FAFSA Facts or Myths?

1. The FAFSA for the college year beginning Fall 2017 is available October 1, 2016. – FACT!
The FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – became available three months earlier than the traditional January 1st date so that students can have earlier financial information to explore and choose the best college fit.

2. The FAFSA for the college year beginning Fall 2017 will use taxes from 2015. – FACT
Changes to the FAFSA process mean that you no longer have to wait to file income taxes before submitting your FAFSA.

3. I used 2015 tax information last year and didn’t get any aid, so it’s pointless to fill out the FAFSA again. – MYTH!
Just as circumstances change, so does financial aid. A job loss or divorce can have an impact on whether or not a student is determined eligible for aid. And in most cases, this new state of eligibility is determined through less drastic circumstances. For instance, if a family has two students enrolled in college at the same time, both of those students may then be eligible for financial aid. With that in mind, students and their families should apply for financial aid with the FAFSA every year.

4. If I file the FAFSA this Fall, I will have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with 2016 data after I file taxes. – MYTH!
Because of a change in the deadlines and rules, the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 FAFSA will both be based on your family’s 2015 tax information. One reason for this is to make it easier for you to fill out the FAFSA. You can just check a box on the online FAFSA form and it will automatically import all of the information you filed with the IRS, saving you lots of time and tedious answering of dozens of questions.

5. I can choose which year’s tax information I provide on the FAFSA. – MYTH
You must use the tax year stipulated on the FAFSA form.

6. I will get an award letter from my school earlier. – MYTH
Some colleges may move their deadlines up and release their aid offers months earlier. But most will not. Colleges need to have their final costs for the upcoming year set before they can give students an exact price. That usually doesn’t take place until the middle of the spring semester.

7. I can re-use my 2016–17 FAFSA since my 2015 income and tax information will be the same. – MYTH
You must file a new FAFSA each year.

8. Doesn’t matter to me that the FAFSA is available in October, I still have plenty of time to file. – MYTH
Fact: You’re more likely to get aid if you submit it right away. When you’re applying for financial aid, you want to be first in line. The sooner you can get it in, the better. Schools may run out of funding and not have any aid money left for stragglers.

9. I can’t file my FAFSA in October because I haven’t applied to any schools. – MYTH
The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later. Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you’re not sure yet.

10. My family makes too much money for me to qualify for aid. – MYTH!
Fact: You won’t know until you try. You will never know your eligibility for aid, merit- or need-based, unless you apply. The FAFSA also isn’t just about financial need. If you don’t complete the form, you also may not be able to qualify for merit scholarships for grades, SAT scores, athletics. or some scholarships offered by colleges.

11. The FAFSA is too hard to fill out. – MYTH!
Check to see if Get2College is hosting a FAFSA Completion Day at your high school. If not, contact one of our Get2College Centers for an appointment either in-person or by remote computer access where we can assist you regardless of your location:
Gulf Coast Get2College Center, Ocean Springs, 228.875.4441 or gulfcoast@get2college.org
Metro Jackson Get2College Center, Jackson, 601.321.5533 or jackson@get2college.org
North Mississippi Get2College Center, Southaven, 662.349.2789 or nms@get2college.org
As always, there is no charge.

12. My grades aren’t good enough for me to get aid. – MYTH!
Fact: It’s not about grades. The U.S. Department of Education has discovered that this is a common myth that prevents some students from filling out the FAFSA. According to Christopher Hanlon, director of financial aid at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, “While it is the case that you may not qualify for an institutionally based scholarship if you did not perform well in high school, if you have financial need, you will qualify for need-based aid from federal sources, state sources or college sources.” Need-based federal financial aid isn’t based on grades — it’s based on a family’s ability to pay. But you do have to make decent grades in college to keep your aid.

13. My ethnicity or age makes me ineligible for aid. – MYTH!
Reality: There are basic eligibility requirements (which you can find at StudentAid.gov/eligibility), but ethnicity and age are not considered.

14. I support myself, so I don’t have to include parent info on the FAFSA. – MYTH!
Reality: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA. But if you are dependent, you must provide your parents’ information. The FAFSA asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. You can preview the questions at StudentAid.gov/dependency.

15. I already completed the FAFSA so I don’t need to complete it again. – MYTH!
Fact: You have to fill it out every year. The school needs to know if your situation changes and you want them to know if you lose a job or take a big pay cut, so they’re watching your income and assets year over year to make sure what they’re giving you is still appropriate.

16. College is too expensive for me. – MYTH!
Fact: Financial aid through FAFSA can make it attainable. Colleges and universities across the country have never offered so much of their resources for financial aid. There are schools that on average are offering students grants and scholarships that reduce the cost of attendance by over 40%. There is $180 billion in aid available! The only catch is you have to apply for it! Yes, that means completing the FAFSA.

17. The FAFSA is only for free grant money and I probably don’t qualify. – MYTH!
Your FAFSA information is used to award federal grants, state grants, and numerous scholarships from colleges, foundations, and companies. You won’t know what you could receive unless you apply!

18. It doesn’t matter when I turn in FAFSA as long as I make the deadline. – MYTH!
Fact: You’re more likely to get aid if you submit it right away. When you’re applying for financial aid, you want to be first in line. The sooner you can get it in, the better. Schools may run out of funding and not have any aid money left for stragglers.

19. I can fill out the FAFSA at any online site that has the application. – MYTH!
Fact: You should use the official site and never pay. There is only one official FAFSA form online, and you should be completing it at fafsa.ed.gov. FAFSA stands for the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. You should never pay money to file this application. Stay away from websites that aren’t official, especially if they request a payment.

20. I may have to pay to submit the FAFSA. – MYTH!
Fact: You should use the official site and never pay. FAFSA stands for the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. You should never pay money to file this application. Not only are you unnecessarily spending money, but you could also risk your information being stolen if you use a site that isn’t reputable. Remember, Get2College will assist you with filing for no charge and will never keep or share your information.

21. The estimated family contribution number is the exact amount I have to pay. – MYTH!
Fact: It’s just an estimate; you may owe less. “The biggest misconception we see is about estimated family contribution,” says Joseph Trentacoste, assistant vice president of student services at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. “Although the EFC is based on dollar figures, it is not the exact amount you will have to pay for college, and it is only used as an index to determine your eligibility for federal awards. Other factors, the largest being the cost of your school, play in to the amount and type of aid you can receive,” he explains. Additionally, each school has its own formula for determining aid, so you may owe less than the EFC calculated on the FAFSA

22. It doesn’t make a difference whether I fill it out online or on paper. – MYTH!
Fact: Online is faster and more accurate. Paper FAFSAs can be confusing to complete and have to travel through the mail and be entered into the Department of Education computer system, which can take up to three weeks for processing. Completing it online is easy and walks you through the process, only asking questions relevant to your situation. This increases the chances your school will receive accurate information. Plus, since you enter your data directly into the system, it can be processed within two or three days. Additionally, the FAFSA now has a tool that links to your parents’ IRS tax data, which automatically fills fields with their latest information. This not only makes the process much faster, but it also greatly increases accuracy, making it more likely you will receive the aid you need.

23. The FAFSA requires a credit check. – MYTH!
The FAFSA does not include a check of the student’s or parents’ credit.

24. Submitting the FAFSA means that the IRS may audit our tax returns. – MYTH!
The FAFSA uses tax information to help colleges determine eligibility for financial aid. The FAFSA is a document of the U.S. Department of Education, not the Internal Revenue Service.

25. I can declare myself as an independent student. – MYTH!
You may be living on your own without any financial support, but does that make you an independent student by financial aid standards? Hardly. The federal government has a very strict definition of what makes a student independent: he or she must be older than 24, married, serving in the armed forces or financially responsible for a dependent. Unfortunately, the federal government dictates that if a student is less than 24, his or her parents are responsible for paying for their education – whether or not your parents actually can is another matter.

26. Submitting the FAFSA commits me to a student loan. – MYTH!
Loans are considered part of financial aid because they help to lessen the overall cost, which otherwise may have been paid out-of-pocket by the student. If you are awarded a student loan in a financial aid award package and do not wish to borrow the entire amount, you always have the right to cancel or reduce your loan.

27. The FAFSA only affects money from the federal government. – MYTH!
Your FAFSA information is used to award federal grants, state grants, and numerous scholarships from colleges, foundations, and companies. You won’t know what you could receive unless you apply!

28. FAFSA is the only financial aid form I need to worry about. – MYTH!
Check with your state and colleges to which you are applying for their forms. You can link to the Mississippi Financial Aid form from the FAFSA. Also, private scholarships have their own forms.

29. My school is not having a FAFSA Day, so I will have to file it on my own. – MYTH!
Contact one of our Get2College Centers for an appointment either in-person or by remote computer access where we can assist you regardless of your location:
Gulf Coast Get2College Center, Ocean Springs, 228.875.4441 or gulfcoast@get2college.org
Metro Jackson Get2College Center, Jackson, 601.321.5533 or jackson@get2college.org
North Mississippi Get2College Center, Southaven, 662.349.2789 or nms@get2college.org
As always, there is no charge.

30. We saved too much and won’t qualify for aid. – MYTH!
If your family’s income is too high, you may not qualify for certain aid programs — namely, federal grants. But if you want to be considered for other aid, including work-study programs and federal student loans, you still need to fill out the FAFSA. Plus, you won’t know what aid you’re eligible for until you apply. There’s so much that goes into the (FAFSA) calculation – factors include parents’ ages — the closer they are to retirement, the more aid their student is likely to get — and the number of siblings enrolled in college at once.

31. Scholarships are only for talented athletes or students with a 4.0 GPA. – MYTH!
Fact: Most scholarships are awarded based on academic performance in high school, outstanding extracurricular involvement, and unique interests. So what are you passionate about? Odds are there are more than a few scholarships for which you are eligible.