“How will I pay for college?” That’s a question that everyone considering higher education is asking. Investigating your financial aid options can seem overwhelming, especially if no one in your family has ever been to college.
Here are some great resources to help you learn what options are available to you.
- Your high school counselor. Counselors love talking about college—college preparation, choosing a college and financial aid options. Make an appointment with your counselor soon!
- The financial aid office at your school(s) of interest. Each college, technology center and career school is different. Be sure to speak with someone in Financial Aid at each school you are considering to find out what types of aid you may be able to receive at their school.
- Internet resources.
- The FAFSA. The first step in applying for many different types of aid is completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it’s available! Students who will be attending college during the 2017-2018 school year can apply now at FAFSA.gov. You’ll need to wait until Oct. 1, 2017 to apply for financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year.
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 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:
- School size
- 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.
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!
Before you get too far into summer mode, break out your calendars one last time. June 30 is a very important scholarship deadline you don’t want to miss! Students in the eighth, ninth or 10th grades must submit their Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship applications by June 30, 2017.
For those of you who just completed 10th grade, June 30 is your final deadline to apply. Don’t miss out on thousands of dollars in scholarship funds by missing this deadline! Submit your application right away.
To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise and the qualifications for receiving the scholarship, visit okpromise.org.
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
If you’ve visited the FAFSA website lately, you may have noticed there are two applications available: 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. So, which one do you need if you’re taking summer classes? Here’s what you need to know.
Financial aid is determined one year at a time, and follows your school’s academic calendar. Most schools start the academic year in the fall, and the following summer is the end of the year. In this case, your summer financial aid is a “trailer” for the 2016-2017 academic year; you would need to complete the 2016-2017 FAFSA to help pay for summer 2017 classes.
However, some institutions begin their academic year with the summer semester and the following spring is the end of the year. In this case, your summer financial aid is considered a “header” for the 2017-2018 academic year; you would need to complete the 2017-2018 FAFSA to help pay for summer 2017 classes.
All it takes is a quick email, phone call, or visit to your school’s financial aid office to confirm which FAFSA is needed for summer courses. Make sure you check in with them as soon as possible. The last day to submit your 2016-2017 FAFSA is June 30, 2017.
Once you know which FAFSA you need, head over to FAFSA.gov to complete the application!
Experts have been saying for years that it’s much less expensive to save for college than it is to borrow money to cover the costs of your higher education. To see the huge difference between the two options, read the Saving vs. Borrowing page at OK4Saving.org.
One savings option you’ll want to check out is the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan (OCSP). Here are a few benefits of the OCSP:
- It’s a tax-deferred account
- Multiple family members and friends can contribute to the account on your behalf
- It can pay for more than just tuition (it can cover fees, some room and board costs, etc.)
- It can be used at any accredited college in the U.S., and even certain colleges abroad
- There are several contribution options available that make adding to your OCSP easy and convenient
- An OSCP can be opened with as little as $100
- You and others who contribute to your account can save as much as $300,000 for your education
- Parents and grandparents can enter the Newborn Sweepstakes for a chance to win a $5,549 contribution to a newborn’s account. The sweepstakes ends April 14, 2018.
Visit OK4Saving.org to learn more.
Congratulations, Class of 2017! You’ve taken your final exams and walked across the stage…Now what? Taking care of a few things this summer will help smooth the transition to college this fall.
- Enroll in classes. Classes fill up quickly, leaving you with few choices if you wait too long to register.
- Check in with the financial aid office. Follow up to make sure all your paperwork is complete, ask how much and what type of funding you’ll receive, and find out when to expect the funds to arrive.
- Buy textbooks. Check with the college bookstore to find out what books are required for your classes. Once you know what you need, shop around! Compare prices at the campus bookstore, used bookstores, and online retailers like Amazon or Half.com to find the best deal. Keep in mind that if you plan to use financial aid to pay for books, you may be required to purchase from the campus bookstore.
- Keep applying for scholarships. Take a few minutes and apply for two or three scholarships each week. UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org have gathered thousands of scholarships to make the process easier for you.
- Attend orientation and welcome activities. Take advantage of orientation sessions available over the summer and welcome activities the first few weeks of school. You’ll have the chance to meet new people, learn your way around campus, and feel connected to your college.
Now, take a deep breath and enjoy time with your friends and family. Graduating high school is a great accomplishment, so be sure to celebrate while you look forward to your next adventure!