Category Archives: UCanGo2 Resources

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!

UCanGo2.org’s Checklists

The Oklahoma College Assistance Program offers a variety of online publications through UCanGo2.org that help students prepare for their transition to college. Their most popular publications are the college planning checklists. These checklists are available for grades 6-12 and help students and their parents with the specific steps they should be taking during each year to reach their higher education goals.

On the Senior Checklist, 12th-grade students may notice many of the steps center around the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The first “to-do” calls for students to create an FSA ID. Seniors can reference the FSA ID Worksheet to keep track of their username and password each year they complete the FAFSA. There is also a copy of the FSA ID Worksheet available in Spanish. The second “to-do” calls for students to complete the FAFSA after Oct. 1 each year they need funds for college. A helpful tool to complete this step is the FAFSA in Five publication. With this resource, students can make sure they have all the necessary materials to complete the FAFSA. Students must also determine their dependency status on the FAFSA. A helpful resource to determine this is the Dependency Questionnaire. If they answer “yes” to any of the questions on this form, the student is considered an independent and won’t need to include their parents’ information on the FAFSA.

Not a senior yet? No problem! There are many more publications and helpful tools for students to use as they progress through middle and high school. Below are the college planning checklists for each grade. Be sure to follow the suggested links on each one to discover additional resources:

Junior Checklist

Sophomore Checklist

Freshman Checklist

8th Grade Checklist

7th Grade Checklist

6th Grade Checklist

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.  

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.

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.)

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.

Homelessness and the FAFSA

In recent years, questions about the circumstances surrounding homelessness have been added to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to give homeless students the help they need when considering college. Three questions about homelessness canned be summed up this way:

At any time on or after July 1 [in the year prior to the academic year covered by this FAFSA], did an official* determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

*This 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.

If you answer yes to any one of the ‘homelessness’ questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will not be required to provide your parents’ income information on your FAFSA. Later on, though, 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 determination. The administrator will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

To clarify some of the terms used in the questions about homelessness, an unaccompanied student is one who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The term youth refers to someone who is 21 years of age or younger or is still enrolled in high school at the time they submit their FAFSA.  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, or 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. A self-supporting student is one who covers his/her own living expenses.

Often, homeless students ask about how to report their mailing address on the FAFSA. According to 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 and

FAFSA Tips for Unaccompanied Youth