All posts by UCanGo2

Who’s My Parent on the FAFSA?

The answer to this question depends on your dependency status. If you’re considered an independent student, meaning you’ve answered YES to at least one dependency question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll report your own information (and your spouse’s, if married).

If you’re a dependent student for FAFSA purposes, you’ll need to provide information about your legal parent(s) on the application. A legal parent is your biological or adoptive parent, or your legal parent as determined by the state (for example, if the parent is listed on your birth certificate). If you have a stepparent currently married to your legal parent, you generally also must provide information about him or her.

If you need to report parental information, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • If your legal parents are married to each other, include information for both of them on your FAFSA.
  • If your legal parents (biological and/or adoptive parents) are not married to each other and live together, include information for both.
  • If your legal parent is widowed or was never married, include information only for your legal parent.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together:
    • Include the information about the parent you lived with most over the last 12 months. Also provide information for the stepparent, if your parent has remarried.
    • If you lived with each parent for an equal amount of time, include information for the parent who provided you the most financial support over the last 12 months, or during the most recent 12 months that you received support from your parent(s). Also provide information for your stepparent, if your parent has remarried
  • If your parents are divorced but are still living together:
    • Report their status as ‘Unmarried and both legal parents living together’
    • Include information for both parents
  • If your parents are separated but are still living together:
    • Report their status as ‘Married or remarried’ (not ‘Divorced or separated’)
    • Include information for both parents

One exception to note: The FAFSA will ask about your parents’ education level. Please answer the questions about the education levels of your birth or adoptive parents. A stepparent is not classified as a parent for those questions.

Be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Dependency Questionnaire for more information.

Everyone Should Apply

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2022-23 academic year will be available October 1. Anyone who is thinking about attending a higher education institution next fall, whether it’s a career school, technology center, college or university, should submit a FAFSA. Most everyone qualifies for federal financial aid to help pay for their post-secondary education. There is no income cut-off to qualify for student aid, and many factors are considered. Each prospective college student has a unique set of circumstances, so the only way you’ll know if you’re eligible to receive aid is to submit the FAFSA application at StudentAid.gov.

Be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1, since some forms of aid are first-come, first served. You could be eligible for ‘free money’ that doesn’t have to be repaid or for work-study opportunities. Student loans may also be a part of your financial aid offer; when used wisely, they can be a smart investment in your future.

Remember:

  • Apply on or after October 1
  • Renew your FAFSA each year that you’ll need financial aid
  • Always apply at StudentAid.gov

To learn more about the different types of financial aid, visit StudentAid.gov.

Gather Your Tax Information

When you submit your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, on or after Oct. 1 this year, you’ll be required to report your income and tax information, along with that of your parents or spouse, if applicable. When you complete the new FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year, you’ll need your 2020 tax return and W-2s.

Instead of manually entering your tax information on the FAFSA, many applicants will choose to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT automatically transfers the income information from your tax return directly into the FAFSA.

Even if you use the DRT, it’s still helpful to have your tax return and W-2s on hand when you complete your FAFSA. Here’s why:

  • If your tax return was submitted as ‘Married Filing Jointly’ and the two people who filed the joint return are reporting their income on a FAFSA, they’ll still need to report their individual incomes separately. The W-2s will indicate the specific income for each.
  • Occasionally, the IRS website may be slow, or the IRS DRT connection may be a little uncooperative. It’s also possible that a filer may not qualify to use the DRT. In order to continue completing your FAFSA, you may find it easier just to enter the income and tax figures yourself. In order to do that, you’ll need your tax return. The good news here is that the FAFSA will direct you to the correct line on the tax return for the information requested.

Gather your tax returns before you start the FAFSA so you’ll be prepared. Having everything on hand will make the process go much faster and easier. Remember, Oct. 1 is right around the corner!

The FAFSA is Always Free!

College is an important financial investment in any student’s future. Between talk of scholarships and savings plans, it’s exciting to come across something completely free. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is one step in the college financial process that won’t cost you a cent. The FAFSA is an application that will help determine your eligibility for financial aid. The official application can be found at FAFSA.gov. Other websites may offer to process the application for you for a fee, but these sites are scams and are not the official free FAFSA application.

When filling out the free application on FAFSA.gov, you’ll need a FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). This is a username and password that you’ll use to log in to your application. It will also serve as your electronic signature. Create your FSA ID at fsaid.ed.gov and save your information on our FSA ID Worksheet. Once you create your FSA ID, you’re ready to log in to your free application. After your application is completed, the colleges that you applied to will send you a financial aid offer. This offer will list the amount and types of federal and state financial aid awarded to you. Remember, the official application is on FAFSA.gov and the FAFSA is always free!

What’s the FSA ID?

October 1 is just around the corner, which is the day the 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, becomes available. The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for various forms of federal financial aid like grants, work-study and student loans. To ensure you’re prepared to submit your FAFSA after Oct. 1, create your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) early. This ID is the username and password you’ll use to log in and sign the FAFSA, along with other financial aid documents. One of your parents may need to create a FSA ID, as well. Here are a few tips to help with the process.

Provide personal information. When creating your FSA ID, you’ll be asked to provide your birthdate, Social Security number, phone number and physical address. The same is true for your parent(s). If your parent(s) doesn’t have a Social Security number, they won’t be able to create an FSA ID. They will, however, be able to sign your FAFSA another way. To learn how to sign the FAFSA without a FSA ID, visit StudentAid.gov.

Choose the right email address. You and your parent will also need to enter an email address. Your email address must be different from your parent’s. Be sure to use an email address that’s not issued by your school, since you won’t have access to that email account once you graduate. To ensure you receive all important information on your financial aid eligibility, provide a personal email address when creating your FSA ID.

Select challenge questions. To help with resetting your password for the future, you must select four challenge questions and provide the answers to them. You’ll choose these questions from a drop-down menu. Use our FSA ID worksheet to keep track of your answers.

Allow enough time. It takes about 10-20 minutes to create the FSA ID. As with the FAFSA, give yourself plenty of time to do this. Try to complete the FSA ID process in one sitting, as you won’t be able to save your information and return later to finish this step. Also, it’s important to be near your mobile device and have access to your email during this process. Secure codes will be sent to these devices for confirmation, and you’ll be required to enter them within a limited timeframe to create your FSA ID. By creating your FSA ID before starting the FAFSA, you’ll be better prepared for the entire completion process. Create your FSA ID today at StudentAid.gov.

To learn more about the FSA ID and FAFSA process, visit StartWithFAFSA.org. This website provides information on FAFSA completion and financial aid programs. Check out our FAFSA learning modules and the FSA ID PowerPoint which walk you through completing your FAFSA and setting up your username and password. And don’t forget to complete your 2022-2023 FAFSA on Oct. 1!

Financial Aid Resources

“How will I pay for college?” That’s a question everyone considering higher education is asking. Investigating your financial aid options can seem overwhelming, especially if no one in your family has ever gone to college.

Here are a few great resources to help you discover some options available to assist you.

  • The FAFSA. The first step in applying for most types of federal and state financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as it’s available! Students who will be attending college during the 2022-23 school year should complete the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov as soon as it becomes available on Oct. 1.
  • Your high school counselor. Counselors love talking about college—college preparation, choosing a college and finding financial aid options. Make an appointment with your counselor soon!
  • The financial aid office at your college(s) of interest. Each college, technology center and career school are different. Be sure to speak with someone in the Financial Aid office at each institution you’re considering to learn which types of aid you may be able to receive at their school.
  • Internet resources. 
  • Free money. Scholarships are an important resource to help you pay for college expenses. There are many scholarship search websites that allow students to set up a profile that will match them with various programs they may qualify for. Many scholarships are also available to students as young as elementary school so start your search now! These websites offer helpful information:

What’s The Big Deal About the FAFSA?

All high school students in the Class of ’22 will be hearing a lot of information about the FAFSA during the fast-approaching school year. So, just what is a FAFSA, and why is it so important?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college, vocational school or career school.

  • It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ of a family’s financial situation, and
  • It’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive to help them with the cost of college.

Now that you know what the FAFSA is, let’s talk about what it’s NOT. The FAFSA isn’t:

  • An application to college
  • A loan application
  • Any type of commitment to accept the aid you’re offered
  • A credit check
  • Available only to students with stellar grades–the application won’t even ask you about your grade point average (GPA).

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. High school seniors can submit their FAFSA on October 1 or shortly thereafter, which means you’ll be applying for financial aid almost a year before you begin college. It’s important to submit your FAFSA as early as possible, because some types of financial aid are first-come, first served. Haven’t picked your college yet? No problem! One great thing about the FAFSA is that you can have your information sent to up to 10 different schools, and none of them will be able to see the other colleges you’re interested in attending.

Even though your FAFSA won’t be ready until October, you can do a practice run by completing the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet, which lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, letting you know what it will be like to fill out the form online. This tool isn’t 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.

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), billions of dollars in federal financial aid for college is left unclaimed each year by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, but simply didn’t submit a FAFSA. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.

For more information about the FAFSA and the types of aid that are available, visit studentaid.gov. To learn more about borrowing smart from the start, check out ReadySetRepay.org.

Welcome Back to School!

You’re about to begin another academic year and money can be tight when you’re a student. Whether you’re a returning college student or just entering college for the first time, you may have questions about how you can cover the costs of college this year. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Check your FSA ID status. The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) is the username and password that you set up before filing your first FAFSA which serves as your electronic signature. If you haven’t used your FSA ID in a while, it may need to be re-enabled. This can be done at the manage my FSA ID tab at fsaid.ed.gov. Your FSA ID can’t only be used to access and sign your FAFSA, but also to sign your Master Promissory Note (MPN) if you apply for a Federal student loan, apply for a repayment plan, complete loan counseling and use the Public Service Forgiveness Loan (PSLF) tool.
  • Apply for institutional, tribal, civic and community scholarships. Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships now and throughout their college years. We suggest trying UCanGo2.org, OKcollegestart.org and UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide.
  • Find a part-time job. Many schools participate in the federal work-study program. If you demonstrate financial need, you may be able to work part-time on campus or at an approved site off-campus. The money you earn at a work-study job is then used to help you pay your college expenses. If you don’t qualify for work-study or your school doesn’t participate in this aid program, watch for job opportunities posted around your campus and online. Visit the campus career services office for resume building, interviewing tips and job placement opportunities.
  • Develop a budget also known as a spending plan. No matter how much or how little money you may have, learning to manage your finances is crucial to your success now and later in life. Learn more about developing a spending plan as a college student at OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.

FAFSA Mobile App

Did you know you can complete, sign and submit your FAFSA using a tablet or smart phone?

The myStudentAid mobile app was first released in 2018 by Federal Student Aid (FSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Education. This made it possible to access your FAFSA form using the app or your mobile browser. In December 2020, an updated version was released, offering a variety of new tools provided by FSA. The app now offers a more user-friendly design, as well as a Financial Aid Summary that allows you to keep track of your student loan and grant history. It also offers the ability for borrowers to track their loan repayment progress.

To access this tool, students, parents and borrowers will need to download FSA’s myStudentAid app. From there you can set up your FSA ID, or use your current ID to complete and submit your FAFSA as well as take advantage of these new features. Want to know more? Watch the YouTube video that walks you through the FAFSA step by step using the mobile app. You’ll find it FAFSA-nating!

Are You Independent? (On the FAFSA)

When completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year that you need money for college, the application may ask up to 13 dependency questions to determine whether you’re a dependent or an independent student. If you answer NO to every dependency question, you’ll be considered a dependent student, which means you’ll be asked to report one or both parents’ income and tax information.

But it’s not always that easy, because supplying parental information can be a challenge to some students due to special circumstances. If you’re in this situation, you’ll have an opportunity on the FAFSA to state that you’re unable to provide your parents’ information, at which time the FAFSA will inform you that a dependent student who doesn’t include his/her parents’ information will only be eligible for one type of federal financial aid—an Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan. Not reporting your parents’ data can definitely affect the amount of financial aid that you would otherwise be eligible to receive.

There are times when a college financial aid officer can ‘override’ your dependency status and change it to an independent status. This can be done if:

  • You had to leave home due to an abusive environment,
  • Your parents are incarcerated, or
  • You’re unable to contact your parents and don’t know where they live.

A financial aid officer won’t be able to switch your status to ‘independent’ simply because:

  • Your parents refuse to contribute their information,
  • You weren’t claimed as a dependent on their tax return, or
  • You aren’t living with your parents.

Basically, a dependency override can only be done in extreme situations. If you still believe you should be declared independent, discuss your circumstances with a financial aid officer at your school(s) of interest. A college’s financial aid office will always be your best resource when you have questions about anything related to the FAFSA. It’s important to contact them if you have any comments or concerns.

Use UCanGo2’s Dependency Questionnaire to determine your status.