7 FAFSA & Financial Aid Myths – Debunked
There is loads of information out there about financial aid – but some of it is outdated (the rules change all the time), and some is just plain false. If you are trying to figure out the financial aid process, it can sometimes be hard to tell fact from fiction, so below we are revealing the truth about 7 common myths about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)®.
Myth #1: My parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, so I shouldn’t even bother applying.
Truth: The fact is, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to how much income you can make and still qualify for financial aid. Most families can qualify for some type of aid – even if it’s just low-interest federal student loans. There are a number of other factors that go into the financial aid formula, so don’t assume that you won’t get aid just based on income alone.
And if you have academic achievements, you could qualify for merit-based aid from the schools, which has nothing to do with income. Many states and schools require the FAFSA to award their own aid as well, so if you don’t apply, you won’t have the opportunity to even find out how much aid you could have received, and you could miss out – big time!
Myth #2: I pay taxes or support myself, so I don’t have to include my parents’ information on the FAFSA form.
Truth: Don’t assume that just because you support yourself, file your own taxes, or live on your own that you are considered independent by FAFSA rules. While independent students do not need to include parental info, you won’t know for sure if you qualify as independent unless you go through the FAFSA filing questions to determine your dependency status.
Myth #3: I don’t need to submit the FAFSA until I’ve been accepted to a school.
Truth: You should file your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st of your senior year of high school. You should list all of the schools you are considering, even if you haven’t even applied to them yet. The schools you list will use the information from your FAFSA to decide how much and what types of aid to offer you. Some aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis, so waiting to file may cost you lost aid dollars. Don’t wait!
Myth #4: The FAFSA deadline isn’t until June, so I don’t need to be in a hurry to file.
Truth: In fact, there are at least 3 different deadlines to be aware of. The federal deadline is different from the state and school deadlines, and certain specific scholarships may have their own deadlines as well.
You can find the state and federal deadlines for the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov, but you will need to check with your school for their deadline – and keep in mind that different schools will often have different deadlines, so when applying to multiple schools, make sure to submit your FAFSA before the earliest deadline.
As mentioned above, we recommend you file your FAFSA as soon after October 1st as possible so you don’t have to worry about missing any deadlines!
Myth #5: I can call FAFSA to find out about my financial aid awards.
Truth: The Federal Student Aid office does not award or disburse your financial aid, so they will not be able to tell you anything about what you might receive. Instead, you should contact the financial aid office at your school to find out when and how much aid you may be offered. Each school has its own timelines for awarding aid, so keep this in mind if you are inquiring at different schools. Typically, you may start receiving award letters as early as the fall of your senior year of high school, but some may not be mailed until spring.
Myth #6: I only have to fill out the FAFSA once, my senior year of high school.
Truth: Actually, you have to fill out the FAFSA form every year that you are in school (Senior year of high school through Junior year of college – and later if you are in school longer than 4 years), in order to remain eligible for federal student aid (as well as other forms of aid that may require the FAFSA). And if you are a parent with multiple children in college at the same time, yes, you have to fill out the FAFSA every year for each child.
Myth #7: Only students with good grades or high test scores receive financial aid.
Truth: Having a high GPA and great test scores can certainly help improve your odds of receiving “merit-based” financial aid, but in terms of federal student aid (or “need-based” aid), grades are not usually considered when awarding financial aid. (However, keep in mind that your college may determine whether or not to continue awarding aid in future years, based on academic performance.)
Unfortunately, studies show that many families who could actually benefit the most from FAFSA awards don’t even fill out the FAFSA. Even if your student is not a star in the classroom, you should still make sure to fill out the FAFSA – especially if you are a low-income household. There is aid out there – but you have to apply for it to get it!
Still have questions? Confused about filing for financial aid? We are here to help! Contact us to find out what we can do to make this easier for you, and make sure you don’t miss deadlines or make other costly mistakes throughout the process.