9 FAFSA Myths You Should Ignore

 September 22, 2020
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It can be confusing to navigate the world of financial aid, especially with so much misinformation out there. Unfortunately, some students and families miss out on federal aid because they don’t submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To help you separate fact from fiction, we’ve collected nine FAFSA myths that could stand between you and the federal financial aid you need to pay for college.

1. My parents make too much money for me to qualify for aid
2. The FAFSA is only for federal student aid
3. The FAFSA is due in June
4. I should wait until I receive an acceptance letter to fill out the FAFSA
5. The FAFSA has an application fee
6. I can’t complete the FAFSA until I file my taxes
7. Only students with good grades get financial aid
8. I need to complete the FAFSA only once
9. If I don’t get enough aid, I’m out of luck
Plus: Getting started on submitting your FAFSA

Myth #1: My parents make too much money for me to qualify for aid

Many families skip the FAFSA because they assume they make too much money to qualify for federal financial aid.

But this is one of the most common FAFSA myths, as there’s actually no income cutoff. The government takes into account several factors when determining your financial aid, including your family size and the cost of your school.

Even if you don’t qualify for need-based grants, you could qualify for federal non-need-based student loans. Federal loans usually are better than private loans because they have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options.

Myth #2: The FAFSA is only for federal student aid

The federal government isn’t the only entity that uses the FAFSA to determine your financial aid options.

Your state government and your school also use your information on the FAFSA to decide if you’re eligible for grants and scholarships, even those that are based solely on merit.

If you skip the FAFSA, you might miss out on valuable aid from multiple sources.

Myth #3: The FAFSA is due in June

This myth is partially true. The federal deadline for the FAFSA is the end of June each year.

But you wouldn’t want to wait until the end of June, since your school year would be over.

Plus, states and schools often have different FAFSA deadlines, which are typically much earlier. For example, if you live in Connecticut, your state deadline is Feb. 15.

So even though the FAFSA will be open until the end of June, you should submit it much earlier.

Myth #4: I should wait until I receive an acceptance letter to fill out the FAFSA

Again, the earlier you submit your FAFSA, the better. Some financial aid is disbursed on a first-come, first-served basis, so getting your application in early ensures you get the most aid possible. Try to submit the FAFSA as close to the date it opens (Oct. 1) as possible.

If you’re not sure where you’re going to go to school, that’s OK. In fact, you’ll likely submit the FAFSA well before you receive any acceptance letters. Just list every school you’re considering on the FAFSA.

Myth #5: The FAFSA has an application fee

As the first “F” in FAFSA implies, the application is free for everyone. There’s no application or submission fee.

Myth #6: I can’t complete the FAFSA until I file my taxes

You don’t have to wait until your taxes are done to complete the FAFSA.

For the 2020-2021 school year, you were able to start filling out the FAFSA on Oct. 1, 2019. You can complete the FAFSA with last year’s tax information.

Myth #7: Only students with good grades get financial aid

Schools and private organizations often look at your grades when determining whether to offer you an academic scholarship. The government works differently.

To be eligible for federal financial aid, you have to show that you’re making sufficient progress toward completing your degree. However, you can do that with passing grades. You can qualify for federal grants and loans even if you’re a less-than-stellar student.

Myth #8: I need to complete the FAFSA only once

The first time you complete the FAFSA, you’ll likely be a high school senior filling it out for the upcoming school year. However, that doesn’t mean you’re done with the FAFSA once you submit it.

To qualify for federal financial aid throughout college, you need to submit a new FAFSA every year. If your information hasn’t changed, you can submit a renewal FAFSA, which populates the form with the prior year’s information, making it simpler and faster to complete.

You can also update your FAFSA if there’s been a change in your dependency status, family size or number of people in your family attending college.

Myth #9: If I don’t get enough aid, I’m out of luck

In some cases, you might not get enough federal financial aid to cover your school’s total cost of attendance. If that’s the case, you might feel helpless and wonder if your college career is coming to an end.

However, there are ways to fill the gap. One option is to apply for a private student loan. Private loans tend to have higher interest rates and fewer benefits than federal loans, but they can be a useful tool to pay for school if you’ve exhausted your other options.

If you decide to take out a student loan, compare offers from private lenders to ensure you get the lowest interest rate possible.

To reduce the amount of loans you need to borrow, it’s also important to apply for institutional and private scholarships.

Getting started on submitting your FAFSA

Filling out and submitting your FAFSA is an important step toward going to college.

If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, don’t panic. Check out our complete guide to filling out the FAFSA for easy-to-follow guidance.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.

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