Your family may be thinking, “Why submit the FAFSA? We are concerned about paying for college, but we won’t qualify for financial aid.” The short answer is— there are reasons you should! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the official form that students and their families use to apply for college funding from the federal government. States, individual colleges and universities, and private scholarship programs also rely on the application’s information for federal aid. The FAFSA opens October 1st and must be prepared annually by current and prospective applicants to determine eligibility for federal need-based aid. Yet, there are advantages to filing a FAFSA, no matter your income level.
Never Assume: There is a common misconception that financial aid is only for families with high financial need. The truth is that the eligibility for financial aid is complex and considers many factors besides income and assets (amount of dependents, students in college, etc.) Contrary to popular belief, there are no set cut-offs or financial thresholds. Families who think they won’t qualify for need-based financial aid can be surprised.
Gatekeeper to Merit Aid: Merit aid is financial aid awarded to students based on academic or extracurricular achievements. How schools choose to award merit aid varies by institution. There are colleges where filing the FAFSA is required for merit awards. In other words, the school only awards merit aid to students who have filed the FAFSA. So, depending on the school’s policy, your student could be missing out on free money based on their hard work by not filing the FAFSA.
A Form of Demonstrated Interest?: To guard their yield, colleges want to admit students they believe will enroll. Because colleges know students who submit a FAFSA are serious about attending, some schools may see submitting a FAFSA as demonstrating interest. Also, suppose you are a family without financial need. In that case, submitting a FAFSA lets a school know you are full-pay and provides the school with the information they sometimes use to balance their enrollment needs and financial health.
Access to Federal Student Loans: Federal student loans are loans provided by the federal government, with terms and conditions set by law each summer. They include many benefits such as lower fixed interest rates and income-driven repayment plans not typically offered with private loans. These loans are only available by submitting a FAFSA. The FAFSA also allows students to participate in work-study programs. We always recommend exploring federal options before looking at other types of loans.
Better Safe than Sorry: If 2020 taught us anything, it is that you never know what the future may hold. While your family may not currently have financial need, circumstances can change. Filing the FAFSA is the best protection against future need because the school already has the FAFSA on file, and it is easier to make adjustments or ask for aid mid-year.
Regardless of your family’s financial circumstances, consider submitting a FAFSA. It keeps doors open and can show colleges you are serious about attending!