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.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2020!
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).
5 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-9.05% (2.72%-9.05% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.79%-9.30% (3.79%-9.30% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.92%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
|2.75% – 10.65%*,1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.69% – 10.97%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|1.80% – 10.37%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.20% – 14.18%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.14% – 7.92%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|