The Free Application for Federal Student Aid will be opening soon! The FAFSA is a very important form that must be submitted to be considered for financial aid. However, there are many myths circulating that may stop students and families from submitting the FAFSA. Luckily, all of these myths are not true! Below are 15 myths about the FAFSA you should ignore!
Myth 1: I don’t qualify for FAFSA.
Many students and parents think they do not qualify for FAFSA because they make too much money. However, if the student is a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, they qualify to submit the FAFSA. The FAFSA determines federal aid including grants, federal work-study, and loans. The FAFSA also determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Colleges use the EFC to determine financial need (Financial Need = Cost of Attendance – EFC).
Myth 2: College is too expensive.
College sticker prices can seem very intimidating. However, that is what financial aid is all about! In addition to federal financial aid, states and institutions use the FAFSA to help determine eligibility for aid. Each college has their own formula for calculating financial aid. While a private institution might have a high sticker price, students may find their family will pay less out-of-pocket to attend the private school than a public institution!
Myth 3: I can’t fill out the FAFSA until I have applied to colleges.
You can start filling out the FAFSA as soon as it opens for the upcoming year. You can start submitting the FAFSA as early as October 1. Even if you have not submitted your college applications, you can submit the FAFSA. You will be asked to include the codes for the colleges you want to receive the FAFSA. If you think you will be applying to the college, add the college to your list. The information will be sent to the colleges, but they probably will not produce a financial aid award offer until you have been admitted to the institution. In addition, if you change your mind and decide to apply to another school later on, you can always go back in and add more colleges that should receive your FAFSA information.
Myth 4: I support myself so I don’t have to include my parents on the FAFSA.
This may not be true. Even if you live away from your parents, you may still be considered dependent for federal student aid purposes. If you are considered dependent by the FAFSA, your parents’ information will need to be included on the FAFSA. Visit the FAFSA to determine if you are considered dependent or independent for FAFSA purposes.
Myth 5: I have not filed taxes yet so I can’t submit the FAFSA.
This was a big concern for years. However, recently the FAFSA changed tax requirements and now uses prior-prior year taxes. For example, for the 2018-2019 FAFSA, you will use your 2016 taxes. For many families, you would have filed your 2016 taxes by April 15, 2017.
Myth 6: My parents are not citizens, so I can’t fill out the FAFSA.
If the student is a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, they can submit the FAFSA. The FAFSA does not ask about parent’s citizenship. However, it does ask for their social security numbers. If your parents do not have a social security number, you can simple put zeros in its place.
Myth 7: My grades are not good enough to receive aid.
While colleges may use your GPA to determine institutional aid, most federal student aid programs are not dependent on grades.
Myth 8: I filled out the FAFSA last year, so I don’t have to do it again.
Students and parents must submit the FAFSA every year to be considered for aid. Even if your income stays exactly the same, the FAFSA will need to be submitted every year that you will be enrolled in college.
Myth 9: The FAFSA is the only form I need to submit to qualify for financial aid.
The FAFSA is the most common thing colleges require for financial aid. However, nearly 400 colleges may also require the CSS Profile and/or their own financial aid application. Check with each college to determine financial aid requirements and make sure you submit everything early. In addition, pay attention to your email and mail after submitting financial aid documents because some students and parents might be required to submit extra documentation for verification purposes, such as tax forms.
Myth 10: My home value can hurt financial aid chances.
The FAFSA does not consider your family’s primary home. Your primary home is not considered an asset for FAFSA purposes. However, the CSS Profile does collect primary home information. Nearly 400 colleges and professional schools require the CSS Profile.
Myth 11: As long as I submit the FAFSA by the deadline, I’ll be offered financial aid.
Some aid is given on a first come, first serve basis. Unfortunately, some aid options have a certain amount in the budget and some students will be out of luck if they submit too late. Therefore, it is best to apply as early as possible.
Myth 12: I didn’t qualify for aid last year, so I won’t qualify this year.
Things can change from year to year in your own income, as well as the way colleges award financial aid. Everyone should fill out the FAFSA every year.
Myth 13: My Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is what I have to pay for college – financial aid will cover the rest.
While there are some colleges that meet full financial need, there are many more that do not. Each college has their own formula to determine the amount of financial aid they will award to students. Therefore, students need to do further research when looking at colleges and make sure the colleges they are considering are good financial fits. Check the net price calculators at the colleges you are considering to get an estimate of the amount of aid you may be awarded if you are admitted to the institution.
Myth 14: The EFC is set in stone.
Colleges understand that sometimes circumstances change. The FAFSA does have a place for you to explain income changes, but you can talk to colleges. If your income has changed drastically, or if there is some other circumstance colleges should know about, contact each of the financial aid offices at the colleges you are applying to discuss special circumstances. Most colleges will probably ask for documentation to prove the change and when financial aid is awarded, colleges will take the special circumstances into account and make the necessary changes.
Myth 15: It costs money to submit the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is free to submit. Free is even in the name! There are some companies that offer to fill out the FAFSA for you for a fee. In addition, some companies claim if you pay them to fill out the FAFSA, you will receive more financial aid. This is not the case. The FAFSA is free and you should not pay anyone to fill out the FAFSA for you.
Don’t believe any of the myths! If you want to be considered for financial aid, make sure you submit the FAFSA.