Why You Should Apply for Financial Aid, Even If You Think You Might Not Qualify


Federal and state financial aid puts college within reach for millions of students every year. The federal government alone provides more than $150 billion in grants, work-study funds, and loans each year.  But, to receive any of that money, you have to see if you qualify – which can only be determined if you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Despite the availability of financial help, the US Department of Education reported that students in 2015 missed out on more than $2.7 billion in aid for college by not submitting their FAFSA.  Even if you think your family might make too much money to qualify for financial aid, it’s still worth seeing if you might be eligible.  You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Here’s why you should apply:

  1. All colleges and universities require you complete to complete the FAFSA so they can determine whether you are eligible for state, federal or institutional aid, as well as scholarships. Some schools may also require that you file the College Profile. Despite the name, your FAFSA isn’t used just to determine federal financial aid. Many institutions use your FAFSA in evaluating your financial need for their scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study offers. The information contained in the FAFSA is useful to the institutions because it is detailed, verified by the federal government, and gives a solid estimate of how much you will be expected to pay and how much  financial aid might be needed.
  1. The federal government uses several factors to determine your eligibility for financial aid. The amount of aid you may receive is not determined just by your family’s income. Other factors such as the size of your family, the age of your older parent, and whether you are a dependent or independent student are considered.  Once these factors are put together, a mathematical formula determines whether or not you are eligible and you will receive a report outlining your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  What you end up needing to pay for college could be less than you expect and the EFC may be lower than you think too.
  1. The FAFSA form has one of the greatest returns on investment of anything you can do to find financial aid — the investment of about an hour every academic year can yield serious help with your tuition, books, and class equipment costs. It is a straight-forward form that is free to complete, but which could yield significant benefits.

Filling out paperwork may not be your idea of fun, but the time you invest could mean money for college. Help paying part of your college costs, such as tuition, fees, room and board, and books, could make a real difference.

High school seniors and their parents can submit the FAFSA as early as October 1 of their senior year.  If eligible for aid during the freshman year of college, then completing another FAFSA each year of enrollment is required and should be done as early as possible each year.  Even if you did not qualify for aid the first time you file a FAFSA, if your family’s financial circumstances change, it is worth trying again the next year.

If you have questions about the form or the financial aid process, go to fafsa.gov or contact the CFNC Call Center at 866.866.2362 for more information.  In addition, the Financial Aid Office at the college you attend will be glad to be of assistance.