Category Archives: Financial need

Homeless Students and the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks up to three questions about homelessness. They ask if you’ve been determined as an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, or you were self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless any time since July 1, 2020…if you’re completing the 2021-2022 FAFSA. This timeframe is based on the year prior to the academic year for which you will need financial aid for college.

The homeless determination can be given by:

  • A high school or school district homeless liaison,
  • A director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or
  • A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

A student is considered unaccompanied if he or she is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This includes students who are living in shelters, motels, cars, 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 who would otherwise provide the student with financial support and a place to live.

If you answer yes to any one of the questions about homelessness on the FAFSA, you’ll be considered an independent student; therefore, you won’t have to provide your parents’ income information on the application. Later, you may be asked by a financial aid administrator to provide a copy of the homeless youth determination. If you did not receive a determination provided by one of the officials listed above, you’ll be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA, but you may ask a financial aid administrator to consider making their own decision. The aid officer will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

When providing a street address on your FAFSA, follow these instructions given by the U.S. Department of Education: “You must provide a mailing address where you can reliably receive mail. Your mailing address can be the address of a relative or friend who has given you permission to use it, or it can be your college’s address. If you want to use your college’s address, you must contact the school for permission and instructions to ensure that your mail reaches you.” Don’t forget to update your FAFSA later when you find more permanent housing.

For more information and a list of additional resources for homeless students, read Questions and Answers: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth from StudentAid.gov.

We wish you the very best as you begin your journey to a bright future!

The FAFSA Is Now Available

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available!

It’s the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college or other education after high school. Students often ask if the FAFSA is a scholarship, it’s not. The FAFSA is 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.

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. 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. Every student who may need money for college for the 2021-22 school year should complete this FAFSA.

The current FAFSA is available online at FAFSA.gov.

Need some guidance to get started on your FAFSA? Check out our resources:

FAFSA in Five Steps: This publication explains the steps to completing the application and provides reminders for additional materials you might need.

FAFSA Modules: These five PowerPoint presentations walk through the details of each step of the FAFSA process.

FAFSA and Financial Aid Video: Sometimes it helps to hear someone explain the FAFSA process. Our new FAFSA video walks students through common FAFSA questions.

If you’re still wondering why the FAFSA is so important, keep in mind that during the 2018-2019 school year, $2.6B dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students. They would have been qualified to receive the aid, but they didn’t simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA. Discover what you’re eligible for by submitting your FAFSA today!

Everyone Should Apply

Students will make many decisions, from picking a college to choosing a major, but something students should never debate is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for various types of federal financial aid, which comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans. While some students believe they won’t qualify for financial aid, all students should submit a FAFSA. Make sure these common myths aren’t holding you back.

Grades are a factor. Some may think good grades are required to submit the FAFSA, but that isn’t true. The application doesn’t ask about grades, your GPA or class ranking. Instead, it seeks to gather your financial information to determine your eligibility for various forms of federal and state aid.

Your parents make too much. A common statement is, “My parents make too much money, so I won’t get any aid.” Until you submit the FAFSA, you won’t know your eligibility for financial aid. Before counting yourself out, complete the FAFSA to learn about your aid options. Most students are eligible to receive some type of financial assistance.

One time isn’t enough. Unlike an admission application that you submit once, the FAFSA must be completed each year you’d like to receive financial aid. This tip is specifically for returning college students. Renew your application each year after Oct. 1 so you can receive as much financial aid as possible for the next academic year.

Adult learners aren’t included. Financial aid isn’t just for recent high school graduates, it’s for all college students – which includes adult learners. Whether you’re returning to school after many years or immediately diving into a graduate program after completing your bachelor’s degree, be sure to submit the FAFSA to determine your aid eligibility. If your child is going to college and you’ve submitted a FAFSA for them, you’ll still need to submit your own application. This will help the college financial aid office create an aid award for you and a separate award for your child.

Remember, you won’t know how much aid you can receive until you submit the FAFSA. Don’t leave it up to chance. Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 each year. To learn more about the FAFSA and how to apply, visit FAFSA.gov.

Find Your Latest Tax Return

When you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) 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. The tax year will always be two years before the start of the academic term for which you’re applying for aid. For example, if you’re going to submit a FAFSA for the 2021-2022 school year, you’ll need your 2019 tax information.

Many applicants will choose to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will automatically transfer the information from a designated tax return to their FAFSA. But even if your use the DRT, it’s still helpful to have your tax return and W-2s on hand when you complete your FAFSA.

Here are two reasons why:

  • If a tax return was filed as ‘Married, Filing Jointly’ and two people who filed a joint return are reporting their income on a FAFSA, they’ll still need to report their two incomes separately. Their separate incomes are shown on their W-2s.
  • Occasionally, the IRS website may be slow, or the IRS DRT may be a little uncooperative. It’s also possible that a filer may not qualify to use the DRT. In order to continue, 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 of the tax return for the information requested.

Ensuring that everyone whose information is required on your FAFSA knows the location of their latest tax return will make the whole FAFSA process more comfortable for everyone involved. After all, October is really not that far away!

Completing the 2021-22 FAFSA

It’s almost time to start the 2021-2022 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 2021. 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 2019 W2 and tax return. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll also need your parent(s)’ financial information and 2019 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 an 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 are 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.

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 an 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!

FAFSA Reminders

It won’t be long before the 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is available. This application allows you to see your eligibility for multiple forms of financial aid.  To prepare for completing the FAFSA, make a note of opening day, use the correct website, gather the right materials and know what to expect during and after you submit your FAFSA.

Opening day. The new FAFSA will open on Oct. 1 and it’s important to submit your application as soon as possible once it becomes available. Certain types of aid, such as the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) and Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG), are awarded on a first come, first served basis. To ensure you don’t miss out on any type of aid, submit your FAFSA early.

Free application. There aren’t any costs associated with submitting a FAFSA. Since the first “F” in FAFSA stands for Free, be sure you don’t pay to submit the application. You can make sure you access this free form by using the official website, FAFSA.gov. Remember, never pay to complete the FAFSA!

Necessary materials. You’ll want to gather the right materials before you start the FAFSA. You’ll need your Social Security card, driver’s license, your parent(s) 2019 tax returns and W-2 forms, and other financial documents detailing your family’s income. Additionally, you’ll need a personal email address instead of a school-issued one. A personal email address allows you to access important updates even after you graduate. Another necessity is an FSA ID. This is your username and password to log in and sign the application. You and one of your parent(s) will need an FSA ID. While the FAFSA isn’t available until Oct. 1, the FSA ID can be created anytime. It’s best to create your ID before starting the FAFSA. You can do that today by visiting fsaid.ed.gov.

What to expect. It can take up to an hour or longer, depending on your circumstances, to complete the FAFSA. Allot plenty of time to submit the form. Your FSA ID and application Save Key (a temporary password you create) allow you to save your application and return at a later date to finish. If you must complete the FAFSA in multiple sessions, be sure to click “Save” before closing the application. When reporting income information, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if possible. This tool allows you and your parent(s) to transfer tax return information from IRS.gov to FAFSA.gov. You’ll have to enter other financial information into the FAFSA, but using this tool can help save time and avoid entry errors. Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA, it will take 3-5 business days to process. Your college’s financial aid office will notify you if additional documents are needed. After your application has been processed, you can access your Student Aid Report, or SAR. The SAR is a summary of all your FAFSA answers. It’s important to review your SAR once it’s available to check for errors. Some scholarship programs may require the SAR as a part of the application process.

Submitting your FAFSA is a big part of college planning. Preparing for it in advance can make for a better experience. For more information about what to expect on the FAFSA, visit studentaid.gov.


New Videos

Our friends at UCanGo2 have produced two new videos about financial aid!

FAFSA and Financial Aid provides an overview of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and how it is the first step in successful financial aid!

Scholarships 101 provides an overview of looking for and applying for scholarships.

You can also view these two videos on our Videos page!

FAFSA Preview

If you’re an incoming high school senior, you’ll probably be hearing an important question this fall that you haven’t heard before: “Have you completed your FAFSA yet?” Let us tell you what the FAFSA is, and why it’s so important.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to unlock money that will help you pay for your education after high school. It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ of your family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive.

Now that you know what the FAFSA is, let’s talk about what it’s NOT. It’s not an application to college, a loan application or any type of commitment to accept the aid you’re offered. It’s not a credit check, and it’s not limited only to students with stellar grades; the application won’t even ask for your grade point average (GPA).

A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means yours will be ready for you to submit this October – almost a year before you begin college. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t picked a college yet. One great thing about the FAFSA is that you can have your information sent to up to 10 different campuses.

Even though your FAFSA won’t be ready until October, you can take a look at the current form to see what it’s like. There are two options you may want to consider.

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 ASAP after October 1 in order to apply for federal and some state-based financial aid.

According to the National College Attainment Network, billions of dollars in federal financial aid for college is left unclaimed each year by students who would have qualified to receive the aid; they just 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 FAFSA.gov and studentaid.gov.

Federal Financial Aid in 2020: What Can I Expect for the Coming Academic Year?

When gathering the money you need to pay for college, 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 2020-2021.

  • The Federal Pell Grant: Available to 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, 2020, the maximum allowable Pell amount you may be able to receive for one year of college is $6,345, which is an increase over the maximum of $6,195 for Academic Year 2019-2020.
  • The 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 for 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.
  • Federal Student Loans: To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, interest is being temporarily set at 0% on federal student loans borrowed before July 1, 2020. 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 from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2020, but you can still make payments if you choose.

The following table outlines the projected federal student loan interest rates for Academic Year 2020-2021, which show a decrease from last year’s rates:

Loan TypeBorrower TypeFixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student LoansUndergraduate students (up to Bachelor’s degree)2.75%
Direct Unsubsidized Student LoanGraduate or professional students4.30%
Direct PLUS LoanParents of undergraduate students OR graduate/professional students5.30%

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