Dependency Status on the FAFSA

It’s FAFSA season and you may be wondering what type of information you’ll have to include on your form. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, asks multiple questions including your name, age, school(s) of interest, and dependency status, as well as parent and student income and asset information. Since you’ll be in college next year, won’t you be considered an independent student? Do you even need to provide your parent’s information since you’ll be an adult when you start college? The answers to these questions are not simple ones, they require more explanation.

On the FAFSA, many factors determine whether a student is considered independent or dependent. The application asks students various questions to determine their dependency status. Dependent students must provide their parents’ information, while independent students do not. A series of yes or no questions asked on the FAFSA will help students determine their classification. If a student answers yes to any of the questions, s/he does not have to provide parental information. However, if every question in this section is answered no, parental information will be required. This can be confusing, so here’s a simple equation to help you remember:

  • All No’s = Dependent Student (Provide parent information)
  • One Yes = Independent Student (Don’t have to provide parent information)

What do these questions entail? They ask for a variety of information, including college grade level, age, military status, if you support dependents, if you’re at risk of being homeless, and many more. For additional information about the FAFSA, check out the tools available at StartWithFAFSA.org and UCanGo2.org, which offer a Dependency Status Questionnaire and a variety of articles, publications and videos to assist you with the FAFSA.

If you have questions regarding your dependency status or any items on the FAFSA, feel free to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or your financial aid office

New Information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

For a few years, people submitting their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have had a valuable time-saving resource at their fingertips. It’s called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). By using the DRT that’s available in the electronic FAFSA, students can request an automatic transfer of the data from their tax returns. This means less people will have to supply proof of income to their financial aid offices, because the information is transmitted straight from the IRS. When using the DRT, FAFSA filers will need their tax return information from two years prior to the academic year for which they’ll need federal financial aid. For example, the 2020-21 FAFSA will require income and tax information from 2018.

Here’s some great news: Up until now, students who used the MyStudentAid App to file their FAFSA haven’t been able to use a smart phone or tablet to use the IRS DRT. But that’s changing! Beginning October 1, 2019, students and parents will be able to request their tax return information while using the MyStudentAid App.

To see if you’re eligible to use the IRS DRT, check out this helpful publication from Federal Student Aid. Be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after October1; some types of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Go to FAFSA.gov to set up your FSA ID and begin your application.

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

Completing the 2020-21 FAFSA

  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 2020-2021 FAFSA, you’ll also need your 2018 W2 and tax return.
  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 and use our FSA ID Worksheet to track all of your responses.
  3. Fill It Out – The FAFSA is available at FAFSA.gov on October 1 each year. Check out the “Tool Tips” question mark box beside each field for assistance with every question. You can also use the FAFSA mobile app by downloading the ‘myStudentAid’ app to your phone or tablet.
  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 the Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps guide or watch the Finish the FAFSA in Five videos on the StartWithFAFSA website, available in both English and Spanish.

Should I Apply for OTAG?

Short answer: Yes! No separate application is necessary, but you DO have to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply.

The Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant Program (OTAG) is a need-based grant program for Oklahoma residents who attend eligible colleges, universities and career technology centers in the state. Awards are approved for full-time or part-time undergraduate students. Children of military personnel from other states who currently reside in Oklahoma may also qualify for OTAG.


OTAG is a grant based on financial need, which is determined by the data students submit on their FAFSA. To apply for OTAG, a student simply has to complete a FAFSA. Typically, OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded with available funds, so it’s important that your FAFSA is submitted on or shortly after October 1 each year.


Currently, the maximum annual OTAG award is the lesser of 75 percent of enrollment costs or $1,000 for students attending public colleges, universities or career technology centers, and $1,300 for students attending eligible private colleges or universities.


Another grant available from the State of Oklahoma is the Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG). It’s a need-based grant for Oklahoma residents enrolled as full-time undergraduates at certain qualified Oklahoma not-for-profit, private/independent institutions of higher education. Students must complete a FAFSA to apply. To receive OTEG, a student must also have an annual family income of $50,000 or less. OTEG award amounts are $2,000 per academic year or $1,000 per academic semester. To see a list of schools eligible to offer OTEG awards, visit OKcollegestart.org/Financial_Aid_Planning.

Do You Need an FSA ID?

The FSA ID is your Federal Student Aid ID. It’s a username and password that you’ll use to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year that you’re seeking financial aid for college.

It’s best to create your FSA ID before you complete your FAFSA. In fact, now is the perfect time for you to create yours since the new FAFSA will be available October 1.

Your FSA ID can also be used to log on to other financial aid websites. It’s your unique electronic signature, so you should never share it with anyone—not even your parents or financial aid personnel at the college you choose to attend. You must create your own FSA ID; parents of dependent students should not create an ID for their children, and vice versa.

We suggest writing down the information you enter as you create your FSA ID. The easiest way to do so is by using the FSA ID worksheet, available in English and Spanish at UCanGo2.org. Once you’ve filled in the worksheet, be sure to store it in a safe place. Consider putting it in the file that contains one or more recent tax returns (yours and/or your parents’) so you will have it handy when the next FAFSA season rolls around.

For more information about how to plan, prepare and pay for college, visit UCanGo2.org, OKcollegestart.org and StartWithFAFSA.org.

The FAFSA is Always Free

When we hear the word “free” we’re usually excited, but then we think, “wait a minute – what’s the catch?” We’ve been conditioned to believe that nothing is ever free. Well, that’s not the case with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA really is a free application! There aren’t any gimmicks, conditions, 30-day trial periods or necessary payments. The FAFSA is a free application that helps colleges determine your eligibility for financial aid – money to help cover educational expenses. In order to access this application, you’ll need to log in to FAFSA.gov. This is the official website to submit your FAFSA. Other sites may require you to pay a fee to submit your application, but FAFSA.gov won’t.

What else should you know about this free application? You’ll need a username and a password to log in and sign your FAFSA. You can create your login, also called an FSA ID, at fsaid.ed.gov. There shouldn’t be any fees to create your login, either. Once you submit your application, the colleges that receive your FAFSA can assist you with any concerns you may have about your financial aid eligibility or financial aid offer; be sure to contact them with questions. Don’t fall for scams that state you must pay (anything!) to submit your FAFSA. Remember that no payment is required because the FAFSA is always free!

Everyone Should Apply

Have you been told that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is only for students with good grades? What about the myth that the FAFSA is only for those with a certain income? If you have heard these, you have been given the wrong information. The FAFSA is for everyone who plans on attending college. This application shows a school your eligibility to receive financial aid, or funds to help you pay for college. Financial aid comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans. If you are a high school senior, current college student or an adult learner going back to school, you should submit a FAFSA.

The FAFSA doesn’t ask for your grades or transcripts. Instead, it inquires about your financial information to see how much aid you’re eligible to receive. Not only could submitting your FAFSA determine your eligibility for federal financial aid (grants, work-study and student loans), but it could also determine your eligibility for aid given specifically to students at your college. Other scholarships may also require you to submit a FAFSA. Therefore, put aside those legendary tales and see what financial aid you could receive. It’s better to learn that you qualify for some aid, then to completely miss it because you decided not to apply. Don’t believe the myths, learn more about the FAFSA for yourself at FAFSA.gov and StartWithFAFSA.org.   

What’s The Big Deal About The FAFSA?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college, vocational school or other education after high school. It’s simply a statement about a family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive. You have an 85% chance of getting money for college just by completing this important form.

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means yours will be ready for you to submit in October, almost a year before you begin college! You can submit your FAFSA even if you haven’t applied to any colleges yet. In fact, if you’re not sure which college you want to attend, you can request that your FAFSA information be shared with up to 10 different campuses that you may want to learn more about.

The current FAFSA is available online at fafsa.gov. If you’d like a sneak peek at the FAFSA, there are two options you may want to consider.
• The FAFSA4caster can give you a free early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. Visit fafsa.gov and scroll down to Early Aid Estimate.
The FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, giving you an idea of what information you’ll need to have with you when you begin to fill it out.

Please keep in mind that neither of these tools is a replacement for the real FAFSA. You’ll still need to complete the actual form online after October 1 in order to apply for financial aid.

During the 2018-2019 school year, $2.6B dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.

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!