I often have parents tell me they don’t plan to file the FAFSA because they won’t qualify for anything. I get it. It seems like a cruel joke that so many families make too much to qualify for financial aid but not enough to afford to pay for college.
Call me the Pollyanna of college planning or not in tune with reality, but I advise every single family to file the FAFSA. They don’t all listen to me, but this is what I tell them. The following are the reasons to file:
1. You may qualify for institutional need-based financial aid. While your family may not qualify for federal or state aid, you may be eligible for school-specific financial aid awards. You can’t be considered if you don’t file.
2. Some colleges and universities require families to file the FAFSA in order to be eligible for some scholarships.
3. Every student, regardless of financial need, is eligible for federal Stafford student loans. WE DO NOT WANT LOANS. I get it. However, if a loan is necessary, the Stafford loan is the way to go. They have low interest rates and limit how much can be borrowed.
4. Bad things sometimes happen. Jobs end. Children get sick. Parents die. (Include global pandemics, murder hornets, and civil unrest to the list of bad things this year.) If there is a significant change in your financial situation, it is far easier to secure financial aid if there is already a FAFSA on file—regardless of whether you were eligible in the first place.
5. Your student may qualify for a work study job on campus. While work study positions are generally based on financial need, there are opportunities for students with little or no financial need to secure work study positions. Filing the FAFSA makes that a lot easier.
Submit your 2021-2022 FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible. If you file before October 1, you are doing the wrong one for your Class of 2021 graduating senior. Remember, it is the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid—no need to pay to complete! This link will get you where you need to go: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.
p.s. Remember—this is the student’s application for financial aid. The number one mistake families make when completing the FAFSA is entering the parent's social security number instead of the student’s number. Easy mistake to make but a real pain to fix! You’ve been warned.