False FAFSA Assumptions

Two students inside the Northeastern University Student Financial Aid Office wait for help from an advisor

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Receiving college financial aid is a big deal. It can make the difference in which college you attend, and how much debt you have after graduation. It can make life easier for you and your parents, and remove a lot of financial stress. But many high school seniors and their parents have a very self-defeating attitude about applying for college financial aid. They think it is too hard or they assume they won’t qualify. But it is definitely worth the time to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and CSS PROFILE if required.

Six False FAFSA Assumptions

“I know I won’t qualify”: Why would you want to pull yourself before the game even begins? Never assume that you won’t qualify for financial aid. There are billions of dollars of financial aid available, and it is highly unlikely that you won’t qualify for just a small piece of that. Aid is not based on income alone; some is based on merit. Factors such as your parents’ age or the size of your family also need to be taken into consideration. So, how do you know you earn too much?

“I’m not eligible for federal aid”: You might still be eligible for state or institutional aid, which is often based on the FAFSA or CSS PROFILE.

“I’m just going to borrow money”: You should never borrow more than you need, but even if this is your strategy you should still file the FAFSA. You may still qualify for subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford loans. These have lower interest rates than most other student loans and could save you money in the long-term.

“My grades aren’t good enough to get aid”: There are times when grades do matter and times when they don’t. Most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when calculating aid. Most of these programs simply require you to complete high school and maintain satisfactory progress in college.

“We need too much”: This is the other end of the negative thinking spectrum. Sometimes a student in difficult circumstances assumes that his or her need is just too high and that colleges won’t be interested in helping. If there is a special situation, unique circumstances, or extraordinary financial hardship, it is always best to discuss it with the financial aid officer. See if they can help. Many do have special programs available which are specifically designed to help students in dire financial need.

“It’s too hard”: This is perhaps the most self-defeating of statements. Federal Student Aid has many online tools to help and also offers Twitter chat sessions or chat sessions with live technical support. The financial aid office at the college you plan to attend can be of help.

Don’t assume anything when it comes to college financial aid. You are only hurting yourself. There are many ways of getting help, and it all starts by filling out the FAFSA.