Even if you think you or your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, submit the FAFSA anyway. Students are often surprised by the aid they’re awarded.
There’s not a specific income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid, and many other factors are considered. The only hard and fast rules of eligibility are that you must:
- Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
- Have a valid Social Security Number.
- Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, or have completed homeschooling.
- Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
- Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Even if you are not awarded grants, most students qualify for some type of federal student aid. Some schools use the data from your FAFSA to award state or school-specific grants and scholarships, so submitting the application may open more doors than you expect.
On average, it takes less than an hour to fill out the FAFSA online, so why not do it? It could turn out to be well worth your time!
As the parent of a high school senior, you know your child will soon learn what it means to lead an independent life. However, when it comes to completing the FAFSA, unless they answer “yes” to any of the questions regarding student dependency, they’re probably considered “dependent” on your finances (though special circumstances may apply).
We understand the reservations you may have about providing sensitive information on the FAFSA; especially when submitting it electronically. However, refusing to complete your part of the FAFSA for your dependent student could prevent your senior from getting financial aid to help pay for college.
Keep in mind that electronic completion of the FAFSA can save you time and help prevent errors. And, FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to secure your information. But, if you are uncomfortable with submitting your personal information online, you do have the option to mail a paper copy of the form. However you choose to submit the FAFSA, be sure to do so as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to help maximize your child’s potential sources of financial aid.
To learn more about your filing options, visit fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.
How many people live in your house? The question seems easy enough at first, but when you’re completing the FAFSA, the answer may not be that simple. First you’ll need to know if you’re a dependent or independent student. Check out our Dependency Questionnaire for help with this.
If you’re a dependent student, a parent will determine the household size, which can include:
- You, even if you don’t live with your parent(s)
- Your parent(s)
- Other dependent children
- Other people who are now living with your parents and rely on them for more than half of their support
If you’re an independent student, you can include:
- Your spouse (if applicable)
- Your children, if you will be providing more than half of their support
- Other people who are now living with you and rely on you for more than half of their support
Remember, the online version of the FAFSA has ‘Helpful Hint’ boxes attached to every question. Be sure to refer to the box attached to the Household Size question if you need any clarification. You can also find more detailed directions about determining your household size at FinAid.org.
We all know how easily mistakes are made—and that it’s best to avoid them whenever possible. When filling out a complex form like the FAFSA, mistakes are common. To help you avoid a delay in application processing, watch out for the following frequent FAFSA errors.
- Listing an incorrect Social Security Number (SSN) or driver’s license number
- Failing to use your legal name
- Your name must be shown on your FAFSA just as it appears on your Social Security card. Don’t enter nicknames or other variations.
- Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields
- Always round to the nearest dollar.
- Failing to register with Selective Service
- If you’re a male age 18 to 26, you must register with Selective Service in order to receive federal financial aid. If you’re 17, you may check ‘Register Me’ and you’ll be registered on your 18th birthday.
- Forgetting to list at least one college
- You may send your FAFSA results to 10 different schools. Enter each school name or school code on your form before submission.
- Leaving blank fields
- Too many blank fields may cause miscalculations and a possible application rejection. Enter ‘0’ or ‘not applicable’ instead of leaving a blank.
- Entering the wrong ‘federal income tax paid’ amount
- This amount is on your income tax return forms, not your W-2.
- Listing Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) as equal to total income from work
- AGI and total income from work are not necessarily the same. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income from working.
- Incorrectly filing income taxes as head of household
- If there is an error in the head of household filing status, the school will need an amended tax return to be filed with the Internal Revenue Service before releasing aid awards.
- Listing marital status incorrectly
- The Department of Education wants to know your marital status on the day you sign your FAFSA. If you are in a legally-recognized same-sex marriage, you will need to provide your spouse’s information, as well.
- Listing parent marital status incorrectly
- If your custodial parent has remarried, you’ll need to include the stepparent’s information on the FAFSA. If you have two parents in a legally-recognized same-sex marriage, you’ll need to list both parents, one as Parent 1 and one as Parent 2. .
- Failure to list both parents if they live together
- If your legal parents (defined as biological or adoptive) live in the same household, you are required to list both parents on the FAFSA even if they aren’t married.
Important: As you complete the FAFSA, remember to read the information shown in the ‘Help and Hints’ boxes on the right side of each page at FAFSA.gov. These boxes provide an explanation of each question to help you enter an accurate response. For further assistance, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). You may also contact any college financial aid office in your area with questions about the FAFSA process.