FAFSA misconception: ‘I don’t qualify for FAFSA’

The phrase, “I don’t qualify for FAFSA,” is something that admission counselors and financial aid officers hear all the time. The phrase is usually a response following a discussion about financial aid requirements. Many colleges require students to fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for financial aid. The phrase, “I don’t qualify for FAFSA,” is a common misconception and here are the reasons why:

  • The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. United States citizens and eligible non-citizens are eligible to fill out the FAFSA.
  • The FAFSA determines federal financial aid eligibility such as the Pell Grant, federal work-study and loans.
  • Information provided on the FAFSA is used by states that award state government aid.
  • The FAFSA determines a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Colleges use EFC to determine financial aid eligibility and financial need. Financial need is determined by taking the EFC from the total cost of attendance.

The big misconception when people say, “I don’t qualify for FAFSA,” is that they believe they make too much money to qualify for financial aid. While it could be true a student might not qualify for federal or state grants, they still might qualify for other aid:

  • Many students, even students from high-income families, could qualify for federal loans. While it is still a loan, the interest rate is low compared to many other private loans a student could take out to help pay for their college education.
  • The cost of attendance at colleges in the United States varies hugely. Some colleges cost as little as a few thousand dollars a year to over $60,000 per year. When colleges are awarding financial aid based on financial need, a student with a high EFC could qualify for financial assistance, including scholarships and grants, at more expensive colleges.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates it takes approximately 23 minutes to fill out the FAFSA. A short period of time filling out the FAFSA is well worth the time if a student could get even a small amount of financial aid. Every little bit helps when it comes to paying for a college education.

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