There’s so much information out there about financial aid that you’re bound to read or hear something that isn’t quite right. Here, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education, is a list of common myths about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.
MYTH: Financial aid isn’t for older, non-traditional students.
FACT: Your age doesn’t matter, neither does the number of years you’ve been out of school.
MYTH: I only have to fill out the FAFSA form once.
FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.
MYTH: I 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; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size—are considered to determine your aid package.
TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school, in addition to federal student aid. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!
MYTH : I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parents’ info on the FAFSA form.
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 form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form, but if you’re dependent, you will.
MYTH: I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA form.
FACT: Don’t wait. You can get started now! You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to go back and remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, that school can just disregard your FAFSA form.
MYTH: I should call “the FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid I’ll receive and when.
FACT: We’re always here to help you through your student aid journey, but in this case, you should 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 receive or when you’ll receive it. Your school’s financial aid office will have those answers. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.
MYTH: There’s only one FAFSA deadline and that’s not until June.
FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school and federal deadlines. You can find state and federal deadlines at studentaid.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for its FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check each school’s deadline and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying for any scholarships that require the FAFSA form for consideration, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.
MYTH: Only students with good grades get financial aid.
FACT: While a high grade point average may 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.
So what’s next?
Get started with your FAFSA form. If you’ve applied and been accepted to a college or career school that you listed on your FAFSA form, your school will calculate your aid and send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at that school.
Financial advice you can trust
- LearnMoreIndiana.org for information about making college more affordable, FAFSA and state financial aid opportunities.
- Investedindiana.org for advice on financial literacy, student loans and options for Indiana students.
- FAFSA.ed.gov is your link to completing the FAFSA and provides plenty of federal financial student aid advice and planning tools.
- Studentaid.ed.gov covers all the basics on college, types of financial aid and how to apply.
- Moneysmarts.iu.edu offers classes, a podcast and helpful advice on avoiding debt and spending more wisely.
- Purdue.edu/mymoney provides web-based, reliable budgeting tools and a student loan calculator.
- Additional resources include Forbes, Money Magazine, Nerd Wallet and financial experts and coaches including Pete the Planner, Dave Ramsey, Chris Hogan and others.