7 Myths About the 2017–18 FAFSA Debunked

7 Myths About the 2017-18 FAFSA Debunked

You might have heard that the next FAFSA® will be available on October 1, 2016 as opposed to January 1, 2017. Well, it’s not a myth! If you (or your child) are planning to go to college during the 2017–18 academic year, you’ll want to make sure you have your facts straight. Check out the 7 myths about the FAFSA below.


MYTH 1:
I used 2015 tax information last year and didn’t get any aid, so it’s pointless to fill out the FAFSA again.

FACT: Not pointless! Your aid award could be different this year.
If you filed a 2016–17 FAFSA and received an award letter from your school, don’t assume that next year’s financial aid award will be the same. We ask you to complete the FAFSA annually because the factors used to calculate your aid could change each year. Things like your year in school, family income, and cost of attendance at your school are just a few factors used to determine your aid. You never know what aid you may get if you don’t complete the FAFSA, so don’t let last year’s award deter you from potential aid you may receive this year. Even if you did not get the Federal Pell Grant last year, you could still be eligible for other types of aid this year. This includes work-study and low-interest loans. Also, many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA to be considered for their aid as well.


MYTH 2:
I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with 2016 data after I file taxes.

FACT: Nope! You won’t need to update your FAFSA since you will be using your 2015 tax information.
Unlike the FAFSA in the past, you won’t have to use estimates or make updates after filing taxes. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 income and tax information which you should already have. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.


MYTH 3:
I can choose which year’s tax information I provide on the FAFSA.

FACT: No, you won’t be able to choose.
The FAFSA has always asked for one specific tax year to be reported. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 tax information, and that’s what you have to provide. You can’t choose to provide 2016 information if you feel it’ll benefit you in some way. If your income was lower in 2016 than in 2015, you still need to provide 2015 tax information, and then you can contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and let them know your situation has changed. They have the ability to review your situation and consider making adjustments to your FAFSA.


MYTH 4:
I will get an award letter from my school earlier.

FACT: That’s really up to the school.
Some schools may send you an award letter earlier, while other schools may stick to the timeline they have used in the past. Remember that your school disburses your aid, not FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details.


MYTH 5:
I can re-use my 2016–17 FAFSA since my 2015 income and tax information will be the same.

FACT: No, you still need to submit a renewal or a new 2017–18 FAFSA.

You need to fill out the FAFSA each school year because your eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including your family’s financial situation and the number of your family members enrolled in college.


MYTH 6:
Doesn’t matter to me that the FAFSA is available in October, I still have plenty of time to file.

FACT:  States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines.
While the 2017–18 FAFSA deadline for federal aid is June 30, 2018, your state and school probably have earlier deadlines to receive their aid. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1.


MYTH 7:
I can’t file my FAFSA in October because I haven’t applied to any schools.

FACT: You can still file as long as you list at least one school on your FAFSA.
It’s OK to complete your FAFSA before turning in college applications. On the FAFSA, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. If you’re on the fence about a particular school, add it anyway. Doing so will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for that school. You can also add or remove schools to your FAFSA later.


We hope these debunked myths were helpful! If you have more questions, ask us in the comments below or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

49 Comments

  1. My husband and I used our parents’ information for our 2016-2017 fafsas. We just got married this year. Do we still use our parents’ information?

    • No. The FAFSA will ask about your current marital status. It will say “As of TODAY, are you married?” and if you say “Yes,” you’re considered to be an independent student and will not provide information about your parents on the FAFSA. However, you will still be asked to report tax information from 2015 about you AND your spouse.

  2. The 2017/2018fafsa says that my daughter is an independent not a dependent. She is considered a senior for that year and has not yet gotten her bachelors. Her birthday is December 21st 1993. Is she considered an independent student for that year? Or is this a mistake?

  3. My daughter was not required to file a 2015 federal tax return because she did not earn enough money to file. Her 2015 income was from federal work study. That income was not reported on her 2016-2017 FAFSA. She will not file a 2016 tax return. Should she report the FWS income on the 2017-2018 FAFSA under her wages and under taxable earnings from work-study, etc.?

    Also, on her 2016-2017 FAFSA, I forgot to check yes to SSI which my son receives. Should I check it on the 2017-2018 FAFSA along with free and reduced lunch and Medicaid which he also received?

  4. We rented out our home for the last 3 years (we rent closer to the high school my where my daughter is a senior at). Tenants move out on Nov. 30. We move back in the house Dec. 1. Should we wait and file Dec 1 so our home equity doesn’t count as an asset?

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask about your income and tax information from 2015, so whatever you reported in 2015 is what you’ll report on the FAFSA.

  5. Question-As disabled parents of a H.S. senior who will attend college in 2017-2018, we’d like to fill out the FAFSA asap. However, what do we do if we’ve been told by the IRS that as our income is low, we didn’t have to fill out taxes for a number of years now, including the necessary 2015 tax year (& a number of years prior to that)?!

    • FAFSA requires biological parent/spouse or legal guardian financial information when she files. If you are not her legal guardians (not just having custody/she lives with you) you can’t use your information on the FAFSA even though you provide her support. If she can get her parent’s information, she’ll use that, but if there are special circumstances where mom/dad aren’t around or she has no contact, she should complete the FAFSA without their information and then contact her potential schools about next steps.

    • If you’re her legal guardian and/or you claimed in her your 2015 income tax, then yes. Whoever claimed her is required to use their 2015 income tax returns for FAFSA, unless you are informed otherwise.

  6. My husband and I have legally separated. Our 2015 tax return was our last as Married filing jointly but my daughter lives with me now and I will be filing as single. How do I make the adjustments for that filing status change?

    • No matter your situation, you still have to use the 2015 tax info. There is no way around that, its a requirement. However, like the article stated, you can notify the school your daughter will attend and let them know your current situation, your tax status for 2016 and her living arrangements.

    • The FAFSA will ask about your current marital status, which is separate from the taxes part. It will say “As of today, are you married?” From there, since your daughter lives with you she will most likely report your financial information. If you filed your 2015 taxes as married but you’re no longer married when you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to subtract your former spouse’s income.

  7. My oldest daughter is 19. She was emancipated thru court at the age of 18, due to a divorce and for support reasons. Is she considered emancipated and independent for the purpose of FAFSA?

  8. With incomes being stagnant and ours also declined in 2016 (yes I know I can contact the school my son attends and it is up to them whether to help) I’d say this is a calculated move. Student financial aid needs serious help.

  9. My son will be attending college in 2017-2018, I already submitted my FAFSA information. Do I need to do it again AFTER October 1, 2016?

    • You need to look back at the FAFSA you submitted. Im going to guess it was probably for the 2016/2017 school year. My daughter submitted one in February 2016. We’ll need to do one again in October to cover her starting next fall (2017/2018). Hope this helps.

    • Yes. The FAFSA is an annual application, so if he’ll be enrolled during the 2017-18 school year he should renew his FAFSA if he wants to continue receiving financial aid. If he doesn’t renew every year, he might not get aid.

  10. So if your children attend multiple schools and your income dropped significantly you have to have conversations with multiple schools to explain your changed income. This makes no sense at all. Why don’t you use current data.

    • Yes, you’ll have to talk to each school separately. Every school has a different process. If your financial or family circumstances have changed, submit the FAFSA using 2015 information and then contact the college’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review.

  11. What time can we start ? is it based on October 1 eastern time? I live in a different time zone. Does that make sense?

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA will be available online for you to fill out after midnight Central Time on October 1.

  12. My daughter is currently a senior, but won’t have enough credits to graduate in May. She will probably need an extra semester. Can she still apply for Fall 2017?

  13. Do we need to fill out the FAFSA if we’re thinking about going into graduate school? I’m not sure if I’m going and I wasn’t sure if there would there be any aid to help out graduate students anyway?

    • You can! Completing a FAFSA for graduate school wouldn’t hurt (even if you decide not to enroll). Here are the types of financial aid we offer to grad students: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/graduate-professional-funding-info.pdf.

      You should apply for scholarships and fellowships too! Keep in mind that graduate students who already have a bachelor’s degree will not be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Federal Pell Grant.)

  14. We currently have money in our accounts that is part of a student loan and is going to be used to pay for her rent as well as a study abroad trip in the summer. Should we report that or not?

  15. My dependent daughter (16 yrs old) is working part time during 2016, does she need to enter her income as of the time she fills out the form or because only 2015 is being considered does she not need her income entered (she did not work during 2015)? Also does she need to report any savings/checking accounts balances if the accounts were just set up in 2016?

  16. If my ex-husband who doesn’t live with me is not on the FAFSA form because my dependent daughter lives with me most of the time, does he need to provide a Family Contribution if he plans to give our daughter funds towards college tuition, room/board, etc.?

  17. Our income situation has changed from our 2015 tax return. Will the FAFSA consider this when making a decision for my child when he starts college in 2017?

    • We understand that some families’ income may have changed significantly since the 2015 tax year. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain and document the change in income. The school has the ability to assess your situation and update your FAFSA accordingly. We cannot guarantee anything though. That decision is up to the school, not FAFSA.

  18. This is really not fair to us since my husband lost his tool pushing job when the oil and gas industry shut down. 2016 we brought in 70 thousand for a family of 5 instead of 150 thousand.

    • You can talk to the financial aid office at the school and explain your situation. They are usually able to help if there are significant changes that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

    • I understand your feeling on this and we also have had a decline in income. I hope we can both keep our kids in school.

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