Category Archives: Grants and scholarships

National Scholarship Month

It’s National Scholarship Month! That means we’re raising awareness about the numerous scholarship dollars that are available to help you cover college expenses. For the 2016-2017 school year, the National Scholarship Providers Association awarded over $2 billion in scholarship funds to deserving students. That’s just one organization! There are many other companies that offer scholarships to students preparing for college. To help you put 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 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.

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.

Grants, Loans & Work Study

By now you probably know that it’s important to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, but do you know what you’re actually submitting? This application allows colleges to see which types of financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Financial aid can help you cover educational expenses and comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans.

Grants, sometimes referred to as gift aid, are need-based aid that usually don’t have to be repaid. The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. This form of financial aid is available for undergraduate students (those who haven’t received their first bachelor’s degree). The maximum amount of Pell Grant a student can receive is $6,195 for the 2019-2020 school year. Financial aid offices will determine students’ financial need and inform them of their Pell eligibility. Another federal grant that’s available is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG. Only students who have extreme financial need are eligible to receive this grant. Other grants require students to meet certain criteria. The TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant is an example of aid that has conditions attached to it, as it requires students to take certain courses and work specific jobs. There is also the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant that’s available for students who lost a parent or guardian as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. Eligible students should contact their school if they have any questions. Some states offer grants to their residents as well. Oklahoma has the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant, or OTAG, for eligible state residents who will be attending an Oklahoma public or private institution.

Work-study is also a type of financial aid that can help with the costs of college. Eligible students who receive this aid will have the chance to work a part-time job and earn money for educational expenses. Undergraduates and graduates with financial need are able to receive a work-study opportunity. Talk with your financial aid office to learn about potential places, on or off campus, that are hiring.

Student loans are another type of financial assistance. Different than other aid, student loans must be repaid with interest. There are various federal loans available for students. One type is the Direct Subsidized Loan for undergraduates who demonstrate financial need. The maximum amount for freshmen in the 2019-2020 school year is $5,500, with a fixed interest rate of 5.05 percent. A fixed interest rate means that the interest won’t change over time. The federal government will pay the interest on a subsidized loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. In contrast, Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need and are given to undergraduates and graduates. Students are responsible for the interest on this loan during all periods. The interest rate on an unsubsidized loan is 5.05 percent for undergraduates and 6.6 percent for graduate students. Other borrowed aid that isn’t based on financial need is the Parent PLUS Loan. This is available for parents of dependent students who need extra assistance with college expenses. In addition, parents must also be credit worthy to qualify for this type of aid. PLUS Loans have a 7.6 percent fixed interest rate. Speak with your financial aid office to learn more details.

There are a variety of resources available to help you pay for college. Not all schools offer each program, so be sure to contact your financial aid office with any questions. For more information about grants, student loans and work-study go to studentaid.ed.gov.

Summer Checklist for Incoming High School Seniors

You made it! School’s out for the summer. If you’re looking for something to do this summer, why not get a jump start on your senior year of high school? Here’s a preview of what to do as you finish up high school and prepare for college:

  • Stay on track. Review courses with your counselor to make sure you’re meeting high school graduation and entrance requirements for the schools that interest you.
  • Pick your top five. Oklahoma has 25 public colleges and universities as well as several independent and proprietary institutions. Take a few minutes to check out your options!
  • Search for scholarships. It’s never too early (or too late!) to apply for scholarships. Check out UCanGo2 and OKcollegestart to search thousands of scholarships!
  • Test again. Even if you’ve already taken the ACT or SAT, register for the fall ACT and/or SAT tests; you might boost your score! For extra help, try the free practice ACT and SAT tests on OKcollegestart.org. Find test locations and dates at ACT.org and SAT.org.
  • Create a Federal Student Aid ID. The 2020-21 FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2019. You and one of your parents will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA online. Be sure to keep track of these usernames and passwords. Creating FSA IDs now will save time this fall when you’re ready to file the FAFSA.
  • Prepare for college fairs. This College Fair Worksheet will help narrow down what types of schools you may be interested in attending. You’ll also find a list of questions to ask college representatives. College Fairs typically begin in September. Registration for fall fairs isn’t open yet, but you can create an account on GoToCollegeFairs.com now, allowing you to easily register when the time comes.

Check out UCanGo2’s full Senior Checklist for reminders and tasks that need to be completed during your senior year of high school.

What’s the Difference Between a Scholarship and a Tuition Waiver?

When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’re giving the college(s) of your choice a snapshot of your family’s current financial situation, enabling them to develop a plan for your financial aid ‘package’. That package may contain aid from one or more of these sources:
• The federal government – grants, work-study program, student loans
• The state of Oklahoma – grants and scholarships
• The institution you wish to attend – scholarships and tuition waivers
• Tribal, non-profit and private organizations – grants and scholarships

Your higher education institution may offer you a scholarship, tuition waiver, or both. You may wonder what the differences are between the two and whether you would qualify to receive them.
• A scholarship is usually ‘free money’ that doesn’t have to be paid back, and is used to pay various college expenses. It can be awarded to you by the school you plan to attend, by the state of Oklahoma, or by various private and tribal organizations. A scholarship is often awarded for above-average grades or other achievements, talents and/or community involvement.
• A tuition waiver is granted by your chosen school and reduces the amount the college charges you. The waiver will eliminate the cost of tuition for a designated number of credit hours, but it can’t be used for any other educational expense. While there can be many reasons a school might grant a waiver, here are some of the most common:
• Your family income demonstrates a high financial need.
• You’re of Native American descent.
• You’ve overcome a significant hardship.
• You were adopted, or you were a foster child.

It’s possible that you’d be able to use a scholarship and a tuition waiver simultaneously. Each college has its own policy regarding who meets the qualifications for one or the other. Call your institution’s financial aid office to see how to qualify for any scholarships and waivers they may offer.

November is National Scholarship Month

November is National Scholarship Month, and it’s an excellent time to begin applying for scholarships if you haven’t done so already. Many scholarship providers are posting new scholarship information and competitions for the next academic year, and November is also an ideal month to dedicate some time to finding scholarships for college (think Thanksgiving Break!).  Remember, scholarships are ‘free money’. They’re gift aid that doesn’t have to be paid back.

There are many ways students can qualify for scholarships. They are often based on a student’s talents, abilities, skills or participation in extra-curricular activities. They can also be given because of a student’s ancestry or religious affiliation, or for a variety of other reasons.

Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Many experts say that high school seniors should apply for 2-3 scholarships each week. But where do you begin? We suggest starting your search at UCanGo2.org and okcollegestart.org, where you’ll find hundreds of scholarship opportunities. Also, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide, where you’ll find many more websites that you can use to investigate scholarships of all types and helpful tips for maximizing your scholarship dollars.

For helpful information about all types of financial aid that are available, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Are You Looking for Money? booklet.

Grants, Work-Study and Student Loans

As you begin exploring different forms of financial aid, three terms will stand out: grants, work-study and student loans. These are the three primary forms of aid that the federal government distributes through the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). By completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you’re applying to receive these various types of financial aid for school.

Grants and scholarships, which are given to eligible students to help them pay higher education expenses, are the best form of aid you can receive, as they typically don’t need to be repaid. The Pell Grant is the most notable federal grant; it’s awarded to undergraduate students based on financial need. Students can receive up to $6,095 from the Pell Grant for the 2018-19 school year. The OTAG is awarded to eligible Oklahoma residents enrolled in schools within the state and the FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant) is awarded to students with exceptional financial need. Some grants do have obligations attached to them, such as the TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant. This grant is designed to assist students who plan to teach and meet certain requirements for the grant. Not all campuses participate in this program, so students will need to check with their campus about available types of financial aid offered.

Work-Study is the form of federal aid that allows undergraduates to work part-time jobs on or off campus to earn money for school expenses. This program is administered by the school, and like grants, is based on your financial need.

The third type of aid is a federal direct student loan. A student loan is a form of aid the federal government provides to help students bridge the gap between family savings, scholarships and grants, and work study and remaining college costs. Unlike most grants or work-study, this money must be paid back with interest. While federal student loans need to be repaid, the interest accrued is often lower than it would be with a private lender, and federal student loans have more flexible repayment options than private or alternative loans.

The Direct Subsidized Loan program will lend students up to $5,500 annually depending on grade level, financial need and dependency status. The interest rate for subsidized loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2018 is set at 5.05 percent, and the government will pay your interest costs while you’re attending school at least half time. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is available to undergraduates (5.05 percent interest rate) and graduate students (6.60 percent interest rate). The government does not pay interest costs during school for unsubsidized loan borrowers, but students may make interest payments while in school to save money. If there is still a balance remaining after using all other available forms of aid, parents of dependent undergraduate students may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. PLUS loan applicants must meet credit requirements, and the interest rate is currently set at 7.60 percent.

If you must accept a student loan to help pay for college, focus on federal loan options, and limit your borrowing to the amount you truly need to pay school expenses. For more information about paying for college, check out UCanGo2.org/pay.

Searching for Scholarships? Don’t forget local community foundations!

When you submit your FAFSA, you’ll be checking out your eligibility for different types of federal and state financial aid to help you pay for college. You’ll also want to investigate scholarships that come from private sources, so make sure to include a regional community foundation in your search for gift aid.

Community foundations are public charities whose goal is to improve the lives of citizens who reside in a particular geographic region. To achieve this goal, they strive to build permanent funds used for various purposes. Scholarships are often included in the donors’ choice of investments. Scholarships available through a community foundation are considered to be ‘local,’ which means there aren’t as many contenders for the prize as those offered nationally, improving your chances of receiving an award. Here are the websites for a few community foundations across the state:

Remember to take advantage of all the ‘free money’ you can find. Apply for as many scholarships as possible, and consider finding them before you apply for student loans.

Scholarships and Grants: Free Money!

Ever wonder what the difference is between scholarships and grants? Both categories are considered “free money” since they generally don’t have to be paid back, but that’s about all they have in common.

Scholarships are often called “merit based” aid, since they’re given based on a student’s talents, abilities, skills or participation in extra-curricular activities. They can also be given because of a student’s ancestry or religious affiliation, or for a variety of other reasons. There are numerous ways to search for scholarships. We suggest starting your search at UCanGo2.org and okcollegestart.org, where you will find hundreds of scholarship opportunities. Also, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide, where you’ll find many more websites that you can use to investigate scholarships of all types.

Grants are commonly called “need based” aid because those who qualify for grants have demonstrated a financial need based on their family income. The most well-known grants come from the federal and state governments. To apply for government grants, you simply need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after Oct. 1 during your senior year of high school and then again each year that you you need financial aid for college.

For more information about the types of financial aid that are available, be sure to check out UCanGo2’s booklet entitled Are You Looking for Money?

Can I apply for the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant if I don’t have a Social Security Number?

The Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) is available to students who meet certain qualifications as they are applying for financial aid for college. Students without social security numbers often assume they won’t be eligible to receive an OTAG award, but if you meet certain conditions you may qualify.

Here are four questions that will be asked of you to determine whether you are eligible for OTAG at the time you enter college:

  • Did you graduate from a public or private high school in Oklahoma?
  • Did you live in Oklahoma with a parent or guardian while attending an Oklahoma high school for at least two years before you graduated?
  • Have you satisfied all of the admission standards for the institution you plan to attend?
  • Have you provided the institution a copy of a true and correct application or petition filed with United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to legalize your immigration status?

If you are able answer yes to all four questions, you should apply for OTAG as soon as possible after October 1. Since OTAG receives more eligible applications than can be awarded each year, it’s important to apply early. If you are a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen, you do not have to submit a separate OTAG application; you simply have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, if you are a qualified undocumented immigrant, you must use the Application for Undocumented Immigrants form to apply for OTAG. Remember to apply as soon as you can!