The Bent Tree via Flickr

The Bent Tree via Flickr

Students who think they’re not eligible for grant aid from the federal government sometimes don’t see the point in filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). However, these students don’t realize that they may be missing out on grants and scholarships from their college and/or low-interest rate federal student loans.

Even families making more than $100,000 should probably still fill out the FAFSA.

Unless you are planning to pay full sticker price out of pocket for college (and you don’t mind), it is almost always a good idea to complete the FAFSA.

The FAFSA isn’t just used by the federal government

Many colleges (especially private colleges) offer need-based grants and scholarships aside from what’s offered by the federal government. This is called institutional gift aid, and the thresholds for this varies from college to college, but it is often awarded to families with incomes well into the middle class.

Most institutions use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for institutional need-based aid. If you don’t file the FAFSA, you could be paying thousands more for college than needed.

The US Department of Education offers more than just grant funds

The only way to be considered for any government aid program–including loans and work study programs that are available to students from families with all ranges of income–is by filing the FAFSA.

Federal student loans are often much cheaper than private student loans. Not only do federal loans generally have lower interest rates, but most also have a six month payment grace period, and some don’t begin accruing interest until after graduation.

The US government also funds the Federal Work-Study Program. If work-study is part of your financial aid package, the government subsidizes part of your wages at a part-time campus job.

State governments also use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for state-level financial aid. Most states have at least one grant or scholarship program available to in-state students who qualify.

The FAFSA should be refiled each year

If you weren’t eligible for aid in the past, consider filing the FAFSA again anyway–especially if your situation has changed. If you have a sibling entering college, or if your parents’ marital or employment status has changed, you may now qualify for financial aid.