You’ve narrowed your college choices down to a handful of schools (hopefully OTC!) and now you have to figure out how to pay for it. What do you do? Follow the advice of OTC financial aid experts Kim Cary and Linda Johns. You aren’t the first person to have questions about the enrollment process.
But first thing’s first: Submit your FAFSA (and as quickly as possible).
Submit your FAFSA
An update went into effect last year allowing students to submit their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) up to three months earlier than in previous years, starting Oct. 1. In addition, the update also requires you only to report your income and tax information from the “prior-prior year.” Now, students don’t have to scramble to get this year’s taxes done before they can begin making financial decisions about college.
So, for example, if you plan on registering for the 2018-19 academic year, you will be able to submit the FAFSA beginning Oct. 1 through June 30, 2018 using your income and tax information from 2016. How nice is that?
It is important to file your FAFSA information as quickly as you can because the goal is to have as much money available to you as possible.
“If you file your federal aid and realize you aren’t getting as much as you hoped for, you can then compare total costs to other schools,” said Cary. “Submitting the FAFSA earlier allows you to seek out the most cost-efficient option for education by giving you the potential to receive more state and school aid.”
According to Cary, OTC will have its computer labs open several nights this November to assist anyone in the community who wants help filling out the FAFSA.
“Whether they come to OTC or attend another college, we try to be a valuable resource,” said Johns.
Apply for scholarships
The FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for federal and state grants and loans, such as the Pell Grant, but there are other financial resources students can seek to help pay for college. On average, 640 students receive more than $800,000 in OTC scholarships each year.
There are two types of scholarships available: OTC Institutional scholarships and OTC Foundation scholarships. Institutional scholarships are provided by the college. These scholarships act as tuition waivers, which simply means a portion of your tuition and fees are taken care of by OTC. Foundation scholarships are a little different — these scholarships are private gifts from local donors and each one has different criteria for eligibility. For more information regarding financial aid and scholarship deadlines, you can visit this webpage.
Last but not least, keep in touch with your counselor
Cary recommends that students with any questions about the college enrollment process should seek out their high school counselor for advice.
“Students aren’t going to come to us; they are coming to their high school counselor,” she said.
Earlier this month, OTC held their 19th annual FAFSA information session with counselors from all across the state. The counselors were updated on the FAFSA changes, scholarship information and the college enrollment process after a student completes their FAFSA. OTC also had members of the Missouri Department of Higher Education in attendance who provided a state update, primarily regarding the A+ scholarship program.
According to Johns, it was a very successful event with around 85 counselors in attendance. The information given to these counselors will now be passed on to students throughout the state.
“We are starting to inform seniors earlier to help them realize that this is a process and cost is an important catalyst in deciding what institution you want to attend.”