Busting the Common Financial Aid & Grant Myths

It’s time to apply for college, and students and their parents are busy filling out forms, writing and editing essays, and checking their bank accounts. Students are anxious to receive their admission decision letters and planning their next move, while parents may be more concerned about how they are going to support their children through higher education.

There is a plethora of information about financial aid out there – some of which may not be a hundred percent true. Let’s bust a few common financial aid & grant myths that you may have heard so you don’t fall for them!

Myth #1: “I can’t afford to attend the college of my dreams.”

Reality: Yes, seeing the sticker price of attending a 4-year college can be intimidating, if not discouraging. On top of tuition, families have to account for the cost of room and board, books, transportation, and dining. That’s a lot to budget out for! There is no denying that a college education is an expensive investment. However, two out of three students get at least some form of financial aid to help make college more affordable.

In short, don’t write off a college simply because it’s expensive. Students looking to attend a college with higher tuition are likely to get more financial aid to help cover the extra cost.

Myth #2: “Financial aid is strictly reserved for those who are very poor, very smart, or have special talents only.”

Reality: There are plenty of different financial aid types, and pretty much something for everyone! Grants and scholarships are the preferred form of financial aid because they do not have to be repaid. Loans are the next best thing, but they do need to be repaid. Need-based aid is available to students who come from low-income families, and merit-based aid is available to students who excel in music, debate, drama, athletics, community service, and more.

To find financial aid that you are eligible to apply for, look to a number of sources like the federal government, state government, the college you wish to attend, your parents’ employers, and organizations that you are fond of. It does take some time to dig around to find good scholarships and financial aid, but you may just be surprised at what kind of offers you get if you put in the effort!

Myth #3: “I can wait until I get accepted into college before worrying about financial aid.”

Reality: When it comes to applying for college, it’s almost never a good idea to wait until the last minute for anything. This is the case for applying for financial aid, because aid is typically dispersed on a first-come, first-served basis. Many students will be looking for aid, so you want to be one of the first to increase your odds of getting something good. Invest a bit of time and effort now, and reap the benefits of a more affordable college education tomorrow!

Myth #4: “I don’t have good credit, so I’m not eligible for a student loan.”

Reality: Most federal student loans actually do not require credit checks (except for Direct PLUS Loans) or a cosigner. So, don’t let bad credit discourage you from trying to get some financial aid.

Myth #5: “My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.”

Reality: Contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. There are more factors that come into play when determining your eligibility. For example, things like the size of your family and your year in school may be taken into account. Remember that when you fill out the FAFSA form, you are automatically applying for funds from your state, and likely your university too. Some schools will not consider allocating any scholarships without a FAFSA form filed.

Merit-based scholarships are also great to look into and search for, as they are not dependent on income.

Myth #6: “Federal student aid is just like ‘free money’ like grants.”

Reality: There are three different kinds of federal student aid: grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds (a part-time job on or near campus). Learn more about the different types of federal student aid today.

Myth #7: “Since I support myself, I don’t need to include my parent’s information on the FAFSA form.”

Reality: Even if you support yourself and file taxes individually, you may still be considered a dependent for federal student aid purposes. With that said, if you are considered dependent, you must still provide your parent’s information on the FAFSA form. If you aren’t sure whether you are a dependent, you can use the form’s guide consisting of a series of questions to determine your status.

Myth #8: “Because I didn’t qualify for financial aid last year, there’s no point to file out the FAFSA form again this year.”

Reality: Things change. Your school or state may create a new grant or scholarship at any time, and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity! Additionally, the factors used to determine aid eligibility could also vary from one year to the next. If you don’t submit a FAFSA form, there is zero chance you’ll get any aid.

Myth #9: “My parents are not United States citizens, so I won’t be eligible for any aid.”

Reality: The FAFSA actually doesn’t ask about this, and you don’t need to worry about missing out on aid even if your parents are not US citizens. If your parents do not have social security numbers, have them enter 000-00-0000 when the FAFSA form asks.

Myth #10: “The FAFSA is difficult and time-consuming to fill out.”

Reality: Got 30 minutes to spare? You can fill out the FAFSA form! It’s really not as hard as you might think, and the FAFSA website addresses common questions students and parents may have along the way.