7 FAFSA & Financial Aid Myths – Debunked
Planning for college can be a confusing endeavor for many reasons. From choosing the right school for the right value, to making sure your student is properly prepared, to figuring out the ultimate question of how to pay for it, there are so many moving pieces - and mistakes in any area can cost you big.
Financial aid is one piece of the puzzle that many families hope to rely on to help fill the gap. While there is is lots of information out there about financial aid, some of it is outdated (the rules change all the time), and some is just plain false.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: This is one of the most costly financial aid myths, and 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.
Not to mention, if your student has 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.studentaid.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 your student is 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 – and especially if you are a low-income household. There is aid out there – but you won't get it if you don't apply!
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 help you avoid costly mistakes throughout the process.
Photo by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images.
Adapted from Accfs.com
The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is not a solicitation for the purchase of any financial product. The statements and opinions expressed are those of the author and are subject to change at any time. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, presenting financial professional makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax or investment advice.