5 Myths About the FAFSA

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA, is one of the most vital steps in the college application process, and one that nearly every student will have to go through. Depending on your personality and approach to work, the FAFSA process may be exciting, or, for some, a dreaded hoop to jump through. Like many well-known aspects of life, the FAFSA has been subject to scrutiny since its invocation in 1992, resulting in widespread myths and falsehoods developing about the process itself as well as its eligibility guidelines. Not to worry, though; the myth busters here at College Raptor have compiled a list of the most repeated misconceptions and why each one is inaccurate. Before you log on to FAFSA.gov, make sure you don’t fall victim to misinformation such as:

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The FAFSA program is only for those in severe financial trouble

While the amount of aid received by each student depends on their or their family’s personal income, not all financial aid goes to students near the poverty line. These students will receive more aid relative to their structured income, but the FAFSA program prides themselves on helping aspiring students from all walks of life.

There isn’t an income line that students have to meet or fall under in order to apply for the FAFSA program, because the office determines financial eligibility via a mathematical process known as the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) Formula. This formula combines information such as a student or their family’s tax bracket, income threshold, number of dependents, adjusted gross income, and so on. While it is true that students with lower family incomes will often receive higher benefits, this does not at all mean that the FAFSA form is a waste of time for students who come from middle-class families.

You have to send FAFSA forms by mail

A persistent misconception about FAFSA forms is that, for whatever reason, only forms hand-delivered via “snail mail” will be counted. There is no complexity to the reality of the situation; this is 100% false. In fact, the Federal Student Aid Office encourages students to fill out their forms online via FAFSA.gov, due to the simplicity and clarity of their electronic form. Before students can fill out their FAFSA form, they will need, at minimum the following information: their social security number, theirs or their parents’ financial information, and their FSA ID. Students can create an FSA ID on the Federal Student Aid website.

Due to provisions of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, students must be at least 13 years of age to create an FSA ID on their own. This ID is used as a sort of all-purpose username for the many online resources offered by the Federal Student Aid Office. Though you may have an easier and simpler time filing online, the FAFSA office does accept mail-in forms. If you choose to go this route, you can download and print a PDF of the form from the Student Aid website, or order one in the mail by calling 1-877-4-ED-PUBS.

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I won’t be able to receive financial aid because my GPA is too low

This idea stems from a misunderstanding of the innate differences between federal financial aid, such as the FAFSA program, and privately funded scholarships. The latter absolutely take a high grade point average, among other factors, into account when doling out financial stipends, but the FAFSA and other federal aid grants are not dependent on academic prowess.

However, it is important to note that often, in order to maintain FAFSA aid status throughout one’s college career, your GPA must remain in “good standing”. The requirements for “good standing” vary from college to college, but usually, this achievement bar needs a minimum GPA of 2.0. If a student fails to meet this requirement, their FAFSA status may come into question, but only after entering college. In short, there is no GPA threshold required to apply, but one does exist to remain in the program.

I’m too old to be considered for FAFSA

No, you’re not. Whether you’re fresh out of your senior year of high school or going back to complete your degree at a later point in life, you will not be barred from applying for FAFSA. The circumstances of life change over the years, so you will have to fill out a new form based on your income and dependents, if they have changed, but it’s simply incorrect that the program takes age into account when screening applicants. In fact, the program’s eligibility guidelines spell this fact out exclusively on their website.

I have no way of knowing approximately how much aid I will receive

The FAFSA program understands that many applying for financial aid have never attempted the process before, so they make it very easy to check beforehand the kind of assistance you should expect. FAFSA knows that it is vital for families and students to factor in the money they hope to receive from Federal Student Aid into their budget. In order to fill the gaps in this issue, the FSA website provides a very helpful tool called the “FAFSA4caster“.

As its name implies, the FAFSA4caster assists students and families in their financial planning, asking the same questions found on the “real life” FAFSA form, but in a more informal setting. The tool allows for students to see how each field (income, taxes, dependency, etc.) will affect their ultimate application. Additionally, the tool is a fantastic resource for those of us (like the author of this article) who obsess over minute details.

Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover individualized school matches, personalized college price estimates, your acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the country!


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