“How will I pay for college?” That’s a question everyone considering higher education is asking. Investigating your financial aid options can seem overwhelming, especially if no one in your family has ever gone to college.
Here are a few great resources to help you discover some options available to assist you.
The FAFSA. The first step in applying for most types of federal and state financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as it’s available! Students who will be attending college during the 2022-23 school year should complete the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov as soon as it becomes available on Oct. 1.
Your high school counselor. Counselors love talking about college—college preparation, choosing a college and finding financial aid options. Make an appointment with your counselor soon!
The financial aid office at your college(s) of interest. Each college, technology center and career school are different. Be sure to speak with someone in the Financial Aid office at each institution you’re considering to learn which types of aid you may be able to receive at their school.
Free money. Scholarships are an important resource to help you pay for college expenses. There are many scholarship search websites that allow students to set up a profile that will match them with various programs they may qualify for. Many scholarships are also available to students as young as elementary school so start your search now! These websites offer helpful information:
All high school students in the Class of ’22 will be hearing a lot of information about the FAFSA during the fast-approaching school year. So, just what is a FAFSA, and why is it so important?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for college, vocational school or career school.
It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ of a family’s financial situation, and
It’s used to determine how much federal financial aid a student may be eligible to receive to help them with the cost of college.
Now that you know what the FAFSA is, let’s talk about what it’s NOT. The FAFSA isn’t:
An application to college
A loan application
Any type of commitment to accept the aid you’re offered
A credit check
Available only to students with stellar grades–the application won’t even ask you about your grade point average (GPA).
A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. High school seniors can submit their FAFSA on October 1 or shortly thereafter, which means you’ll be applying for financial aid almost a year before you begin college. It’s important to submit your FAFSA as early as possible, because some types of financial aid are first-come, first served. Haven’t picked your college yet? No problem! One great thing about the FAFSA is that you can have your information sent to up to 10 different schools, and none of them will be able to see the other colleges you’re interested in attending.
Even though your FAFSA won’t be ready until October, you can do a practice run by completing the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet, which lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, letting you know what it will be like to fill out the form online. This tool isn’t a replacement for the real FAFSA. You’ll still need to complete the actual form online after October 1 in order to apply for financial aid.
According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), billions of dollars in federal financial aid for college is left unclaimed each year by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, but simply 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 studentaid.gov. To learn more about borrowing smart from the start, check out ReadySetRepay.org.
You’re about to begin another academic year and money can be tight when you’re a student. Whether you’re a returning college student or just entering college for the first time, you may have questions about how you can cover the costs of college this year. Here are some tips to consider:
Check your FSA ID status. The FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification) is the username and password that you set up before filing your first FAFSA which serves as your electronic signature. If you haven’t used your FSA ID in a while, it may need to be re-enabled. This can be done at the manage my FSA ID tab at fsaid.ed.gov. Your FSA ID can’t only be used to access and sign your FAFSA, but also to sign your Master Promissory Note (MPN) if you apply for a Federal student loan, apply for a repayment plan, complete loan counseling and use the Public Service Forgiveness Loan (PSLF) tool.
Find a part-time job. Many schools participate in the federal work-study program. If you demonstrate financial need, you may be able to work part-time on campus or at an approved site off-campus. The money you earn at a work-study job is then used to help you pay your college expenses. If you don’t qualify for work-study or your school doesn’t participate in this aid program, watch for job opportunities posted around your campus and online. Visit the campus career services office for resume building, interviewing tips and job placement opportunities.
Develop a budget also known as a spending plan. No matter how much or how little money you may have, learning to manage your finances is crucial to your success now and later in life. Learn more about developing a spending plan as a college student at OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.
Did you know you can complete, sign and submit your FAFSA using a tablet or smart phone?
The myStudentAid mobile app was first released in 2018 by Federal Student Aid (FSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Education. This made it possible to access your FAFSA form using the app or your mobile browser. In December 2020, an updated version was released, offering a variety of new tools provided by FSA. The app now offers a more user-friendly design, as well as a Financial Aid Summary that allows you to keep track of your student loan and grant history. It also offers the ability for borrowers to track their loan repayment progress.
To access this tool, students, parents and borrowers will need to download FSA’s myStudentAid app. From there you can set up your FSA ID, or use your current ID to complete and submit your FAFSA as well as take advantage of these new features. Want to know more? Watch the YouTube video that walks you through the FAFSA step by step using the mobile app. You’ll find it FAFSA-nating!
When completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year that you need money for college, the application may ask up to 13 dependency questions to determine whether you’re a dependent or an independent student. If you answer NO to every dependency question, you’ll be considered a dependent student, which means you’ll be asked to report one or both parents’ income and tax information.
But it’s not always that easy, because supplying parental information can be a challenge to some students due to special circumstances. If you’re in this situation, you’ll have an opportunity on the FAFSA to state that you’re unable to provide your parents’ information, at which time the FAFSA will inform you that a dependent student who doesn’t include his/her parents’ information will only be eligible for one type of federal financial aid—an Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan. Not reporting your parents’ data can definitely affect the amount of financial aid that you would otherwise be eligible to receive.
There are times when a college financial aid officer can ‘override’ your dependency status and change it to an independent status. This can be done if:
You had to leave home due to an abusive environment,
Your parents are incarcerated, or
You’re unable to contact your parents and don’t know where they live.
A financial aid officer won’t be able to switch your status to ‘independent’ simply because:
Your parents refuse to contribute their information,
You weren’t claimed as a dependent on their tax return, or
You aren’t living with your parents.
Basically, a dependency override can only be done in extreme situations. If you still believe you should be declared independent, discuss your circumstances with a financial aid officer at your school(s) of interest. A college’s financial aid office will always be your best resource when you have questions about anything related to the FAFSA. It’s important to contact them if you have any comments or concerns.
As you navigate the college financial aid process, you may experience some twists and turns that you didn’t expect. When you’re enrolling in a technology center, career school, community college, or four-year college or university for the first time, you may not be sure what questions to ask the financial aid personnel at your school of interest. Here is a list of questions you may want to ask in order to have a better understanding of how it all works.
What types of financial aid do you offer?
If I’m awarded a scholarship, will it change the amount of aid you can offer me?
Does your school have a deadline for FAFSA submission? What are the consequences if I don’t meet the deadline?
When will I know how much financial aid I’ll be eligible to receive?
Am I considered to be a dependent student, or independent?
Is there a way to change my dependency status?
What should I do if I have a circumstance that causes my/my parent(s)’ income to change?
Are there resources available to help me investigate other types of aid, such as state grants and scholarships?
Do you offer an installment plan that would allow me to make monthly payments through the year? If so, are there any associated fees?
What is the average student loan debt for your graduates?
Most of these questions can only be answered by a knowledgeable financial aid officer, since no two students’ circumstances are the same. Many factors are considered to determine your financial need, which is based on the data you supply on your FAFSA. Always be patient with those who work in the financial aid office! They want you to attend their school, but they must follow federal regulations to the letter. The more you know, the more you can help them assess your situation.
As you prepare to pay college expenses, it’s important to know the amount of federal financial aid that may be available to you. Each year, grant amounts and student loan interest rates are subject to change. Here’s what you can expect for Academic Year 2021-2022.
Federal Pell Grant: Available to undergraduate students who qualify based on the level of their financial need as determined by Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Beginning July 1, 2021, the maximum allowable Pell amount you may be able to receive for one year of college will increase to $6,495.
Federal Work-Study Program: If your campus administers work-study funds, you may be able to sign up for a part-time job, either on-campus or an approved site off-campus, enabling you to earn money to pay some of your college expenses. The maximum amount you can earn in the work-study program will be determined by your level of financial need. If you’re interested in work-study, be sure to ask the financial aid office if would qualify for the program.
Federal Student Loans: To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, the interest rate on most federal student loans borrowed before July 1, 2020 is currently 0%. In addition, federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. This 0% interest and suspension of payments will last through September 30, 2021, but you can still make payments if you choose.
The following table outlines the projected federal student loan interest rates for Academic Year 2021-2022, beginning October 1, 2021, after the COVID-19 relief program has ended:
Fixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans
Undergraduate students (through Bachelor’s degree)
Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans
Graduate or professional students
Direct PLUS Loans
Parents of undergraduate students OR graduate/professional students
Be sure to visit StudentAid.gov for up-to-date information regarding interest rates and special allowances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before your first day of college, it’s important to consider creating a budget for the upcoming school year. If you know how much financial aid you’ll receive, evaluate your other monthly expenses that are a priority. You may have responsibilities such as car payments and maintenance, cellphone service and miscellaneous items. Remember that financial aid can only be used for educational, and some living expenses, so a budget can help with planning for other important purchases. Here are a few tips to assist with developing a budget while in college.
Talk it out. Talk to those who are helping you pay for college. Whether it’s a parent or guardian, conversing with those who are supporting your educational pursuits allows expectations to be set for everyone involved. Even if you’ll be supporting yourself financially in college, inform others that you’ll need to be wise with managing your resources and may not be able splurge on certain items or activities. Talking it out allows everyone to be on the same page.
Essentials first, fun second. When developing a budget, account for necessities first, – housing, transportation, utilities etc. – then designate money for entertainment. Using this order can ensure your living needs are taken care of while still giving you room to enjoy leisure activities. Some college campuses host many fun, free events that could make the most of a small entertainment budget.
Discounts and sales help. Check to see if your favorite stores offer a college student discount, as many companies do. While this tip may not directly relate to developing a budget, it can help you stick to the one you create. Clipping coupons along with shopping on sale can also assist with managing your finances. Browse retailers’ websites or apps for coupons and sales that may help with purchasing items on your shopping list.
Avoid budget busters. Daily coffee runs or trips to the vending machine can eat away at your budget. You don’t have to stop these altogether, but limit yourself to one or two splurges a week. Buying a coffeemaker and snacks from the grocery store can minimize the impact of these habits on your budget. Additionally, instead of eating out often, utilize your college meal plan or pack a lunch. You can see what habits are busting your budget by using a budget tracking app. Trackers can show your spending behavior and give you insight to routines that may need to change.
UCanGo2.org helps students prepare for their transition to college. The most popular publications UCanGo2 offers are the college planning checklists. These checklists are available for grades 6-12 and college freshmen, to help students identify the steps they should be taking to reach their higher education goals.
College Freshman Checklist: Students can use this list to stay on track during their first year of college. One of the tasks listed is to “Search for money.” If a student needs help finding scholarships, they can learn more about financial aid and saving for college from the publication Are You Looking for Money?
Senior Checklist: 12th-grade students may notice many of the steps focus on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which serves as the financial aid application for college. UCanGo2 offers a variety of FAFSA publications:
Not a senior yet? No problem! UCanGo2 also has publications and helpful tools for students to use as they progress through high school. Below are the college planning checklists for each grade, which include information about additional resources:
If you just completed the 8th, 9th or 10th grade, be aware of a very important deadline that’s approaching quickly! In order to apply for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship, your application must be postmarked on or before June 30, 2021.*
The current application requirements for high school sophomores are as follows:
Must be an Oklahoma resident
Application must be received on or before June 30, 2021 *
The parents’ federal adjusted gross income must not exceed $55K per year. ǂ
Even if you’ve decided college isn’t for you, be sure to apply if your family qualifies. By missing this deadline, you’d be closing the door to an opportunity to have some or all of your college tuition paid by the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program. Keep the door open!
*Homeschool applications must be postmarked before the student’s 16th birthday.
ǂ Special income provisions may apply to children adopted from certain court-ordered custody and children in the custody of court-appointed legal guardians as well as families receiving Social Security disability and death benefits.
What you need to know about submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid