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Questions to Ask Your Financial Aid Office

The financial aid office is an ally to students who have questions about affording college. It’s good to engage with your college’s financial aid officers early on, so they can advise and assist you the best way possible. Not sure where to start? Here are some helpful questions to ask.

  • Are there other scholarships available?

If you’ve already received your financial aid offer letter, you can ask them to talk you through the awards listed. During this time, you can ask if the campus offers additional scholarships that you might qualify for. They may also know of other resources for receiving additional aid.

  • How will outside scholarships affect my financial aid?

If you receive an outside scholarship (for example, from a private program), they may adjust the amounts on your financial aid offer letter. It varies by school. While some colleges will reduce your unmet need and student loans first, others may reduce the grants first. It’s important to ask your financial aid office so you know what to expect.

  • Do you offer a tuition payment plan?

This is a question that the financial aid office can answer, however, they may direct you to the Bursar’s office to set it up. The Bursar handles all student charges and payments. The financial aid office will be able to explain to you the exact cost of attendance and what you will be expected to pay, when. From there, you can ask the Bursar if you have to pay your balance in one payment or if you can pay in installments. Many schools offer payment plans, so be sure to ask what options are available to you.

  • What is the appeal process if I don’t receive enough financial aid?

While an appeal isn’t always guaranteed to work, some campuses offer a process to allow you to demonstrate why the current financial aid offer doesn’t meet your needs. Any increase in financial aid helps, so it never hurts to ask.

  • Will my financial aid offer be similar all four years?

Some scholarships can be renewed every year, so it’s important to find out what you need to do to maintain those awards. Ask your financial aid office what’s expected of you. Sometimes awards can be lost based on GPA or enrollment status. Also, ask if there are any awards that will not renew after your freshman year. If your financial aid is going to change, it’s good to plan ahead by finding additional resources to bridge any gaps.

NonTraditional Students and the FAFSA

Traditional (or ‘typical’) college students earn a high school diploma, enroll full time immediately after finishing high school, depend on parents for financial support, and either work part time during the school year or choose not to work. However, recent data shows that the majority of today’s college students are not ‘typical’ at all.

At times, over 70% of those enrolled in undergraduate studies nationwide have been adults over the age of 24 who often work and attend college part time. Evening and weekend classes, online courses and economic twists and turns have changed the landscape of higher education. If you’re an adult who is 25 years of age or older and you’ve been thinking about enrolling in college for the first time or returning to college to complete your degree, you are definitely not alone. But where do you start?

First, if you’re not sure which college you would like to attend, research your options by using tools such as OKcollegestart.org and NCES.ed.gov/CollegeNavigator to find schools that have the program and/or major you’re looking for.

When you have your choices narrowed down, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is simply a snapshot of your family’s financial situation used to help technology centers, career schools, colleges and universities determine your eligibility for various types of student financial aid . Things may have changed since you submitted your last FAFSA, if you submitted one at all. The vast majority of FAFSAs are now done online, and you can begin yours at StudentAid.gov . To complete your FAFSA online, you’ll first need to establish your Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID), which is a username and password that has replaced the four-digit PIN formerly used on the FAFSA. Click here to create your FSA ID.

The college you plan to attend may offer assistance for students like you who want to finish their degrees. Contact the school(s) of your choice for more information, and be sure to visit ReachHigherOK.org to see more valuable resources.


National Poetry Month

I could be an artist; I’d create and dream all day.

Good thing there’s a school for that,

but how am I going to pay?

Maybe I’ll be a doctor; I’ll learn to help and heal.

With years and years of studies,

tuition concerns are real.

I’d like to be an astronaut, exploring the final frontier.

I’ll have to master the STEM subjects.

Are there scholarships for engineers?

My future is full of possibilities.

Good thing I completed the FAFSA,

to help with my financial responsibilities.

I qualified for grants and work study,

thanks to federal student aid.

The application didn’t cost me a cent.

Now I can focus on grades.