There’s so much information available about financial aid for college that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)—and we’ll give you the real scoop.
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, 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.
TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA, 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. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!
MYTH 2: I have to wait to file my taxes before I can fill out the FAFSA.
FACT: No need to wait! You can complete the 2017–18 FAFSA as soon as October 1, 2016 using 2015 income and tax information. It doesn’t matter if you or your parents haven’t filed 2016 taxes yet because the 2017–18 FAFSA doesn’t need that information. You won’t have to update your FAFSA after filing 2016 taxes either, because 2015 information is what’s required.
MYTH 3: I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA.
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 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 4: I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA.
FACT: Why 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 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 5: 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 6: 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 7: There’s only one FAFSA deadline and that’s not until June.
FACT: Nope! There are three main deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadline. You can find the state and federal deadlines on this page. 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! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA ASAP to make sure you don’t miss out on any 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 online:
- You (the student)
- One of your parents
An FSA ID is a username and password that you must 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 the FAFSA.
If you are a parent of a dependent student, you will need your own FSA ID if you want to sign your child’s FAFSA electronically. If you have more than one child attending college, you can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need your own e-mail 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. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft!
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.
MYTH 10: It costs money to submit the FAFSA.
FACT: Absolutely not! 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.
Photo by Getty Images.
Leah Stewart is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.