The FAFSA is a form that determines your financial need, allowing you to be eligible for federal financial aid. However, you may come across some merit-based scholarships—awards based on talent, academics, hobbies, ethnicity, etc—still require you to file the FAFSA. Why?
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If you’re applying for merit aid, why would you also need to apply for need-based aid? Well, colleges don’t have an infinite amount of funding to give sufficient aid to every single student.
If you qualify for a federal need-based form of aid—like the Pell Grant for example—then some of your financial need has been met. You wouldn’t require as much money to pay tuition, therefore the amount of money a college might give you in aid would be reduced.
Sometimes when applying to an outside scholarship, you might see that an eligibility requirement is filing the FAFSA. It’s a fairly common requirement, but why would a non-school-affiliated, non-federal scholarship care about the FAFSA?
Even if it’s merit-based, would you want your scholarship going to a deserving student who really needed the funds, or a deserving student who can already afford tuition? Scholarships are awards meant to encourage the pursuit of higher education by offering financial help, it doesn’t make sense to give a scholarship to someone who doesn’t really need it.
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