Panther Tip: The Truth About Financial Aid

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are 10 common myths about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): 

Myth: “The FAFSA is complicated and takes too long to complete.”
Fact: The Department of Education has simplified the application and it doesn’t take as long as you think. It could take less time than a job application.

Myth: “I can’t file my FAFSA because I haven’t applied to any schools.”
Fact: Actually, you CAN complete your FAFSA before submitting any college or career school applications. You’ll need to list at least one school on your FAFSA, but go ahead and add every school you’re considering, because some schools have early deadlines to apply for their limited funds. Then later, you can add or delete schools on your FAFSA. Georgia State University’s Federal School Code for the FAFSA is 001574.

Myth: “Federal student aid is just ‘free money’ like grants.”
Fact: Federal student aid includes three different kinds of financial help: grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds (a part-time job on or near campus). To learn more about the different types of federal student aid, visit StudentAid.gov/types.

Myth: “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
Fact: While a high grade point average will help a student get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most of the federal student aid programs do not take a student’s grades into consideration. Provided a student maintains satisfactory academic progress in his or her program of study, federal student aid will help a student with an average academic record complete his or her education.

Myth: “My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
Fact: There is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Many factors—such as the size of your family and your year in school—are taken into account. And remember: when you fill out the FAFSA, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the FAFSA and find out.

Myth: “It costs money to submit the FAFSA.”
Fact: Absolutely not! “F” stands for FREE. You NEVER have to pay to complete the FAFSA when you go to fafsa.gov. If you’re paying a fee, you’re not on the official government website.

Myth: “I only have to fill out the FAFSA once.”
Fact: The FAFSA is filled out annually. It’s important to keep in mind the award letter you receive only applies to one year of college. To qualify for aid, a family needs to fill out the form every academic year. Why? Because things can change. For instance, your school or state might create a new grant or scholarship, or the factors used to calculate your aid could change from one year to the next.

Myth: “My parents aren’t U.S. citizens, so there’s no way I’ll get aid.”
Fact: Your parents’ citizenship status is NOT a factor, and the FAFSA won’t even ask you about it. If your parents don’t have Social Security numbers, they must enter 000-00-0000 when the FAFSA asks for their Social Security numbers.

Myth: “I support myself, so I don’t have to include parent information on the FAFSA.”
Fact: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are considered dependent, you must provide your parents’ information on the FAFSA. The application asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. You can preview the questions at StudentAid.gov/dependency.

Myth: “If I apply for a loan, then I have to accept all of it.”
Fact: Loans are usually a significant part of aid packages, but students are not obligated to take them. In some cases, families will decide that they do not need to borrow the recommended loan amount or they will decide to borrow a lesser amount.

If these common federal financial aid myths have been holding you back from submitting your FAFSA, submit yours as soon as possible. You may be eligible for more aid than you thought, making college much more affordable.

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