FAFSA: Separating Fact from Fiction

All right, we admit it. Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is no walk in the park. Families across the country make the unfortunate decision to skip filling out the form, potentially missing out on opportunities to make their dream of a college education a reality. So why do families make the choice to forgo the FAFSA? It’s usually because they don’t have the proper information. There are a lot of myths surrounding the FAFSA, so the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) wants to take this opportunity to separate FAFSA fact from FAFSA fiction.

My family makes too much money, so I can’t qualify. The fact is there are a lot of factors besides parental income that are taken into account when determining eligibility. Perhaps, grants are out of the picture, but low-interest student loans may be an option. And remember that some schools won’t consider you for any scholarships (including academic ones as opposed to needs-based) if you don’t submit a FAFSA. You won’t know what you’re missing out on if you don’t fill out the form. It’s probably worth the time and hassle!

My grades aren’t good enough. Good grades are important. A certain high school GPA may be required to get into the school of your choice, but your grades are not taken into account when you first submit the FAFSA. Your school may require you to maintain a certain GPA if you want to continue receiving aid, but don’t worry about that when you’re first getting started!

I should wait until I have an acceptance letter to a college. You don’t have to wait until you’ve been accepted to submit your FAFSA. You are required to list at least one college to receive your information; you could also list all the schools you’re considering. In either case, you can do that even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. You can even add another school after you submit your FAFSA if you change your mind later.

My family saved money for my college education, so I don’t qualify. While the amount of savings plays a role, you shouldn’t assume that you aren’t qualified for additional help because of it. The savings impact could be small compared to other factors. You should go ahead and file your FAFSA because you’ll be eligible for student loans at the very least.

Receiving financial aid is like receiving “welfare.” Some families believe filling out a FAFSA is like signing up for a handout. They don’t realize that filling out a FAFSA is required to qualify for many scholarships and student loans. Completing this important application is simply part of the college preparation process.

My parents are undocumented workers. You can still submit the FAFSA if your parents are undocumented as long as you are a U.S. citizen. All U.S. citizens are eligible for federal financial aid no matter what the parents’ immigration status is. Work with your preferred school’s financial aid office or call us at 866-866-CFNC to answer questions about how to complete the FAFSA given your specific circumstances.

It costs money to submit a FAFSA. Be aware that you never have to pay to complete the FAFSA! Never. It’s right there in the name, Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Filling out the FAFSA is “one and done.” Unfortunately, this is a myth. The fact is, you’ll have to fill out and submit the FAFSA every year. The first time is always the most confusing; so hopefully, it gets easier every year after. And you can count on CFNC to be there to help answer all of your FAFSA questions if you run into trouble.

As you can see, there are a lot of myths about the FAFSA, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure what you need to do. Just do something! Start the form, get your parents’ or guardians’ help, and ask lots of questions. Your school counselors and the CFNC call center at 866-866-CFNC are always here to help!