A college blog for curious readers.

Don’t Think You Qualify for FAFSA? Think Again.

Jun 12, 2013 • Wendy Nelson • Saving & Spending
Fill out the FAFSA. You might be surprised!

Fill out the FAFSA. You might be surprised!

Parents, are you paying all or part of your child’s college tuition? If so, have you filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yet?

Many parents make the mistake of not filing the FAFSA because they assume their income is too high to get any financial aid. This isn’t necessarily true; there is no specific income cutoff that applies across the board. Every school is different and every family is different. The number of dependents, age of the oldest parent, and the number of kids in college are taken into account. If you have more than one kid in college at the same time, you automatically qualify for more aid. You can’t get any aid if you don’t apply!

The FAFSA doesn’t just qualify you for federal student aid. It is used for state student aid eligibility, too, and schools often use it for determination of their own need-based and even merit-based aid programs.

Colleges with large endowments often provide lots of need-based grant money. The award goes down as incomes increase, but it is possible to receive small need-based grants with family incomes up to, and even over, $200,000.

Our daughter chose a small, regionally recognized university. We thought for sure that she wouldn’t get any need-based aid from the school, but the financial aid office encouraged us to file the FAFSA, anyway. We were told that their strong alumni giving base allowed them to give out a wide range of need-based scholarships. We were pleasantly surprised when the financial aid package arrived and included a small alumni scholarship. Every little bit helps!

The FAFSA is required to be eligible for federal loans, too. If your child ends up needing to take out a loan to pay for school, you will want to consider federal loans first. They tend to have lower interest rates than private loans and more forgiving payment terms.

It’s free to file the FAFSA and it really doesn’t take a lot of time if you gather the necessary materials beforehand. Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to start a new FAFSA form and learn about the materials required. You can file for each upcoming school year starting on January 1 and running through June 30.

College tuition is expensive enough as it is. Don’t pay more than you need to by leaving aid money on the table. You have nothing to lose by filing. Like me, you could be pleasantly surprised!

Photo source: iStockphoto

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Wendy Nelson

Wendy Nelson

Wendy Nelson is a first-time college mom with a passion for sharing what she has learned with other parents. She started a website called mykidscollegechoice.com and also enjoys speaking to local high school students and parents about the college search process.

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