Dispelling Common FAFSA Myths
The myOptions Team
FAFSA is your friend when it comes to paying for college. The FAFSA is the FREE application for federal student aid (emphasis on free), that considers you for scholarships and grants for college. It’s also necessary if you wish to take advantage of federal student loans to fund your college education. According to the US Department of Education, about 20% of college students do not fill out the FAFSA each year. Unfortunately, many of these students fall victim to the common myths listed below. These students miss out on tons of money that could reduce their out-of-pocket college costs. Avoid FOMO and fill out your FAFSA!
1. My parents make too much money to make filling out the FAFSA worth it for me.
Well...isn’t that niceeee. This assumption is not a one size fits all statement. The only way to find out for sure is to fill out your FAFSA, so what is there to lose? You may not qualify for any sort of need-based aid at some colleges, but you may at others because the cost of attendance is higher. Even some merit (non-need based) scholarships require having the FAFSA application on file to receive these funds. Also, if you plan to take out federal student loans, you will need the FAFSA on file.
2. My parents aren’t helping me with college...so why does it say I’m a dependent?
There is a laundry list of questions the FAFSA will ask to determine dependency status. You can read more about those questions here. Generally speaking if you are under the age of 24 and unmarried, and not a member of the military, you will be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. If you are classified as a dependent and feel as if you have an extenuating circumstance, I’d recommend connecting with your financial aid office regarding your individual situation.
3. Isn’t that the application for student loans? I definitely don’t want those!
The FAFSA application also considers you for need-based aid in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study, etc. that you do not have to pay back! All students will be offered student loans, so long as they meet the eligibility criteria, but it’s completely up to you if you choose to accept them.
4. My parents haven’t filed their taxes for this year so I have to wait for that.
Lucky for you, FAFSA implemented something recently called “prior-prior year,” where you utilize tax information from two years ago for the purposes of your FAFSA application. For example for the 2017-2018 school year, 2015 tax information will be utilized. This is a game changer that will remove the common snag of “my parents haven’t filed their taxes yet this year,” that students previously ran into.
5. It’s too hard and it takes wayyyyyyyyy too long!
It should only take about 30-60 minutes to complete. Each year, the FAFSA becomes more user-friendly, to make the process as pain-free as possible. There is even a YouTube channel for the FAFSA with tutorials to walk you through completing it. Also, most college financial aid offices are more than willing to walk you through the FAFSA so definitely don’t be afraid to seek out help.
If you’re a high school senior filling out the FAFSA for the first time, check and see if there are any FAFSA events in your community. These events will have school counselors and college financial aid officers available in a computer lab to walk your family through the FAFSA. If these events aren’t available in your community, seek guidance from your school counselor.
6. I only plan to attend college part-time so I won’t be eligible for any financial aid.
The reality is not everyone can attend college full-time and that is totally fine. Federal student loans and many forms of need-based aid are still available for students enrolled part-time. Typically the awards will be reduced based on a number of credit hours you are enrolled in.
7. I forgot.
We are human. We forget things. Pleeeaaaaase don’t let the FAFSA be one of those things because it could really cost you (literally). The FAFSA is open during the same time period each year, October 1st- June 30th for the following school year. Your school may have a specific deadline, so be mindful of that as well. You will have to fill out the FAFSA each year you are in college so go ahead and set an alert on your phone for October 1st for all the years you will be in college.