complete your FAFSA online, you’ll first need to establish your Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID), which is a username and password that has replaced the four-digit PIN formerly used on the FAFSA. Click here to create your FSA ID.

The college you plan to attend may offer assistance for students like you who want to finish their degrees. Contact the school(s) of your choice for more information, and be sure to visit ReachHigherOK.org to see more valuable resources.


National Poetry Month

I could be an artist; I’d create and dream all day.

Good thing there’s a school for that,

but how am I going to pay?

Maybe I’ll be a doctor; I’ll learn to help and heal.

With years and years of studies,

tuition concerns are real.

I’d like to be an astronaut, exploring the final frontier.

I’ll have to master the STEM subjects.

Are there scholarships for engineers?

My future is full of possibilities.

Good thing I completed the FAFSA,

to help with my financial responsibilities.

I qualified for grants and work study,

thanks to federal student aid.

The application didn’t cost me a cent.

Now I can focus on grades.