7 Common Myths about Financial Aid

College application deadlines are fast approaching and you may be wondering if you can even afford to go to college. What you might not know is that the federal government provides almost $150 billion a year to help students just like you pay for college. Right now, you’re probably thinking of all of the reasons why you won’t qualify for financial aid. Please don’t waste your time worrying- you could be using this time to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Here are some common myths about financial aid that you shouldn’t believe.

Myth #1: My family makes too much money for me to qualify for aid.

There is no income cut-off for federal student aid. Your eligibility for financial aid is based on a number of factors and not just your income. Plus, many states and schools use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for their aid. If you’re not sure what you will get, the best way to know for sure is to complete the application!

Myth #2: I need to file taxes before completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or (FAFSA).

You can use estimated information on your FAFSA so you’ll be able to submit it before you file taxes. In fact, many states and schools have financial aid deadlines well before the tax deadline. So completing your FAFSA earlier is a good idea. You might want to base your estimates on last year’s tax return, and once you file your taxes, you can log back in and update the information. You may even be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import your tax information into your FAFSA. 

Myth #3: The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.

This is a very common misconception, but the FAFSA has come a long way! It’s easier than ever to complete online. The form uses “skip logic,” so you are only asked the questions that are relevant to you. And if you’ve filed your taxes, you can transfer your tax return data into your FAFSA automatically. As a result of improvements like these, the average time to complete the FAFSA is now less than 21 minutes. If you do get stuck, help is available by Web chat, e-mail and phone.

Myth #4: My grades aren’t good enough for me to get aid.

Eligibility for most federal student aid programs is not linked to your academic performance. However, you will need to maintain grades that your school considers satisfactory in order to continue receiving financial aid. 

Myth #5: My ethnicity or age makes me ineligible for aid.

There are basic eligibility requirements, but ethnicity and age are not considered.

Myth #6: I support myself, so I don’t have to include parent info on the FAFSA.
This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. You can determine your dependency status by answering these questions. 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 #7: I already completed the FAFSA so I don’t need to complete it again.
You need to complete the FAFSA every year you plan to attend college or career school. Don’t worry; it will be even easier the second or third time around since a lot of your information will be pre-populated on the application.

Millions of students complete the FAFSA each year and receive financial aid to help pay for college. Don’t let these myths stop you from achieving your goals. Take the first step by completing the FAFSA at fafsa.gov.

Tara Marini is a communication analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

22 Comments

  1. Most people don’t realize that people in prison get a big bite of the FAFSA money because they automatically qualify with no income. They take courses to get time off their sentences. What a shame that we honor our prisoners before the students that stayed out of trouble and just want to make a good life for themselves with an honest living.

  2. I hate to say it but most of these myths rang true for us. The entire process was a nightmare. And if $1,000 is FA for a school that costs $48,000/yr this wasn’t even worth the agony of completing it.

  3. Hi,
    I like your article. I have a question that If the student aid applications are asking for financial info of the parents of the student, can they give an other person’s financial info?

  4. I am being laid off this January (2015), and that will not be reflected on my last year taxes (based on the last year income, my daughter doesn’t qualify for any help). Can this be reported somehow?

    • Your daughter should contact her college’s financial aid office(s) in late February, early March to discuss this. Proof will have to be supplied to the college that this is true. She is trying to be included in a process called Professional Judgement. In the meantime, go ahead and complete the FAFSA now as if this is not the case. This is not an unusual situation and the colleges will be ready to work with you and your daughter.

  5. We filled out the FAFSA for our daughter last year. We started with estimates, then updated our info after filing our taxes. We were never able to update our info “automatically” through the IRS data (errors every time I tried). In November we were asked to submit proof for something or another from her school. That time I could do the updates. Found out just last week that one of her school aid awards ($700) was revoked and her non-subsidised loan too. 🙁 Now we owe the school about $1200 and wondering where the heck we will come up with that.

    I guess being able to attend college with a lot of financial aid myself (my mon was a single mom without much income), didn’t make me think about reality for our kids. Wish we could actually find some scholarships for a straight A student (HS and so far in college) that don’t require you to be an athlete or minority. 🙁

  6. My step daughter is currently applying to college. Since I’m already paying for my son’s college I cannot afford to pay her college fees. Unfortunately, the student aid applications are asking for my financial info even though I cannot help her. Does this mean that she will automatically not qualify for scholarships?

    • She will qualify to receive it.she most likely will have to apply for loans and scholarships.fasfa max is 5555.00 and that is to last all semesters she goes.I would recommend going to fast web.com apply for scholarships or to her guidance counselor they can help her find scholarships that she quality’s for.

      • That is incorrect. It’s $5500 per academic year, not THE WHOLE TIME she attends school. This year will be the 3rd that I have been using FAFSA for my financial aid, and I don’t get where all the confusion is… Maybe because I am doing it for myself and not having my parents do it for me… Hmm. maybe we are on to something…

  7. I have received an award amount for FAFSA and as a Military spouse awarded a discount with a book voucher. However, it do not cover all of the cost and I was told the FSEOG is not available now. Is there any other grant that I can apply for at this later date for the spring semester without applying for a loan.

  8. Her comment is accurate. She states you can submit your application with estimated taxes prior to filing. You can then update the information once you’ve filed. Filed taxes are not essential for FAFSA submission.

  9. The income portion is also bogus. My daughter lives on her own and I did not claim her on taxes yet my income was still considered. I don’t make much but she was denied any assistance and told she was only eligible for student loans. And yes, they not only required my actual tax returns, they also gave me hell for claiming I paid $200 a month child support that was not court ordered and taken directly from my check. I gave them every proof possible and they wouldn’t accept it.

    • I found that after you complete the FAFSA and receive from your schools Financial Aid office that if you think too much is still expected out of pocket you can fill write them if you have other circumstances in your life. I did that twice in the 4 yrs my son attended college. In fact he is a Senior now and with tuition going up and my husband receiving his SS# while still working FAFSA had made the conclusion that we were to dig deeper. But after speaking with my sons Fin Aid dept and writing a letter explaining our situation they made adjustments that cut back our out of pocket by about 2/3rds.

    • Don’t feel bad, I got a $550 fine from the I.R.S. for a mistake H&R block made on my return.

      • As far as the IRS is concerned, YOU are responsible for everything on your return, regardless of who prepared it. If your preparer made a mistake, you would need to take it up with them civilly… like, you know, suing them.

    • She would have to go back and redo her fasfa claim herself as a independent.To receive it.Alot of times they will give you a run around.As long as she has no income coming from you at all.she should get help

  10. Since my daughter’s wages are currently being garnished for non-repayment/default on her student loans, does this exclude her from being able to obtain additional student loans/financial aid to complete her college education?

    • If she is still in a defaulted status in her loans, she would not be eligible. Once the loans have been considered rehabilitated (which typically takes 9 months of consecutive payments) she can re-qualify. She can check the status at nslds.ed.gov.

  11. Your comments on you don’t need to file a tax return are bogus. I have put two kids thru college using FAFSA and both times, I couldn’t get my kids money approved until I submitted valid tax returns…..

    • I think the author’s point above is that you don’t need the physical return in your hands to file the FAFSA since you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to upload that information. However, if the student is Pell eligible and tax data is estimated or not uploaded directly from the IRS then the FAFSA likely to be selected for verification in which case you are correct, actual tax transcripts and household size information must be submitted to the school to verify that the reported information is accurate. This prevents abuse and ensures aid is awarded properly. Sometimes there is no error because the selection is just random, but the school still has to verify it and sometimes the error is a typo, but it results in a change to eligibility. For example, if you leave off a zero and report $10,000 in income either deliberately or by accident but actually made $100,000, that makes a difference.

    • You don’t need to have filed to get your FAFSA started. Many Pell Grants and SEOG’s and other grant from your state and Fed are based on first come first serve. So FAFSA will allow a application to be started to be “put in line” so to say. But you will be required to show a completed tax return at some point. This article is skimming the surface of FAFSA. It’s not written to give all the details.

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