Don’t delay completing this important financial aid form because of misconceptions about information it requires.
By Meghan Lustig, USNews.com,
IF YOU HAVE NOT YET submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, you may have run into some challenges with the parent financial information that is requested on it. Or maybe your situation has changed, and you need to update information that you already provided but you are unsure what is allowed.
Ways to Fill a College Tuition Gap
Sometimes delays with the parent information part of the form are simply the result of misinformation about how the financial aid process works. With so much information available online about federal student aid, it can be hard to tell what is real and what is false. If you’re not sure, check StudentAid.gov or reach out to a financial aid administrator at your college or university.
Here are five common myths about parent information on the FAFSA:
- My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for financial aid.
- My parents are undocumented, so I can’t apply for federal student aid.
- By providing their information, my parents become responsible for paying for college.
- If my financial situation changes, there’s nothing I can do about it.
- Determinations of financial aid are final.
Myth 1: My Parents Make Too Much Money, So I Won’t Qualify for Financial Aid
Don’t make assumptions! There is no income cutoff to qualify for federal student aid, and many factors besides income are considered.
While it is true that some types of aid such as Pell Grants and direct subsidized loans are reserved for students with a demonstrated need, you must file the FAFSA even if you plan to borrow direct unsubsidized loans or Parent PLUS loans. They are available regardless of income level.
Also, many colleges require the FAFSA to disburse institutional aid or scholarships. By not completing the FAFSA, you could be leaving a lot of funds for college on the table.
Myth 2: My Parents Are Undocumented, So I Can’t Apply for Federal Student Aid
The FAFSA does not ask parents about their citizenship status. Undocumented students cannot receive federal financial aid, but the citizenship of parents has no bearing on aid eligibility.
The form asks for Social Security numbers, but if your parents do not have this information, they can enter all zeros in its place and your FAFSA will be processed. If you have questions or concerns about this, contact a financial aid administrator at your college for assistance.
Myth 3: By Providing Their Information, My Parents Become Responsible for Paying for College
Parent data is used on the FAFSA to determine your expected family contribution, or EFC, a term that can give the impression that parents are on the hook for costs. In reality, this is simply a measure of your family’s ability to pay that is used to determine the amount of need-based aid you are eligible to receive.
After you receive your financial aid award, you can have a conversation with your parents about any costs not covered by financial aid and make a determination together about who will be responsible for those costs and how they will be paid. At that point, your parents can consider whether to take federal Parent PLUS loans or find a private student loan to cover those costs.
Myth 4: If My Financial Situation Changes, There’s Nothing I Can Do About It
If your family’s financial situation changes after your FAFSA has been submitted, you can contact your financial aid office to request an adjustment. If you qualify, you may be able to get additional loans or other aid.
If your financial aid office is not able to assist you right away, you can visit SwiftStudent, a new and free tool, to learn more about your eligibility and get the financial aid appeal process started.
Myth 5: Determinations of Financial Aid Are Final
There are some circumstances the FAFSA does not take into consideration. Because of this, financial aid administrators are sometimes able to make a determination using professional judgment to adjust your award.
For example, you may want to request an appeal if your family is experiencing financial difficulty that was not captured on the FAFSA or if you don’t fit the criteria to be considered as an independent student but meet other special circumstances.
If you think you may qualify for an adjustment, reach out to your college’s financial aid office and ask about the appeal process.