There are college applications, scholarship applications, loan applications, and not to mention financial aid forms.
So, it may feel like a relief to think maybe you don’t need to fill out FAFSA because you won’t get financial aid.
After all, no one likes to waste their time filling out forms that will prove themselves to be useless later on.
And, if you are a reasonably well-off family, your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will be high enough that you won’t qualify for need-based aid at any of the schools your student is considering anyway.
So, if you’re going to be paying for college without relying on need-based financial aid, there’s no reason to go through the trouble of filling out FAFSA, right?
(By the way, this question comes up at least once a day in our PayingForCollege101 Facebook group.)
Well, that’s not quite true.
While the FAFSA certainly helps students qualify for need-based financial aid from the government and college, that’s not the only reason colleges look at it.
Here are some reasons you should fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t expect to qualify for need-based aid.
Why Should I Fill Out FAFSA?
It’s worth it to apply
Many families who don’t feel the need to bother to fill out the FAFSA just assume they won’t get financial aid but that’s not always the case.
And one shouldn’t always “assume.”
You may be pleasantly surprised at the amount of aid you get.
And, if there is even a slim chance, what’s the harm in applying?
Families are often poor judges of their own neediness, and there are a lot of factors that go into determining EFC and need.
You never know how your actual financial situation will compare to the cost of the school your child is targeting.
Frankly, college is more expensive than ever, so even if you earn a lot of money, you may find you have need at specific schools, and that helps you qualify for aid.
It all depends on how a college gives out aid and where your EFC is relative to a school’s financial aid policy.
Until you’ve done that research to know what percent of financial need a college meets and how your EFC compares to the college’s cost of attendance, don’t rule out filling out FAFSA.
Here’s a pleasant surprise a member of our Paying For College 101 group shared with us. She was reluctant to fill out FAFSA, but see what happened…
FAFSA is The Gateway for Federal Student and Parent Loans
The federal government offers student and parent loans that are not need-based that can help your student afford college.
These loans generally have very favorable interest rates and repayment terms, which can help lessen the impact of school debt after graduation.
Any student, regardless of income, who wants to borrow federal student loans (also known as Stafford or Direct student loans), must fill out FAFSA to get access to these loans.
In addition, any parent, regardless of income, who would like to borrow the Parent PLUS Loan must also fill out FAFSA.
Another thing to keep in mind is that unforeseeable things happen and your situation can always change.
A job loss, a serious injury, or a death in the family can impact your financial situation at any time while your student is in college.
Having a FAFSA on file can give you a leg up in case your student needs aid in the future.
Here’s advice from a member of our Paying For College 101 group…
Some Schools Require FAFSA for Merit Aid
While policies vary depending on the school, it is possible that your student will not be offered merit aid if they do not fill out a FAFSA.
Sometimes the FAFSA requirement is to verify citizenship or colleges want to make sure a student has maximized their need-based aid.
Other times, your student will get special recruitment scholarship offers if they filled out a FAFSA but didn’t qualify for need-based aid.
Will having financial need hurt your student’s chances of being admitted?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no.
It depends on the financial aid philosophy of the college.
Colleges are either considered need-blind or need-aware when it comes to how they consider financial aid as part of their admissions process.
Even with need-aware admission, only students who are on the borderline are affected by having financial need.
Of course, if you fill out a FAFSA and it shows you don’t have financial need at the school, then the application won’t be affected either way because you won’t actually use need-based aid.
Your Financial Need May Change in Future Years
One reason not to skip the FAFSA is that while you may not qualify for aid this year, your situation in the future may be different.
Maybe your student has a one-time scholarship that helps for the freshman year, but won’t extend into the sophomore year or beyond.
Maybe additional children will be starting school in coming years.
You never want to assume that you won’t qualify for aid, or that filling out a FAFSA won’t benefit you.
Your income could be different, the school’s cost could be different, your student could transfer, and much more.
Filling out the FAFSA never hurts, and it’s not a difficult process.
Just get it done – you never know what benefits could come from it.
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