Demystifying the FAFSA® Form and the Financial Aid Application Process

FAFSA® TipsFinancial Aid4.5 minutes

There’s such an abundance of information about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are considered to determine your aid package.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school, in addition to federal student aid. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parents’ info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form, but if you’re dependent, you will. Find out who is considered a parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)

I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can get started now! As a matter of fact, you can start as early as the fall of your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to go back and remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, that school can just disregard your FAFSA form.


  • You can add up to 10 schools at a time to your FAFSA form.
  • If you apply to more than 10 schools, here’s what to do.
  • If you want to add a school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

If I didn’t receive enough money for school, I’m out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these additional options.

I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid I’ll receive and when.

FACT: We’re always here to help you through your student aid journey, but in this case, you should contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid, so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll receive or when you’ll receive it. Your school’s financial aid office will have those answers. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.

There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find state and federal deadlines at our “FAFSA® Application Deadlines” page. You’ll need to check your school’s website for its FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check each school’s deadline and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying for any scholarships that require the FAFSA form for consideration, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.

I only have to fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, an FSA ID serves as part of a person’s identification, as well as their electronic signature, and should only be used by that individual. If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need to have his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. Both you and your parent will need a unique email address for each of your FSA IDs.

Only students with good grades get financial aid.

FACT: While a high grade point average may help you get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.

So what’s next?

Get started with your FAFSA® form. If you’ve applied and been accepted to a college or career school that you listed on your FAFSA form, your school will calculate your aid and send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at that school. Good luck!