9 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.


MYTH 1:
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; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!


MYTH 2:
I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. 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 form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. But if you’re dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

If you’re a dependent student, find out who is considered your parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)


MYTH 3:
I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can start now! 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 SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

  • You can add up to 10 schools at a time.
  • If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.
  • If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.


MYTH 4:
If I didn’t receive enough money for school. I’m just out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these 7 options.


MYTH 5:
I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid money I’m getting and when.

FACT: No, you’ll have to contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll get or when you’ll get it. You will have to contact the financial aid office at your school to find out the status of your aid and when you should expect it. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.


MYTH 6:
There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find the state and federal deadlines at StudentAid.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check all of their deadlines and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA form, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.


MYTH 7:
I only have to fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.


MYTH 8:
I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, if you’re a dependent student, then two people will need their own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online:

  1. You (the student)
  2. One of your parents

An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as StudentAid.gov.

If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need a unique email address for each FSA ID.

Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your FSA ID to anyone—not even to someone helping you fill out the FAFSA form. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft and could cause delays in the FAFSA process!


MYTH 9:
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.


So what’s next?

Go to StudentAid.gov and fill out the application. If you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA form, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school.

#RethinkSchool: Struggling Student Discovers Path through Colorado Apprenticeship Program

Sierra didn’t always dream of working in the insurance business. In fact, until recently, she didn’t even know if she’d finish high school.

But with the help of a caring counselor, a local business and an innovative state effort, Sierra is now thriving in her new role as a full-time employee at Pinnacol Assurance.

Her journey from struggling student to working professional began when Sierra’s counselor approached her with a new opportunity through CareerWise, a Colorado nonprofit that helps businesses recruit talent through paid apprenticeships that begin in high school.

Read More

How Computer Science Encourages Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

Five years ago, I sat in front of my computer with my 7-year-old daughter and completed the Hour of Code. She absolutely loved the idea of typing something and seeing animation as a result. This was the first time she was exposed to computer science and coding.

We spent hours completing various activities online and seeing things move, jump and make sounds. I have always loved technology, so seeing my daughter enjoy it made me proud.

However, after a while, I noticed she didn’t enjoy typing on a computer as much as I did. We were missing a physical component, beyond the visuals on the computer screen.

Read More

15 Fast Facts about the Swiss Apprenticeship Program

This morning, the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor and Commerce joined the Swiss government in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on apprenticeships. This agreement will build upon ongoing collaboration between the United States and Switzerland to encourage businesses and stakeholders to promote the value of apprenticeship programs and develop effective strategies to increase awareness of and access to work-based learning.

Read More

Exemplary Student Art and Writing Honored at U.S. Department of Education

Scholastic, Association of Art Museum Directors, Encourage Students’ Education Through the Arts

The braces aren’t immediately detectable, tucked inside the pant legs of their owner, 17-year-old Tim Farmer. They are a vital part of Tim’s life, however, and are the focus of his photograph and essay on display at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tim travelled recently from Bentonville, Arkansas, to attend a joint celebration at ED of exceptional student art and writing. Some of it, like Tim’s, came to ED from 11 museum members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which views art education and the promotion of student art as central to its and its members’ mission; others won top honors in the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition. On hand for the art exhibit opening were student artists and writers from across the country, their families, arts educators and leaders, congressional staff, and ED staff.

Read More

#RethinkSchool: iLEAD Academy Students Take the Lead in Northern Kentucky

“Strangely, I’ve started a school, and I am not an educator,” said Alicia Sells, founder of iLEAD Academy, a STEM high school in northern Kentucky.

Sells’ background is in public policy. She noticed that neighboring Kentucky school districts of Gallatin, Carroll, Henry, Owen and Trimble did not offer a dedicated STEM program and, as a result, many students’ needs were not met in their preparation for the workplace.

iLEAD Academy is in session as students receive instruction, have discussions, and create in the maker spaces. (Photo credit: Alicia Sells)

Robert Stafford, superintendent of Owen County Schools, is the only current superintendent among the five districts who was present at the creation of iLEAD Academy. “When we initially got together – the five districts – we wanted to offer a really robust STEM program in engineering. It was driven by Alicia [Sells] pulling us all together to create the iLEAD Academy,” Stafford said.

Read More

The 5 Most Helpful Federal Student Aid Blog Posts

Not attending the FSA conference this week? Learn from home using these resources.

With Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) Annual Conference in full swing in Atlanta, we understand that not everyone is able to attend and learn from financial aid experts. However, you don’t have to be a financial aid professional to become a FAFSA expert.

Here are the Top 5 FSA blog posts to help students and parents become FAFSA ‘pros’:

Read More

Secretary DeVos Warns of Student Debt Crisis

Secretary Betsy DeVos delivers opening remarks at the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference in Atlanta. She stands at a lectern to the side of an American flag and a U.S. Department of Education flag at the left of the photo. In the background is a large banner with "Federal Student Aid An Office of the U.S. Department of Education" written on it.
Secretary DeVos delivered the opening remarks at this year’s Federal Student Aid Training Conference, raising “a warning flag with American students and American taxpayers.” While noting that “our higher ed system is the envy of the world,” she also cautioned, “if we, as a country, do not make important policy changes in the way we distribute, administer, and manage federal student loans, the program on which so many students rely will be in serious jeopardy.”

In addition to her warnings about the looming student debt crisis, the Secretary also recognized administrators for their valuable work and shared some of the ways the administration is rethinking financial aid.

If you missed the Secretary’s speech, here are the three greatest takeaways for financial aid administrators.

Read More

ED’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives Hosts Opioid Prevention Listening Session

In 2016 alone, 42, 249 Americans died of opioid overdoses.  President Donald J. Trump declared the nation’s opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017 as the crisis continued to persist.  More than 300,000 Americans have died from overdose since 2000 and this public health emergency has had a profound effect on students and families.  Opioid addiction and overdose has been coined the “crisis next door” as it plagues American communities from cities to suburbs and rural areas.  On October 2, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (CFOI) hosted an opioid prevention listening session with faith leaders who work with students in opioid abuse prevention and recovery to educate and engage stakeholders.

Read More

Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group Releases Rural Resource Guide

The Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group recently released a Rural Resource Guide to help rural communities address the opioid epidemic. The guide is “a listing of Federal programs that can be used to build resilient communities and address opioid misuse in rural communities. The Rural Resource Guide to Help Communities Address Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse (PDF, 1.7 MB) is a first-of-its-kind, one-stop-shop for rural leaders looking for Federal funding and partnership opportunities,” according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Read More

Sustainable School Successes in the “Show-Me” State

Imagine asking a group of urban students how they upcycle. I assumed I would get answers such as, ‘We keep scrap paper and use it for other projects’ or ’We reuse cardboard paper towel inserts for various projects in our classes’. However, after participating in this year’s “Living School Grounds” 2018 Green Strides Tour in St. Louis, Missouri and seeing the innovative efforts of nine unique schools, I have a new understanding of what it means to be green.

Each of the schools we visited on the 2018 Green Strides Tour demonstrated progress in the three Pillars of ED-GRS: 1) sustainable facilities and grounds, 2) health and wellness and 3) environmental and sustainability learning. These award Pillars are excellent areas to tackle if our overarching aims are to advance student and community engagement; reduce school operating costs and improve health.

Read More

#RethinkSchool: Military Family Finds Homeschooling to be Just the Right Fit

When asked to share their thoughts on the benefits of school choice and their homeschool experience, this military family did what they do every day: they turned the occasion into a learning opportunity. Dan, his wife Jenna, and their six kids gathered at the dinner table to shape a response – as individual, independent thinkers and as a family.

In this interview, slightly edited for length and clarity, the family describes the transformative of impact school choice.

Read More