If you’re planning to attend college next year, chances are you’ve heard of FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA is the form that all U.S. college students fill out in order to be considered for need-based financial aid. This aid includes federal grants and loans, state and school based scholarships and college work-study opportunities.
Beginning this year, there are two changes to be aware of regarding filing for FAFSA:
- You can submit the FAFSA earlier. The 2017-18 FAFSA will launch on October 1, 2016. This is three months sooner than the January 1 launch date in place for previous FAFSA years. Earlier availability allows students additional time to meet deadlines, especially for aid which is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- You will use earlier income information. The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask for information from 2015 federal tax return instead of 2016. This use of earlier tax information eliminates the need to use estimates or to update information at a later date after taxes have been filed.
So, who should fill out the FAFSA? The Federal Student Aid website dispels common myths surrounding financial aid and the application process:
Myth: “My parents make too much money for me to qualify for student aid.”
Truth: There is no income cut off for student aid qualification. Income is only one factor for determining student aid eligibility. In fact, by filling out the FAFSA, you are also applying for state funding and possibly scholarships from your school.
Myth: “I’m ineligible for aid due to my ethnicity or age”
Truth: While there are basic eligibility requirements, ethnicity and age are not considered on the FAFSA.
Myth: “My grades aren’t good enough to get financial aid.”
Truth: The majority of federal aid programs do not take grade point average into consideration when determining eligibility. It is still true that grades will impact a student’s acceptance to certain schools as well as their eligibility for merit based scholarships.
Bottom line, if you are planning to attend college for the 2017-18 school year, there is absolutely no harm in filling out the FAFSA, even if you don’t believe you will qualify for aid. The process only takes about half an hour and you might be surprised by what you qualify for!
Written by: Jennifer Murphy, Standard-Level Tutor