FAFSA: Myths Versus Facts

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid provides around $120 billion in federal student aid annually. Yet, each year, fewer and fewer college-bound students are taking advantage of their rightful claim to those dollars—mostly because of misconceptions around the application and awarding process. Let us help but breaking down myth versus fact.

Myth 1: The FAFSA application costs money.

FACT: Filing the FAFSA is free. Don’t complete your FAFSA form on websites that charge fees. If you are applying via a site that does charge a fee, please quit that application process immediately and go over fafsa.gov where the process is free.

Myth 2: My family’s income is too high for me to qualify for financial aid.

FACT: We hear this one a lot, but in fact, there is no income cutoff for financial aid award qualification. Most people qualify for some type of financial aid, which range from grants and scholarships to loans and work-study programs. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are considered to create your financial aid package.  

When you submit the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for state funds and possibly financial aid from your school, including grants and scholarships. In short, you can’t know how much financial aid you’ll get until you fill out the FAFSA.

Myth 3: The FAFSA form is hard to fill out.

FACT: Most people can complete their first FAFSA® form in less than 30 minutes.

If it’s a renewal or you’re an independent student who doesn’t need to provide parents’ information, it takes even less time. Online, you’re asked only the questions relevant to you. And if you’ve filed your taxes, you can transfer your tax return data into your FAFSA form automatically. 

If you get stuck, help is available online, via email or phone. Just reach out to us at:

Myth 4: I’m not eligible for financial aid because of my ethnicity or age.

FACT: This is incorrect. While schools have their own eligibility requirements, federal student aid eligibility requirements do not exclude based on ethnicity or age. 

Myth 5: The FAFSA form is only for federal student loans.

FACT: Nope. While the FAFSA application will provide leads on low-cost loans if needed, it is one of the most widely used tools to assess and award student aid. In short, it is one application for multiple types of funding. When you complete the FAFSA form, you’re automatically applying for everything from grants and scholarships to work-study funds and loans from federal, state, and school sources.

Myth 6: I’ve missed the deadline to apply.

FACT: You have more time than you think. You may file the FAFSA beginning Oct. 1 prior to the academic year you enroll, but the FAFSA must be processed on or before the last day of your enrollment for the academic year. The sooner you submit your FAFSA form, the more likely you are to get aid. For priority consideration, file the FAFSA by February 1 prior to the year you are enrolling.

Myth 7: I need to file this year’s taxes before completing the FAFSA form.

FACT: No, you’ll use your 2020 tax information to apply for student aid for the 2022─23 award year. You do not need to update your FAFSA form after filing your 2021 taxes because only the 2020 information is required. If your financial situation has changed in the last year, you should still complete the FAFSA® form with the 2020 information, submit your FAFSA form, and contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend to discuss how your financial situation has changed.

Myth 8: You must have good grades to get a financial aid package.

FACT: Applying for admission into school is different from applying for financial aid. Good grades may help with academic scholarships, but most federal student aid programs don’t consider grades for your first FAFSA form. In subsequent years, you’ll have to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress standards to continue receiving financial aid. 

Myth 9: Since I’m self-supporting, I don’t have to include my parents on the FAFSA form.

FACT: Not necessarily. You need to know how the FAFSA form defines a dependent student. The form asks questions to determine your dependency status. You’ll also need to learn who is defined as a parent for FAFSA purposes. Requirements for being considered an independent student go beyond living on your own and supporting yourself. 

Myth 10: I should not fill out the FAFSA form until I’m accepted to school.

FACT: That’s another widespread FAFSA misconception. Do it as soon as possible, including before you commit to a school. To receive your information, the FAFSA form requires you to list at least one school, but you should list any schools you’re thinking about, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted. And don’t worry―schools can see only their own information; they will not be able to see other schools on your FAFSA form. 

You can add up to 10 schools. If you want to add another after submitting your FAFSA form, log in at fafsa.gov and submit a correction. If you decide not to apply or attend a school on your FAFSA form, the school will disregard it. 

Myth 11: If I haven’t received enough student aid, I’m out of options.

FACT: Don’t give up! Check out these options if you didn’t receive enough financial aid. These options can help you fill in the gap between the financial aid you’ve been offered and your school’s cost. Things like applying for scholarships, asking the school for a reevaluation, or finding part-time work are all ways to fill the gap. 

Myth 12: I only need to submit the FAFSA form once.

FACT: You must fill out the FAFSA® form every year you’re in school to stay eligible for federal student aid but filling out the renewal FAFSA® form takes less time. So, for sure, complete your application when you applying to college, but once you are fully enrolled, refile a new FAFSA each year.

Myth 13: I should contact Federal Student Aid FAFSA to find out how much financial aid I’m getting and when.

FACT: Actually no. Please contact us here at the University of Kentucky’s financial aid office. 

Myth 14: The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount you have to pay for school.

FACT: The EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, and it is not the amount of federal student aid you will receive. The EFC is a number the University of Kentucky uses to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. Other factors―the largest being the cost of your enrollment―contribute to determining both the amount and type of aid you receive. 

Myth 15: I can share my FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: This is not true. If you’re a dependent student, you will need your own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online, and so will one of your parents. An FSA ID is an account username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites. You will use it throughout your college career. If you share your FSA ID, you’re risking identity theft, and your FAFSA® form could be delayed. 

Source: Much of this article was sourced from this article, originally published by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.