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February 25, 2008 :: Completing the FAFSA Is Important Step in College Planning

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As part of Financial Aid Awareness Week Feb. 24 through March 1, the Oklahoma Guaranteed Student Loan Program (OGSLP) is encouraging all college-bound students to fill out one more application: the FAFSA.

Billions of dollars in financial aid, including free federal and state grants and federal student loans, are available upon completion of the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Experts recommend students complete the application as soon as possible after Jan. 1 during their senior year of high school.

Gov. Brad Henry proclaimed Financial Aid Awareness Week in Oklahoma to promote early exploration of financial aid options on college campuses and in high schools. Mary Mowdy, OGSLP executive director, said an early start is important, especially for financial aid.

“Many financial aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said. “Classes may not begin until fall, but the distribution of money to pay for college starts much earlier.”

The FAFSA can be completed online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The U.S. Department of Education estimates the form will take less than an hour to complete if all necessary paperwork, such as tax records, bank statements and Social Security cards, is in on hand. Students and parents can apply for a personal identification number (PIN), which allows required signatures to be made electronically.

“Even if students think they aren’t eligible for aid, they should still fill out the FAFSA,” Mowdy said. “Many students underestimate their financial need or don’t realize they may qualify for other programs, like federal work-study.”

While the online version of the FAFSA is recommended because it’s the most efficient method, paper applications are also available. Students and parents can request a hard copy of the FAFSA by calling (800) 4-FED-AID or from high school counselors and campus financial aid offices.

For help during the process and to ensure campus-specific deadlines are met, students can contact their college’s financial aid office. The FAFSA is free, so students should be leery of organizations that charge a fee to complete the application.

To learn more about the financial aid process, grants and scholarships, and student loans, visit www.ogslp.org or call OGSLP toll-free at (800) 442-8642.

The Oklahoma Guaranteed Student Loan Program (OGSLP) is a guarantor for the Federal Family Education Loan Program and serves as the primary guarantor for Oklahoma students and post-secondary institutions, insuring lenders against default, bankruptcy, disability or death of student loan borrowers.