Whether you’re a college-bound student or the parent of one, chances are excellent
you will encounter the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form — and
may have some preconceived ideas about what to expect when you do. But according to
Ed Pacchetti ’91, director of Customer Analytics at Federal Student Aid, some of those
expectations may be based on inaccurate or outdated assumptions, and can even discourage
families from applying for financial aid. With that in mind, here’s a list of some
common myths about FAFSA and applying for financial aid.
Myth: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.
Fact: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t
matter if you have a low or high income, you will still qualify for some type of financial
aid, including low-interest student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your
family size and your year in school—are taken into account. Your eligibility is determined
by a mathematical formula, not by your parents’ income alone.
Myth: I have to wait to file my taxes before I can fill out the FAFSA.
Fact: No need to wait. With new rules in place that Pacchetti helped implement, you can
complete the current FAFSA as soon as October 1, 2017, using 2016 income and tax information.
You won’t have to update your FAFSA after filing 2017 taxes either, because 2016 information
is what’s required.
Myth: I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA.
Fact: Not necessarily. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own
taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA
asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you are independent,
you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA. But if you are
dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.
Myth: I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA.
Fact: Why wait? As a matter of fact, you can start as early as your senior year of high
school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You can list
all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. The
schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts
of aid you may receive. If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA,
you can login at fafsa.gov and submit a correction. You should submit a FAFSA as early
as possible after October 1 because some states and schools have limited funds.
Myth: There’s only one FAFSA deadline, and that’s not until June.
Fact: There are three main deadlines you need to check: your state, school and federal
deadlines. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. Also,
if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA, they might have a different
deadline as well. And students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA well before those
deadlines to make sure they don’t miss out on any aid.
Myth: Only students with good grades get financial aid.
Fact: While a high grade point average will help you get into a good school and may help
with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into
consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving
aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic
progress as determined by your school.
Myth: It costs money to submit the FAFSA.
Fact: You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA when you go to fafsa.gov. If you’re
paying a fee, you’re not on the official government website.
Information provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student
Aid. To learn more and submit a free FAFSA application, go to fafsa.ed.gov.