Category Archives: Types of Financial Aid

Summer Scholarships

Summer break is closing in! This is the time when many students jump back into their summer jobs to earn a few extra bucks. While a summer job is a great first step to easing the financial responsibility of college, there are also opportunities available all summer long to find scholarship money.

Many scholarships have deadlines from May-August and the awards can be applied to the upcoming school year. The more scholarships a student applies for, the greater their chance of being selected a winner. We suggest that students apply for at least 1-2 scholarships per week. There are plenty of scholarships that only require a simple application and/or a short essay. A little effort can reap great financial benefits, so while you’re catching some rays, pull up your favorite lawn chair, grab an iced tea and check out these fun summer scholarships:

Flavor of the Month Scholarship

“Summer and ice cream go hand-in hand. In fact, July is National Ice Cream Month, and that’s the inspiration behind this award. We think people are very similar to ice cream…so if you were an ice cream flavor, which would you be and why?”

Deadline: July 31, 2020

Amount: $1,500

Check out this scholarship and more!

Solar Action Alliance Scholarship

It’s summertime and the sun is shining. Solar Action Alliance wants to spread the word about the most clean, reliable and abundant source of renewable energy: the sun. They are offering a scholarship to a motivated student who can answer the question: “What excites you most about the future of solar power?” Students must submit their answer in the form of a 500-1000-word essay.

Deadline: July 1, 2020

Amount: $1,000

Check out this scholarship!

Slumber Search Scholarship

Summer is a good time to catch up on sleep. It’s also a good time to apply for scholarships! Slumber Search wants to assist students as they start their entrepreneurial endeavors. To apply, students must create a short video answering the following questions:

“If you were to create a product or business to disrupt a current industry, what would you do and what would it be?”

Deadline: June 30, 2020

Amount: $1,000

Check out this scholarship!

Want to find more scholarships? Check out UCanGo2!

When you’re submitting your scholarship applications, be sure to remember these tips:

  • Check your eligibility: Some (not all) scholarships have age, grade level or GPA requirements. Be sure you are eligible before investing your time in an application.
  • Check the requirements: Do you have all of the documentation required for your scholarship? Do you need letters of recommendation? Be sure to double check that you’re prepared to submit a complete application.
  • Proofread: Verify that your contact information is correct on scholarship applications. Also, make sure you review your essay, if one is required. Represent yourself well with professional and clear writing.

Student Loan Grace Period

While searching for ways to pay for college, it can be encouraging for students to discover that federal loans help ensure their ability to fund higher education. Many student loan borrowers have questions about how loans work, different loan types, repayment options, and the grace period. It’s important for them to be well-educated on this process before they enter repayment. Here we will provide information on understanding the grace period.

What is a grace period?

One of the advantages of a federal student loan is the six-month grace period. Borrowers usually aren’t required to make a payment on their loan until six months after they graduate, withdraw from school or drop below half-time enrollment status. The grace period gives borrowers time to find employment and adjust their budgets accordingly.

How does a grace period work?

During a grace period, interest will accrue on Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans, and sometimes subsidized loans (see the ‘Interest’ section of the Master Promissory Note, or MPN). Borrowers are strongly encouraged to make interest payments on their loans while in school and during the grace period, if possible, in order to keep the interest from being capitalized (added to the principal balance of the loan). Be sure to visit ReadySetRepay.org to see how making interest payments while in school and during the grace period can help you Save Money on Student Loans.

Here’s something else you should know. A borrower could possibly have more than one grace period to monitor if they’ve dropped below half-time status at their school for any reason. This scenario could take place if a borrower had loans at one college and then borrowed again when they transferred to another college. Dropping below half-time status at one or both of those schools would change the timing of their grace period, thus starting the six-month timeframe at different intervals. It’s important that student loan borrowers talk to their school’s financial aid office, or their loan provider, to confirm repayment start dates on each of their loans.

More information about successful loan repayment can be found at ReadySetRepay.org.

Military Benefits and the FAFSA

When it comes to reporting military benefits on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, families aren’t always sure what to include. Three questions on the application relate to military benefits; they request information about combat pay, housing allowance and noneducational veteran benefits. Let’s break them down here.

  • The first question concerning military benefits asks about the service member’s total combat pay. Depending on the military member’s rank, this benefit may not need to be reported. If the person is an enlisted member or a warrant officer, they don’t have to provide this information. However, if they are a commissioned officer, they will need to report their combat pay. This amount can be found on the service member’s W-2 form in box 12.
  • The next inquiry about military benefits concerns the service member’s housing allowance. Reporting this information is dependent on other factors. If the member receives a subsidy for on-base military housing or a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), then the member doesn’t need to report the benefit. Those who receive housing allowances other than the ones mentioned above must include that information on the FAFSA.
  • The last question regarding military benefits asks service members to report their noneducational veteran benefits. Those who receive the Montgomery GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill, Dependents Education Assistance Program or Vocational Rehabilitation Program don’t need to provide this data. Those who receive other noneducational assistance, such as benefits including Disability, Death Pension, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and VA Educational Work-Study allowance, must report that information. Noneducational veteran benefits can be found on the service member’s monthly VA benefit statement.

Knowing which types of military benefit information to include on the FAFSA and gathering the right documents can make the process easier. The service member should collect the appropriate year’s tax return, W-2 forms and benefit statements to answer these three questions accurately. For more information about military benefits and the FAFSA, please visit MilitaryBenefits.info.  

A College Sent Me A Financial Aid Offer – Now What?

When you submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you listed one or more college codes that represent the schools that interest you.  Once your FAFSA’s been processed, you may begin to receive financial aid offers from these schools sent electronically or via the US Postal Service. It’s important to read each offer carefully, as they describe the types and amounts of financial aid a college or career technology center can provide to help you pay for one year of higher education.

On your financial aid offer you’ll see:

  • The total Cost of Attendance (COA) – An estimate of what it costs to go to that school for one year
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – A number calculated from your FAFSA that’s used by the school to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive (most likely not the amount you’ll be expected to pay)
  • Types and amounts of aid the school can offer you; this list is often called a ‘financial aid package’. Your offer may consist of:
    • Grants – aid based on financial need that typically doesn’t have to be repaid
    • Scholarships – gift aid awarded to you by colleges, state agencies, foundations, tribal and private organizations
    • Federal work-study – an opportunity for you to work on or off campus to earn money for college expenses
    • Federal student loans – funds awarded based on financial eligibility that must be repaid, with interest
    • Federal PLUS loan – a loan your parent(s) may borrow to help you pay for college; your parent(s) are expected to repay the loan (credit check required)

Now, subtract all of the financial aid shown on the offer from your Cost of Attendance. This will determine your estimated Net Cost, which is the out-of-pocket amount you’ll be expected to pay. If you should end up with a negative amount, the Net Cost would be zero.

What options are available to help you cover the Net Cost?

  • More scholarships – You don’t have to be a straight A student or a sports star to qualify for many different kinds of scholarships. OKcollegestart.org and UCanGo2.org are great places to begin your scholarship search.
  • A 529 College Savings Plan – visit ok4saving.org for more information
  • Military benefits – visit military.com/education/gi-bill to learn more
  • A monthly payment plan approved by your school

Don’t forget:

  • You don’t have to accept all financial aid offered to you, especially when it comes to borrowing student loans. Using a monthly payment plan while you’re in college can be less expensive than a monthly loan payment with added interest after you’ve graduated. If you’re unable to make a monthly payment to the school, consider making smaller monthly interest payments on any unsubsidized student loan(s). This will decrease your overall student loan debt once you graduate or leave school.
  • Pay attention to deadlines. Accept or decline your financial aid offer before the specified date.
  • If you receive more than one financial aid offer, you may want to determine what your net cost would be at each college. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the school that’s the best fit for you.
  • To add more school codes to your FAFSA, log in as a returning user at studentaid.gov.

Student Loans: How To Borrow Smart from the Start

When you receive your financial aid offer from a college you may be interested in attending, it’s quite possible that one or more student loans will be included in the offer. If you need a student loan(s) to help cover the costs of college, you’ll want to borrow smart from the very start of your college experience to minimize your debt after graduation. Here are some things you need to know as you consider student loans.

  • Use ‘free money’ first. Take advantage of all the gift aid you’re offered—grants and scholarships—before deciding how much you’ll need to borrow.
  • You don’t have to accept student loans. You can decline any amount of financial aid that is offered to you. If you must borrow to pay college costs, only borrow what you’ll need to get you through one year of college. Review your finances each semester, and keep that commitment to borrow only what you need to cover school expenses.
  • Do your research. Some experts recommend that your monthly loan payment should be no more than 8-10% of the monthly income you expect to earn during the first year after graduation. To estimate your loan payments, try the Loan Calculator found at ReadySetRepay.org.
  • Subsidized = less expensive. Interest won’t be added to a subsidized federal student loan balance until after you graduate, withdraw or drop your class load to less than half-time status.
  • Make interest payments. Students who borrow federal unsubsidized loans are responsible for all interest on the loan as soon as their institutions receive the first disbursement. Student loan interest payments are generally affordable, even on a college student’s budget. If possible, keep the interest paid down while you’re in school and during your grace period. To help you think it through, see how two students took different paths to repay their student loans.
  • Keep in touch with your lender(s) and loan servicer(s). Always make sure you let them know your current address, and contact them if you’re having trouble making your payments. You can find contact information for your lenders/servicers at StudentAid.gov under Manage Loans. Be sure to have your FSA ID handy—it’s the username and password you created when you submitted your FAFSA. You’ll need it to access your federal student loan information.
  • Stay informed. Find more information and FAQs at ReadySetRepay.org and StudentAid.gov.

Financial Aid Awareness Month

Happy Financial Aid Awareness Month! February is the time to learn how you can fund your education with various financial aid options. In order to receive federal financial aid, you must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Once your FAFSA has been submitted, your school’s financial aid office will notify you of your aid eligibility. Before you decide which options you’ll accept, take time to learn about the different kinds of aid that are available to you. Since they’re all beneficial, here’s an overview of each type of financial aid.

  • Scholarships. Potentially the most significant type of financial aid available is a scholarship. It’s free money you can earn from your own hard work, financial need, merit, family history, skills, hobbies or athletics. The more scholarship applications you complete, the more likely you are to win an award. While you don’t have to submit a FAFSA to apply for a scholarship, some programs may request that you do. Scholarship applications could ask you to write an essay, submit a video, take a photograph or complete a service project. To make sure your application matches the scholarship requirements, read all directions carefully before you start the process. If you’re not sure where to look for scholarships, UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org are great places to start your search. Remember that scholarships can be the additional assistance you need to help you reach your educational goals.

  • Grants. Sometimes referred to as free money since they usually don’t have to be repaid, grants are given to those who demonstrate financial need. A common type of grant is the Pell Grant. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG, is not as common since it is only given to students who show extreme financial need. For students interested in becoming teachers, there’s the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, or TEACH Grant. Students interested in the TEACH Grant should carefully read all guidelines. If the grant requirements are not met, the money could turn into a loan that must be repaid with interest. Additionally, there’s the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant for those who’ve lost a parent or guardian due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11. As with any type of financial aid, be sure to speak with your financial office if you have questions about grants.
  • Work-study. Also called earned aid, work-study allows students to work and earn money for college expenses while they’re in school. Work-study positions are part-time jobs that can be on or off campus. The supervisors over these positions tend to recognize that school is a priority and are usually mindful of your class schedule. Take advantage of these positions because they can give you work experience and time to focus on your academic responsibilities. Each school will have different ways to apply for a work-study job, so talk with your school to learn more about the application process.

  • Student Loans. While this type of aid is borrowed money that must be repaid with interest, student loans can help you bridge the gap between grants and scholarships. When it comes to borrowed money, it’s important that you borrow only the amount you need to pay school expenses! Federal loans can be beneficial due to their fixed interest rates (it will not change over time) and flexible repayment options. One type of federal student loan is the Direct Subsidized loan. This aid is for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The government will pay the accruing interest on a subsidized loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. Another federal loan, the Direct Unsubsidized student loan, is for students who do not show financial need. With this loan, the interest will always be accruing on the loan and students will be responsible for paying the interest. For those who need extra financial assistance there’s the Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students or the Direct PLUS loan. Parents of dependent undergraduate students can apply for the PLUS loan to help cover additional college expenses for their child. In order to receive a Direct PLUS loan, parents must complete the loan application and meet certain credit requirements. Students will have six months from the time they graduate, drop below half-time enrollment or leave school to start repaying Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. Those who take out a PLUS loan will have to start repayment once funds have been disbursed.

Now that you know a little more about financial aid, use this month to decide which options could be right for you. For more financial aid information, go to StudentAid.gov.

Spring Scholarships

Well, here you are, right in the middle of the academic year. How are things going so far? Do you have enough financial aid to pay for your spring semester in college?

The fall semester can often reveal expenses you didn’t anticipate when you accepted your financial aid offer at the beginning of the school year. If your budget’s being stretched to the limit, remember to explore opportunities for scholarships. Believe it or not, new scholarships can pop up in the spring semester, too! Here are some places to look:

  • Your financial aid office. There may be new scholarships available, or there may be some funds left over from a scholarship given to a student who didn’t return for the spring semester. If you’re a high school student, check in with your counselor and take advantage of the resources he/she has to offer.
  • Your college’s website. Institutional scholarships are often available at various times throughout the year. It’s a good idea to check the scholarship listings on your school’s website every week, or at least every two weeks.
  • Online. Oh, the possibilities! Where do you start? Here are a few suggestions:
    • UCanGo2.org/Scholarships – Learn about the Scholarship of the Week, then search by month and scroll down to make sure you don’t miss any application deadlines. You’ll also find a table full of additional scholarship opportunities for each month.
    • Search for brand names of restaurants, chain stores and food producers. Search the websites of health care systems and various law firms. Your search engine could become your best friend.

For a list of additional scholarship websites, see UCanGo2’s publication called Are You Looking for Money?

New Year, New Habits

The new year often comes with fresh enthusiasm for a renewed lifestyle. Whether it’s working out regularly, eating out less or resisting the snooze button, there is no time like the present to commit to new habits.

In addition to health and financial goals, there are some helpful academic goals that will prove beneficial from this school year to the next.

Scholarships: By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re considered for a variety of state and federal financial aid. We encourage you to “start” with FAFSA, and then continue seeking scholarship opportunities throughout the year. Check out UCanGo2.org for new scholarships by category and by deadline. Make a profile on OKcollegestart.org to view scholarship applications that are the perfect fit for you. It’s important to apply for as many scholarships as possible year-round, so make a habit of applying for 2-3 scholarships a week.  

Study Habits: While your grades and GPA are not taken into consideration with your FAFSA, schools will look at your academic achievements when deciding academic scholarship offers as well as acceptance to their school. Your grades in college will also determine if you maintain certain scholarship offers from year to year. To start or keep up good study habits, check out these study tips: https://ucango2.org/publications/student/Perfect_10.pdf

 Extracurricular Involvement: Many schools take more than just your grades into consideration. Join a club or volunteer in your community after school hours. Your involvement will look impressive on a college application. Are you already in college? Join a club or find opportunities in your community to share the skills and knowledge that you’re developing. It looks great on resumes for future employers. Whether you’re still in high school or you’re headed into the career field, extracurricular involvement is a good commitment to make in the new year.

What’s a Student Aid Report?

After you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be on the lookout for your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is an electronic or paper document that summarizes the data you put on your FAFSA. It also provides some basic information about your eligibility for federal student financial aid. If you completed, signed and submitted your FAFSA electronically, this document will be sent to your email address within 3-5 days. If you did not include an email address, a paper version of the SAR will be mailed to your postal address in approximately 2-3 weeks. You can also access your SAR by logging in to your account at FAFSA.gov.

The SAR contains important information, like your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and your Data Release Number (DRN). The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. It’s based on the information provided on the FAFSA, but the EFC is NOT the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. It’s a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you’re eligible to receive.

Your DRN is located below your EFC on the SAR and is necessary if you want your college or career school to change certain types of information on your FAFSA. Speak with someone at your college financial aid office if there has been a significant change in income for you or your parents or you have a special circumstance you need to discuss with the aid administrator.

Your SAR might indicate that you’ve been selected for verification. This is a process schools use to confirm the information on your FAFSA is correct. Your college financial aid office will notify you if additional paperwork is needed to fulfill this requirement.

Review the remainder of your SAR for any errors. If you find anything that should be corrected, log back in to FAFSA.gov, access your FAFSA, and make the necessary changes. Then enter the appropriate FSA IDs and submit your FAFSA again.

Gratitude and Grants

Thanksgiving is a time to practice gratitude.

Here are some ways we can remain thankful during FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and college application season.

1. Celebrate the fact that the FAFSA is a free resource for financial aid. The FAFSA serves as your application for federal and some state financial aid for college. Whether you receive grants, scholarships, student loans or work study, all of these will help get you one step closer to your future goals.

2. Be grateful that you created your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) before starting your FAFSA application, and kept it safe on your handy FSA ID Worksheet! The FSA ID is a username and password that you and one of your parents create to sign the FAFSA electronically.  This short task can save you time, as submitting and signing your FAFSA online will speed up the processing period for your application. Save your FSA ID worksheet so when you complete the FAFSA next year you won’t have to struggle to remember your ID; you’ll only have to reference your FSA ID worksheet for the information.

3. Remember to show your educators how much you appreciate them. Is there an administrator, teacher or counselor who’s been especially supportive as you plan for college? It’s easy to get caught up in the essays, application requirements and test scores, and educators can encourage us to persevere and answer our endless questions. Educators are an essential resource when it comes to choosing the school you want to attend.

4. Having trouble picking your top schools? The FAFSA allows you to apply for financial aid at up to 10 different schools. Ask your teacher or counselor to help you find the best-fit colleges, universities or technology centers. After you’ve narrowed down your choices and determined which schools are a good match, take the time to thank your teacher or counselor for everything they’ve done to help make your education journey successful.

5. Finally, be proud of your own perseverance. Once you’ve followed the tips in Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps and submitted your application, you can be grateful that it’s done! (Until next year, that is.)