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!

Homeless Students and the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks up to three questions about homelessness. They ask if you’ve been determined as an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, or you were self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless any time since July 1, 2020…if you’re completing the 2021-2022 FAFSA. This timeframe is based on the year prior to the academic year for which you will need financial aid for college.

The homeless 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.

A student is considered unaccompanied if he or she is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. 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, 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.

If you answer yes to any one of the questions about homelessness on the FAFSA, you’ll be considered an independent student; therefore, you won’t have to provide your parents’ income information on the application. Later, 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 decision. The aid officer will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

When providing a street address on your FAFSA, follow these instructions given by 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 from StudentAid.gov.

We wish you the very best as you begin your journey to a bright future!

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.

IRS DRT

The 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened on Oct. 1. The FAFSA is a form that details a student’s financial situation, which is shared with selected colleges and universities to determine how much financial aid to offer the student. 

In order to share financial information, students and parents must submit their 2019 W-2 forms and tax returns. Families have the option to input this information manually, but there is another tool available that can make the process easier.

The Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) is a feature located inside the online and mobile app FAFSA. It allows students and parents to transfer 2019 tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA.

There are several benefits to using the IRS DRT:

1. It saves time as you’re completing the FAFSA. Instead of hunting for the correct numbers on your tax forms and running the risk of making an error, you’ll simply type a few words, click a few buttons, and the bulk of the tax questions on your FAFSA will be complete!

2. Using the IRS DRT reduces your chances of being selected for verification. Verification is the process your school uses to confirm the information provided on the FAFSA is accurate. During the verification process, your school may request various documents to verify the information provided on your FAFSA. Errors that occur when entering tax information manually can cause a student to be selected for verification.

3. If you do happen to be selected for verification, having used the IRS DRT will simplify the process. If you use the IRS DRT and are selected for verification, you will not have to provide any documentation to verify tax data. Your school will know it is accurate since it was transferred directly from the IRS into your FAFSA.

While using the IRS DRT is optional, students and parents are encouraged to use the tool to create a smoother and more accurate application process.

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!

Everyone Should Apply

Students will make many decisions, from picking a college to choosing a major, but something students should never debate is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for various types of federal financial aid, which comes in the form of grants, work-study and student loans. While some students believe they won’t qualify for financial aid, all students should submit a FAFSA. Make sure these common myths aren’t holding you back.

Grades are a factor. Some may think good grades are required to submit the FAFSA, but that isn’t true. The application doesn’t ask about grades, your GPA or class ranking. Instead, it seeks to gather your financial information to determine your eligibility for various forms of federal and state aid.

Your parents make too much. A common statement is, “My parents make too much money, so I won’t get any aid.” Until you submit the FAFSA, you won’t know your eligibility for financial aid. Before counting yourself out, complete the FAFSA to learn about your aid options. Most students are eligible to receive some type of financial assistance.

One time isn’t enough. Unlike an admission application that you submit once, the FAFSA must be completed each year you’d like to receive financial aid. This tip is specifically for returning college students. Renew your application each year after Oct. 1 so you can receive as much financial aid as possible for the next academic year.

Adult learners aren’t included. Financial aid isn’t just for recent high school graduates, it’s for all college students – which includes adult learners. Whether you’re returning to school after many years or immediately diving into a graduate program after completing your bachelor’s degree, be sure to submit the FAFSA to determine your aid eligibility. If your child is going to college and you’ve submitted a FAFSA for them, you’ll still need to submit your own application. This will help the college financial aid office create an aid award for you and a separate award for your child.

Remember, you won’t know how much aid you can receive until you submit the FAFSA. Don’t leave it up to chance. Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 each year. To learn more about the FAFSA and how to apply, visit FAFSA.gov.

Who is My Parent on the FAFSA?

The answer to this question depends on your dependency status. If you’re considered an independent student, meaning you’ve answered YES to at least one dependency question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll report your own information (and your spouse’s, if married).

If you’re a dependent student for FAFSA purposes, you’ll need to provide information about your legal parent(s) on the application. A legal parent is your biological or adoptive parent, or your legal parent as determined by the state (for example, if the parent is listed on your birth certificate). If you have a stepparent currently married to your legal parent, you generally also must provide information about him or her.

If you need to report parental information, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • If your legal parents are married to each other, include information for both of them on your FAFSA.
  • If your legal parents (biological and/or adoptive parents) are not married to each other and live together, include information for both.
  • If your legal parent is widowed or was never married, include information only for your legal parent.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together:
    • Include the information about the parent you lived with most over the last 12 months. Also provide information for the stepparent, if your parent has remarried.
    • If you lived with each parent for an equal amount of time, include information for the parent who provided you the most financial support over the last 12 months, or during the most recent 12 months that you received support from your parent(s). Also provide information for your stepparent, if your parent has remarried
  • If your parents are divorced but are still living together:
    • Report their status as ‘Unmarried and both legal parents living together’
    • Include information for both parents
  • If your parents are separated but are still living together:
    • Report their status as ‘Married or remarried’ (not ‘Divorced or separated’)
    • Include information for both parents

One exception to note: The FAFSA will ask about your parents’ education level. Please answer the questions about the education levels of your birth or adoptive parents. A stepparent is not classified as a parent for those questions.

About the FSA ID

Oct. 1 is just around the corner, which is the day the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, becomes available. The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for various forms of federal financial aid like grants, work-study and student loans. To ensure you’re prepared to submit your FAFSA after Oct. 1, create your FSA ID ahead of time. This ID is the username and password you’ll use to log in and sign the FAFSA, along with other financial aid documents. One of your parents will need to create a FSA ID, as well. Here are a few tips to help with the process.

Provide personal information. When creating your FSA ID, you’ll be asked to provide your birthdate, Social Security number, phone number and physical address. The same is true for your parent(s). If your parent(s) doesn’t have a Social Security number, they won’t be able to create an FSA ID. They will, however, be able to sign your FAFSA another way. To learn how to sign the FAFSA without an FSA ID, visit StudentAid.gov.

Choose the right email address. You and your parent will also need to enter an email address. Your email address must be different from your parent’s. Be sure to use an email address that’s not issued by your school, since you won’t have access to that email account once you graduate. To ensure you receive all important information on your financial aid eligibility, provide a personal email address when creating your FSA ID.

Select challenge questions. To help with resetting your password for the future, you must select four challenge questions and provide the answers to them. You’ll choose these questions from a drop-down menu. Use our FSA ID worksheet to keep track of your answers.

Allow enough time. It takes about 10-20 minutes to create the FSA ID. As with the FAFSA, give yourself plenty of time to do this. Try to complete the FSA ID process in one sitting, as you won’t be able to save your information and return later to finish this step. Also, it’s important to be near your mobile device and have access to your email during this process. Secure codes will be sent to these devices for confirmation, and you’ll be required to enter them within a limited timeframe to create your FSA ID. By creating your FSA ID before starting the FAFSA, you’ll be better prepared for the entire completion process. Create your FSA ID today at FSAID.ed.gov.

Find Your Latest Tax Return

When you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or after Oct. 1 this year, you’ll be required to report your income and tax information, along with that of your parents or spouse, if applicable. The tax year will always be two years before the start of the academic term for which you’re applying for aid. For example, if you’re going to submit a FAFSA for the 2021-2022 school year, you’ll need your 2019 tax information.

Many applicants will choose to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will automatically transfer the information from a designated tax return to their FAFSA. But even if your use the DRT, it’s still helpful to have your tax return and W-2s on hand when you complete your FAFSA.

Here are two reasons why:

  • If a tax return was filed as ‘Married, Filing Jointly’ and two people who filed a joint return are reporting their income on a FAFSA, they’ll still need to report their two incomes separately. Their separate incomes are shown on their W-2s.
  • Occasionally, the IRS website may be slow, or the IRS DRT may be a little uncooperative. It’s also possible that a filer may not qualify to use the DRT. In order to continue, you may find it easier just to enter the income and tax figures yourself. In order to do that, you’ll need your tax return. The good news here is that the FAFSA will direct you to the correct line of the tax return for the information requested.

Ensuring that everyone whose information is required on your FAFSA knows the location of their latest tax return will make the whole FAFSA process more comfortable for everyone involved. After all, October is really not that far away!

Completing the 2021-22 FAFSA

It’s almost time to start the 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA! This application will help determine your financial aid eligibility if you plan to attend college in the fall of 2021. We’ve created a helpful list of steps to guide you through the application process.

  1. Gather Materials: Before getting started, you’ll need to make sure you have your Social Security card, current bank statements, and your 2019 W2 and tax return. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll also need your parent(s)’ financial information and 2019 tax returns.
  2. Create an FSA ID: The FSA ID, or Federal Student Aid ID, is a username and password that you’ll use to log-in to your FAFSA. It will also serve as your electronic signature for completing the application. To create an FSA ID, visit fsaid.ed.gov. Remember to use our FSA ID Worksheet (also available in Spanish) to keep track of your username and password. If you are a dependent student, a parent or guardian will also need to create a FSA ID.
  3. Fill It Out: Starting Oct. 1, you can access the new FAFSA at FAFSA.gov.
  4. Sign & Submit: Enter your FSA ID for your electronic signature. If you’re a dependent student, remember a parent will have to provide their electronic signature, as well. Don’t forget to click ‘submit’ at the bottom of the screen!
  5. Follow Up: Keep an eye out for a Student Aid Report (SAR) email, as well as information from the colleges you applied to. Sometimes campuses ask for additional paperwork, so watch for possible requests. If you have any questions after receiving your financial aid offer, follow up with the financial aid office at your campus.

For more details, check out the Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps guide or watch the Finish the FAFSA in Five videos on the StartWithFAFSA website, available in both English and Spanish.