Category Archives: UCanGo2 Resources

Make a Plan for Your Holiday Break

What do you have planned for your holiday break? Family time? Catching up on homework? Taking a part-time job? Whatever your plans may be, focus a little on your future plans…college.

If you’re a senior this year, make sure you’ve completed the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid serves as your application for federal and state financial aid for college. It becomes available every Oct. 1 so always complete and submit this form as soon after that date as possible. If you haven’t submitted your FAFSA, do it now! 

Scholarships should also be on your mind. Use your holiday break to apply for as many as possible. There are numerous scholarships available and you can apply all year for funding that can be used throughout your college career. Take advantage of this free money!

And if you choose to work on your break, stash a portion of your earnings in your savings account for college. Choose to save 20, 30 or 40% of your take-home pay. Any monetary gifts you receive for the holidays can also be added to your savings. Remember, every dollar you save is one less dollar you’ll have to borrow.

Enjoy your holiday and take some time to plan ahead!

National Scholarship Month

November is National Scholarship Month! Scholarships are, what we like to call, free money. This means you don’t have to pay them back after college. What’s the first step in receiving free money? Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some scholarship applications are determined by financial need and require proof of a completed FAFSA.

Next, it’s time to start searching for scholarships that you qualify for. We encourage seniors to apply for 2-3 scholarships a week starting now. There are billions of dollars in scholarships available to students, so the more applications you submit, the higher your chances are to receive free money. 

Each scholarship has its own requirements and qualifications. Some scholarships are merit or financial based while others can be based on skill or religious affiliation. Always follow directions and double check that you have all of your required documents. If an application requires a recommendation letter, make sure you give your mentor or teacher plenty of time to write it.

There are many different resources for finding scholarships. We suggest you start with UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org. Both of these websites have regularly updated scholarship databases. Make sure you create a Scholarship Profile on OKcollegestart. You’ll share information such as your GPA, skills, hobbies, intended major, ancestry and more. The answers you provide will help narrow down available scholarships that you qualify for. If you need a little more guidance on the scholarship process, check out our new Scholarship 101 video.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a scholarship award. Keep applying! Get creative and ask local businesses, libraries and your school about additional scholarship opportunities. Your perseverance will pay off!

School Profiles on OKCollegestart.org

Before you begin your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) —have you decided which college(s) you’d like to attend? You will have to provide at least one college choice on your FAFSA—but what if you haven’t decided yet?

One of the best resources for exploring colleges is OKcollegestart.org. Once you’ve logged in (you can create an account on the OKCS homepage), click the ‘College Planning’ tab at the top, then look for the option to Explore Postsecondary Schools. Under School Exploration Tools, choose School Finder. You’ll see a list of school characteristics at the left which can be used to narrow down your search. You can choose only one characteristic to begin, or you can choose as many as you wish to refine your search.

Once you see a table listing schools that have the characteristics you’ve chosen, click on each of the school names to compare the schools on the list. The individual school profiles will provide a wealth of information to help you determine which colleges you’d like to investigate further—school size, average cost of attendance and programs/majors offered are just a few things to check out. You can even find each college’s school code that you’ll need if you choose to add that school to your FAFSA!
Adding a college code to your FAFSA doesn’t mean you’re making any commitments to that school. It simply gives the financial aid office on that campus permission to see the data from your FAFSA, so they can determine how much financial aid you may qualify for at their school.

Give OKcollegestart.org a try! You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find there! Don’t forget to complete your 2021-2022 FAFSA as soon as possible!

Dependent or Independent?

It’s October which means it’s FAFSA season! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, can now be accessed at FAFSA.gov. This form becomes available every October 1st and serves as your first step in applying for federal and state financial assistance for college.

The types and amounts of aid you’re eligible to receive are based on the answers you provide on your FAFSA. The information you’re required to include is also based on your answers to some very important questions that will determine your dependency status. Being considered Dependent will require that you include parental data on the FAFSA; being Independent means you will not.

Many factors determine whether a student is considered Dependent or Independent. Review our Dependency Questionnaire to see a full list of the inquiries so you can determine your status before starting the application. Here are a few questions you may be asked:

  • Were you born before Jan. 1, 1998?
  • What’s your marital status?
  • Do you have dependents that you support?
  • Are you a veteran?
  • Have you been in foster care?

After your dependency status has been determined, you’ll be better prepared for the type of documentation you’ll need to complete your FAFSA. The information shown below will be required by the student if he/she’s Independent. And if the student is Dependent, both student and one parent will be required to provide this information:

  • Your Social Security Number.
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen).
  • Your 2019 federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments.
  • Records of untaxed income.
  • An FSA ID to sign the FAFSA electronically.

For additional information on the FAFSA, check out the Resources tab and also visit UCanGo2.org. You’ll find things like the FSA ID worksheet, FAFSA instructional videos, informative FAFSA Modules and helpful tips on state and federal financial aid programs. If you have questions regarding your dependency status or any items on the FAFSA, feel free to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or your financial aid office.

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!

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.