FAFSA myths and realities

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Many students and their parents have misconceptions about FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — and those myths can cost students and their parents a lot of money.

Here’s a fact: Even if you know you don’t qualify for federal financial aid today, you should still fill out a FAFSA. It may help you qualify for financial help you didn’t know about, and it will certainly help you be prepared for surprises if your finances and your life change in ways you didn’t anticipate.

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Myth 1: I’m going to use scholarships and grants, not student loans, so I don’t need to fill out the FAFSA.

Your FAFSA is a necessity if you want to be considered for need-based scholarships and grants. When scholarship donors determine your eligibility they rely on the Expected Family Contribution. That’s what the Federal Student Aid department calculates when you complete your FAFSA. Not having the FAFSA on file for the current academic year could cost you money — money you might not have to pay back.

Myth 2: I can’t fill out my FAFSA for next year until I file my taxes.

This common myth was never true, and recent changes mean the FAFSA now requires the federal income tax return from two years prior. So filling out the FAFSA requires only a federal income tax return you already filed.

Myth 3: My grades aren’t good enough to qualify for anything.

Funding that relies on the FAFSA is based on eligibility, not merit, meaning as long as you’re making Satisfactory Academic Progress toward your degree, you’re eligible to be considered for all forms of federal aid.

Myth 4: My parents can’t help me pay for school, so I don’t need to include their information on the FAFSA.

Even if your parents don’t plan on contributing financially, you need to include them if the FAFSA determines you’re a “dependent” student. Learn more about about your dependency status,

Myth 5: Even though the FAFSA is available now, I have plenty of time to file.

You have until January 1 to submit your FAFSA by the early priority date, and that’s the deadline that matters most. Federal funding — for example, the kind that provides Pell Grants — isn’t limited, but ASU’s grants and scholarships are awarded at least in part on a first-come, first-served basis. Get your FAFSA in now.

Myth 6: My family’s income changed since we filed our last tax return. Since my parents aren’t making as much, I guess there’s nothing I can do.

Fortunately, that’s wrong. If you submitted your FAFSA but that representation of your household income is no longer accurate, have your parents submit a Parent Review (or Student Review if you’re an independent student) and ASU’s Financial Aid Office will reevaluate your eligibility based on the most recent documentation of income.

Myth 7: I didn’t get any aid last year so there’s no point in filling out the FAFSA this year.

Your eligibility for funding is based on several factors: year in school, cumulative GPA (for ASU-affiliated aid and scholarships), household size, cost of attendance, residency status, housing situation and current household income. All of these work together to determine eligibility, and any of them can change. Your family and life circumstances can change, too, without warning. So fill out the FAFSA, early, every year, because you never know what additional aid you could be considered for. Or when you might need it.