Why You Should Fill Out FAFSA Even if You Don’t Qualify for Financial Aid

Do I Need To Fill Out FAFSA

Why You Should Fill Out FAFSA Even if You Don’t Qualify for Financial Aid

Published July 30, 2019 | Last Updated April 1st, 2024 at 01:23 pm

Do I Need To Fill Out FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serves more purposes than most people realize, and you may miss out on financial aid if you don’t submit it. Parents constantly ask whether they need to fill out a FAFSA form, so we prepared this Q&A to answer that question fully and account for different scenarios.

Do I Need to Fill Out FAFSA Even if I Don’t Qualify for Financial Aid?

You might be asking yourself “Do I need to fill out the FAFSA even if I don’t qualify for financial aid?” The answer is: Yes, it’s a good idea to fill out a FAFSA form, even if it seems like you’re not going to qualify for aid. You might be surprised at the opportunities it opens.

The forms that come along with the college admissions process can be overwhelming, so we fully understand how parents get confused. There are college applications, scholarship applications and loan applications, not to mention financial aid forms.

And if you’re an upper-middle-class family, it’s true that your Student Aid Index (formerly called Expected Family Contribution) may be too high to qualify for need-based aid at any of the schools your student is considering.

So, if you’re going to be paying for college without relying on need-based financial aid, you still might be thinking: Do I really need to fill out the FAFSA?

(By the way, this question comes up at least once a day in our PayingForCollege101 Facebook group.)

Here are some commonly asked questions about if you should fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t expect to qualify for need-based aid:

Why Should I Fill Out FAFSA?

Many families who don’t fill out the FAFSA just assume they won’t get financial aid, but that’s not always the case.

Families are often poor judges of their own financial aid neediness, and there are a lot of factors that go into determining your Student Aid Index and need.

You never know how your actual financial situation will compare to the cost of the school your child is targeting. College is more expensive than ever, so even if you earn a lot of money, you may find you have financial need at specific schools, and that helps you qualify for aid.

It all depends on how a college gives out aid and if your Student Aid Index isn’t too high for school’s financial aid policy.

Until you’ve done the research to know what percent of financial need a college meets and how your SAI 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…

You Have a High Income. Should You Fill Out FAFSA?


Need Federal Student Loans? Fill Out FAFSA

The federal government offers student and parent loans that are not based on financial need.

Federal student loans tend to have the lowest interest rates and more favorable repayment terms, which can help lessen the impact of school debt after graduation. Most important, federal student loans do not require students to have a cosigner.

Any student, regardless of income, who wants to borrow federal student loans (also known as Stafford or Direct student loans), must fill out the 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 the FAFSA. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that unforeseeable financial events can happen and your situation may 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


Do I need To Fill Out FAFSA?

Chasing Merit Aid? FAFSA May be Required

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 before they are awarded merit 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.

Live in One of These States? They Require FAFSA for High School Graduation

In attempt to get more people to file the FAFSA, a dozen states require high school students to submit a FAFSA before graduation or sign a waiver opting out. And another dozen are considering FAFSA requirements. 

The 12 states with some form of universal FAFSA requirements include:

  • Louisiana (started with class of 2018)
  • Illinois (2021)
  • Alabama (2022
  • Texas (2022)
  • California (2023
  • Maryland (2023)
  • New Hampshire (2024)
  • Connecticut (2024)
  • Indiana (2025)
  • Oklahoma (2025)
  • Nebraska (2025)
  • Kansas (2028)

Are You Required to Submit a FAFSA?

Filling out FAFSA is not required to apply or attend college. However, if a student and their family doesn’t fill out FAFSA, they won’t be able to access any federal funding, grants, Direct Student loans or the Parent Plus loan.

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Student Loans offer students the option to borrow federal loans that are in the student name without a cosigner. As an incoming freshman it is very difficult to find a lender willing to lend money to students with little to no credit history. This is why it’s important for students to consider borrowing Direct Student Loans before any other loan option, and in turn make sure they fill out FAFSA to get access to these loans.

Do I Have to Fill Out FAFSA Every Year?

Yes. If your student wants to be considered by the college, state, or federal government for financial aid (grants, loans, and scholarships), they need to fill out the FAFSA each year. 

In addition, your financial need may change each year. For example:

  • Your student may have a one-time scholarship that helps for freshman year, but won’t extend into sophomore year or beyond.
  • You may have additional children who will be starting college.
  • Your income may be different, the school’s cost may change, your student may transfer, and much more.

Filling out the FAFSA never hurts, and it’s not a difficult process. 


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Understanding the Student Aid Index: How FAFSA Will Now Use SAI for Your Financial Aid

2024-25 FAFSA Guide: How to Fill Out the New FAFSA to Get the Aid You Deserve

Be Prepared for These 10 Key FAFSA Changes





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