Category Archives: Financial Need

Don’t Forget to Complete Your FAFSA!

The busiest time of the year is just around the corner. Before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins, take time to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 2022-23 FAFSA opened Oct. 1, which means many students have already had the chance to successfully submit their application. Now is the time to successfully submit yours! This application allows the financial aid office at your chosen college(s) to determine your eligibility to receive many types of financial aid. While some aid does not run out, other types are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If you submit your FAFSA too late, you may miss out on important funding. There are a few other significant reasons to submit your FAFSA now:

  • Many colleges and universities are setting early enrollment and institutional scholarship deadlines in November and December. During the application process, they’ll want to know if you’ve submitted your FAFSA.
  • It’s not uncommon for a scholarship committee to ask for a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which you receive after you submit the FAFSA. Completing your FAFSA early ensures that you won’t miss important deadlines.
  • It’s better to complete the FAFSA now so you can focus on other college planning tasks in the spring.
  • Since you’ll need to submit the FAFSA each year you’re in college, completing your application now allows you to become familiar with the FAFSA form for next year. If you’re in high school, take this time to ask questions about the application process with your parents and school counselor so you’ll know what to expect next fall.  

Don’t wait any longer. Complete your FAFSA today at StudentAid.gov.

National Scholarship Month

November is National Scholarship Month! That means we’re raising awareness about the numerous scholarship dollars that are available to help you cover college expenses. A 2020 study indicated there are approximately 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships with a combined worth of over 7 billion dollars offered annually. There are numerous organizations and hundreds of websites that offer scholarships to students preparing for college, it just takes a little effort and determination to apply for as many as you can. To assist you in putting your best foot forward, here are a few tips to help you submit excellent scholarship applications:

  • Follow directions. It’s important to read all scholarship instructions carefully before starting the application. If there is a word count to abide by, be sure to meet the requirements. Also, submit all necessary documents. Ask for letters of recommendation, copies of your transcript and other documentation weeks before the scholarship deadline.
  • Be creative.  Think outside the box on scholarship questions. Be creative and original when writing your essay responses. If you’re asked why you deserve the scholarship, explain why it’s important for you to go to college. Talk about your academic and career goals, as well as the challenges you’ve overcome to reach those goals. Also, tell a story only you can tell. Discuss your involvement with a school organization or a part-time job and describe the skills you’ve gained from those opportunities. Remember that with every experience you’ve encountered, you’ve learned something. Use those learned lessons to fuel your essay responses.
  • Proofread your work. Completing a scholarship application can feel very rewarding; however, it’s only the first step. Proofreading is the next crucial stage in this process. Read your scholarship essay aloud to see if you need to make any adjustments. Also, ask a non-relative, such as a teacher or counselor, to read your essay – and be open to the constructive criticism they give you.
  • Find options that reflect your interests. Applying for scholarships can seem like a lot of work. Yet, if you find scholarships that are interesting to you, the application process can be enjoyable. Search for opportunities that align with your passions. Then writing essays and creating scholarship videos will be fun and exciting, instead of time consuming and tedious.
  • Never give up! Don’t get discouraged when you don’t receive a scholarship award; just keep applying. Your persistence will win out in the end. Keep searching for unique scholarships. Ask local businesses and churches about scholarship opportunities, as well as your current education institution. The goal of scholarships is to assist you with covering the costs of college. The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to gain that extra assistance. To learn more about scholarships or to search for interesting opportunities, check out our Scholarship Success Guide or go to UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org.

The FAFSA is Now Available!

A new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available each year on Oct. 1. The FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year is now available and high school seniors should be prepared to submit their application as soon as possible.

Your FAFSA will be used to determine your eligibility for federal and state financial aid—money that will help you pay for college. Since some types of aid are first-come, first served, it’s important to submit your FAFSA as soon after Oct. 1 as you can.

Here are some things to remember:

  • The FAFSA is free; you should never have to pay to submit your FAFSA.
  • It’s a snapshot of your (and possibly your parents’) financial situation which is used to determine how much aid you may be eligible to receive.
  • When you submit a FAFSA, you’re not making any commitments to attend a certain school or to borrow student loans; you’re merely giving permission to the college(s) of your choice to discuss your financial aid options with you.
  • The FAFSA’s not a one-time thing. You’ll need to submit a new FAFSA for each year that you need help paying for college.
  • To submit your application online, you’ll need to set up a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)—a username and password that will serve as your electronic signature. A parent may also need to create their own FSA ID. To create an FSA ID, go to StudentAid.gov and choose ‘Create Account.’
  • Once your FSA ID is established, you can use it to complete your FAFSA at StudentAid.gov anytime on or after Oct. 1.

There are two questions that will appear on the FAFSA again this year, but are no longer valid.

  • One question asks males: “Do you want us to register you with the Selective Service System?” Although federal law still requires males age 18-25 to be registered with Selective Service, it won’t affect your eligibility for aid if you haven’t registered yet and choose not to register on the FAFSA.
  • The other question is: “Have you been convicted of the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid?” While this question has never affected high school seniors, those who have received federal student aid in the past will no longer lose their eligibility due to a previous drug conviction.

Financial aid officers at the colleges you’ve listed on your FAFSA have been instructed to ignore any comments on these two questions so that you will qualify for student aid if otherwise eligible.

For more information about the FAFSA and federal eligibility requirements, be sure to check out other articles on this website, view the resources on UCanGo2.org and visit StudentAid.gov.

Completing the 2022-23 FAFSA

It’s almost time to start the 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA! This application will help determine your financial aid eligibility if you plan to attend college in the fall of 2022. We’ve created a helpful list of steps to guide you through the application process.

  1. Gather Materials: Before getting started, you’ll need to make sure you have your Social Security card, current bank statements, and your 2020 W2 and tax return. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll also need your parent(s)’ financial information and 2020 tax returns.
  2. Create an FSA ID: The FSA ID, or Federal Student Aid ID, is a username and password that you’ll use to log in to your FAFSA. It will also serve as your electronic signature for completing the application. To create a FSA ID, visit fsaid.ed.gov. Remember to use our FSA ID Worksheet (also available in Spanish) to keep track of your username and password. If you’re a dependent student, a parent or guardian will also need to create a FSA ID.
  3. Fill It Out: Starting Oct. 1, you can access the new FAFSA at FAFSA.gov.
  4. Sign & Submit: Enter your FSA ID for your electronic signature. If you’re a dependent student, remember a parent will have to provide their electronic signature, as well. Don’t forget to click ‘submit’ at the bottom of the screen!
  5. Follow Up: Keep an eye out for a Student Aid Report (SAR) email, as well as information from the colleges you applied to. Sometimes campuses ask for additional paperwork, so watch for possible requests. If you have any questions after receiving your financial aid offer, follow up with the financial aid office at your campus.

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.

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!

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.

Grants, Work Study and Student Loans

As you prepare to pay college expenses, it’s important to know the amount of federal financial aid that may be available to you. Each year, grant amounts and student loan interest rates are subject to change. Here’s what you can expect for Academic Year 2021-2022.

Federal Pell Grant: Available to undergraduate students who qualify based on the level of their financial need as determined by Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Beginning July 1, 2021, the maximum allowable Pell amount you may be able to receive for one year of college will increase to $6,495.

Federal Work-Study Program: If your campus administers work-study funds, you may be able to sign up for a part-time job, either on-campus or an approved site off-campus, enabling you to earn money to pay some of your college expenses. The maximum amount you can earn in the work-study program will be determined by your level of financial need. If you’re interested in work-study, be sure to ask the financial aid office if would qualify for the program.

Federal Student Loans: To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, the interest rate on most federal student loans borrowed before July 1, 2020 is currently 0%. In addition, federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. This 0% interest and suspension of payments will last through September 30, 2021, but you can still make payments if you choose.

The following table outlines the projected federal student loan interest rates for Academic Year 2021-2022, beginning October 1, 2021, after the COVID-19 relief program has ended:

Loan TypeBorrower TypeFixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student LoansUndergraduate students (through Bachelor’s degree)3.73%
Direct Unsubsidized Student LoansGraduate or professional students5.28%
Direct PLUS LoansParents of undergraduate students OR graduate/professional students6.28%

Be sure to visit StudentAid.gov for up-to-date information regarding interest rates and special allowances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Living on a College Budget

Before your first day of college, it’s important to consider creating a budget for the upcoming school year. If you know how much financial aid you’ll receive, evaluate your other monthly expenses that are a priority. You may have responsibilities such as car payments and maintenance, cellphone service and miscellaneous items. Remember that financial aid can only be used for educational, and some living expenses, so a budget can help with planning for other important purchases. Here are a few tips to assist with developing a budget while in college.

Talk it out. Talk to those who are helping you pay for college. Whether it’s a parent or guardian, conversing with those who are supporting your educational pursuits allows expectations to be set for everyone involved. Even if you’ll be supporting yourself financially in college, inform others that you’ll need to be wise with managing your resources and may not be able splurge on certain items or activities. Talking it out allows everyone to be on the same page.

Essentials first, fun second. When developing a budget, account for necessities first, – housing, transportation, utilities etc. – then designate money for entertainment. Using this order can ensure your living needs are taken care of while still giving you room to enjoy leisure activities. Some college campuses host many fun, free events that could make the most of a small entertainment budget.  

Discounts and sales help. Check to see if your favorite stores offer a college student discount, as many companies do. While this tip may not directly relate to developing a budget, it can help you stick to the one you create. Clipping coupons along with shopping on sale can also assist with managing your finances. Browse retailers’ websites or apps for coupons and sales that may help with purchasing items on your shopping list.

Avoid budget busters. Daily coffee runs or trips to the vending machine can eat away at your budget. You don’t have to stop these altogether, but limit yourself to one or two splurges a week. Buying a coffeemaker and snacks from the grocery store can minimize the impact of these habits on your budget. Additionally, instead of eating out often, utilize your college meal plan or pack a lunch. You can see what habits are busting your budget by using a budget tracking app. Trackers can show your spending behavior and give you insight to routines that may need to change.

To learn more about tips for budgeting while in college, visit OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.