Category Archives: Student Loans

Student Loans: Borrow Smart!

Once you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll see a confirmation page that explains your next steps and gives you an estimate of federals grants and loans you may be eligible to receive. When you get your financial aid award letter from the college(s) of your choice, they will most likely include those loan amounts in their offer. Be cautious when borrowing student loans; you may not need all the loan money that’s offered to you. Student loan debt can grow quickly, and you must repay the full amount with interest. Search for grants and scholarships first to cover your college expenses, as they’re typically considered free money. Think of student loans as your last option to help pay for college.

If you must borrow student loans, do your research. ReadySetRepay.org offers information on all aspects of student loan management, as well as Borrow Smart From the Start, a guide to help you navigate student loan process from beginning to end. You’ll find tips on how to avoid or reduce student loan debt and the steps you’ll need to take if you’re having trouble with your loan payments. Students loans are an investment in your future. Remember to invest wisely by making smart borrowing decisions from the start.

Financial Aid Letter

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important first step in the financial aid process. After you’ve submitted the FAFSA, your college(s) of interest will process the information you provided and will determine your eligibility for federal and state aid. The college(s) will also calculate the loans and institutional scholarships you’re eligible to receive. The summary will be sent to you in an award letter, either electronically or via the U.S. Postal Service. Keep in mind, it takes time to process this information, so most campuses will send out aid offers in late March or early April for those starting college in the fall.

When your offer arrives, it’s important to read it carefully. You’ll be asked to accept or decline all or some of the offered financial aid. On your aid offer, you’ll see several different numbers, which are outlined below.

Cost of Attendance (COA): This is the estimated cost to attend your college for one year.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This number is used by the college to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. While the EFC is a calculation of all the information provided on the FAFSA by you and your parent, it’s most likely not the amount you’ll be expected to contribute. Want to learn more about the EFC? Check out our EFC Overview .

Award Package: The letter will list the types and amounts of aid the college can offer to you. You may see some of the following:

Grants: These are considered gift aid that can come from federal, state and tribal governments. Grants are usually based on financial need.

Scholarships: These can be based on need, merit or interests. They’re awarded by colleges, state agencies, companies, foundations, tribal and private organizations.

Federal Work-Study: This is an opportunity to work on- or off-campus to earn financial aid. Think of it as a part-time job specifically to pay for college.

Federal Student Loans: Loans are borrowed money to help you pay for college. Loans must be repaid, with interest.

Remember, you don’t have to accept all of the aid offered to you, especially when it comes to borrowing student loans. A monthly payment of tuition and fees during college may be a better option for you or your family than a loan payment with added interest after you’ve completed your education. To learn more about the different types of financial aid, check out our publication: Are You Looking for Money?

Talk with your family about your financial situation and decide how much financial aid and which types of aid you need to accept. Still have questions about the financial aid letter? Take a look at our new resource, Understanding Your Award Letter.


Financial Aid Awareness Month

February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! This is the time for you to learn all about the financial aid process for college.

What is financial aid?
Free Money

Federal and State Grants

Scholarships

Earned Money

Borrowed Money

How do I apply?

  • Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
    • Apply every year you need financial aid for college
    • Apply on or after October 1
    • Complete your application online at FAFSA.gov
    • Create an FSA ID to access and sign your FAFSA

How will I know how much financial aid I’ve been offered?

  • After your FAFSA has been submitted and you’ve been admitted, your school will send you an aid offer
  • Review and research all programs offered, and accept only the aid you need
  • You don’t have to accept everything you’ve been offered

To learn more about the financial aid process, review these tools on this site:

  • FAFSA Learning Modules
  • Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps
  • Dependency Questionnaire
  • FAFSA Fundamentals 2021-2022 PowerPoint
  • FAFSA Parent Flyer

You will also find these helpful FAFSA videos:

UCanGo2.org also offers many beneficial FAFSA resources:

  • The EFC (Expected Family Contribution) PowerPoint
  • The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) PowerPoint
  • The Financial Aid Award Letter PowerPoint

Learn more about Financial Aid Awareness Month here!

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!

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.

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.

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.