The phrase, “I don’t qualify for FAFSA,” is something admission counselors, financial aid officers, and college counselors hear all the time. The phrase usually comes from students or their parents when discussing financial aid requirements. However, 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 also 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. 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. This 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.
Therefore, if you are heading to college next year, don’t forget to submit the FAFSA. The FAFSA has been available to students and their parents since Jan. 1, 2016 for the 2016-2017 academic year. And, remember, students and parents must fill out the FAFSA every year!