Federal aid is important for funding your college education. You can get access to grants, work-study programs, or federal student loans, which tend to have lower interest rates and more generous repayment terms than private loans.
However, there are many persistent misconceptions about federal financial aid that keep people from applying. Below are five of the most common myths about financial aid for college, and what you can do to ensure you get the financial aid you deserve.
Myth #1: You have to be low-income to qualify
One of the biggest misconceptions about financial aid is that you need to have a lower income to qualify. But under the current financial aid requirements, there is no income limit.
The government takes into account many different factors, including your family size, how many of your siblings are in college, and how old your parents are, to decide your financial aid.
They use a comprehensive formula, so a high income does not disqualify you from getting financial aid. That’s why it’s so important to complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To get federal, state, or even school loans, a completed FAFSA has to be on record.
Myth #2: It doesn’t matter when you apply
To be considered for federal financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year, you must submit your completed FAFSA by June 30, 2019. However, that doesn’t mean you have months until you need to worry about finishing it. The FAFSA actually has three different deadlines.
Many states and individual colleges have separate deadlines that are much sooner than the federal one. To make sure that states and colleges consider you for eligible grants or scholarships, you need to submit your FAFSA ahead of their own deadlines. You can find your state’s deadline on the FAFSA website.
What’s more, many states and schools decide grant, scholarship, and loan totals early on. Because there’s a limited amount of money to give out, you increase your chances of getting aid the earlier you apply.
Myth #3: Aid packages are final
Once you get your aid package offer, you might think that’s it — you’re stuck with what you got, even if you think you deserve more. But that’s not true; you can appeal a financial aid package if there’s been an error, and you can also negotiate directly with the school.
Aid officers occasionally make mistakes. If your package is not adequate to pay for your schooling relative to your expected contribution, you can appeal it. Contact the aid office directly to talk about your needs and see if there was an error.
Some individual universities are open to negotiation, too. Schools want to make sure they fill their roster, particularly with good candidates. For example, Carnegie Mellon states its flexibility on its website:
“We have been open about our willingness to review financial aid awards to compete with certain private institutions for students admitted under the regular decision plan,” it says on its financial aid page.
If your aid package is not enough, learn how to negotiate a better deal here.
Myth #4: Men and women have the same requirements
Men and women do have the same federal financial aid requirements, with one exception: Men must be registered with Selective Service.
The Selective Service is a registry of men eligible for a draft, if necessary. Male students who do not register with the Selective Service before turning 26 are ineligible for federal loans, grants, or work-study programs. Many states also require Selective Service registration to be eligible for state-distributed aid.
Not registering has other consequences beyond ineligibility for federal aid. It can affect your ability to get a government job and get security clearance for employment. Even more serious, not registering is a felony with a fine of $250,000 or five years in jail.
If you are not yet 18 when you fill out the FAFSA, you are not required to register until your 18th birthday.
Myth #5: You can only get aid if you have great grades
Too many people do not complete the FAFSA because they think their grades are too low to get any federal financial aid for college. While a high grade point average can help you get into a good school and even get you scholarships, most federal programs do not take grades into account when deciding your federal financial aid package.
As long as you keep a passing grade through school, you will be eligible for federal loans, grants, and other programs.
Complete the FAFSA for federal financial aid
If these common federal financial aid myths have been holding you back from submitting your FAFSA, submit yours as soon as possible. You may be eligible for more aid than you thought, making college much more affordable.
If you need help filling out your application, check out this complete guide to filling out and filing your FAFSA.
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