Last modified: February 14, 2019
- StepUp Utah Paying for College The Financial Aid Order of Operations
- What is the FAFSA and How Does It Work? (For 2018-19 and 2019-20 FAFSA)
12 Myths About Paying for College
Billions of dollars in financial aid are available to those who need help paying for college. Yet a lot of misinformation clouds the facts about what type of aid is available and who is eligible. Here are some myths dispelled for those confronting the process of securing financial aid.
Myth 1 – College is just too expensive for our family
Despite the media hype, a college education is more affordable than most people think, especially when you consider that 44 percent of undergraduates attend colleges with tuition and fees of less than $9,000. The average yearly tuition for in-state students at a four-year public college in 2011-12 was just $8,244. There are some expensive schools, but high tuition is not a requirement for a good education.
Myth 2 – There’s not a lot of financial aid available
In fact, more than $177 billion in student financial aid is available for undergraduates. Most students receive some form of aid. 44 percent of this aid is in the form of grants, and 39 percent in the form of low-interest loans. You should carefully consider the financing packages you’ve been offered by each college to determine which makes the most financial sense.
Myth 3 – My family’s income is too high to qualify for aid
Aid is intended to make a college education available for students of families in many financial situations, and there is no cut-off based on income. College financial aid administrators also take into account other family members in college, home mortgage costs and other factors. Don’t count yourself out — apply for aid and let the process work.
Myth 4 – My parents saved for college, so we won’t qualify for aid
Saving for college is always a good idea. Tucking away money could mean that you have fewer loans to repay, and it won’t make you ineligible for aid if you need it. A family’s share of college costs is based mostly on income, not assets such as savings.
Myth 5 – I’m not a straight-A student, so I won’t get aid
It’s true that many scholarships reward merit, but most federal aid is based on financial need and does not even consider grades.
Myth 6 – If I apply for a loan, I have to take it
Families are not obligated to accept a low-interest loan if it is awarded to them. One financial aid administrator recommends applying for aid and comparing the loan awards with other debt instruments and assets to determine the best financial deal.
Myth 7 – Working will hurt my academic success
Students who attempt to juggle full-time work and full-time studies do struggle. But research shows that students who work a moderate amount often do better academically. Securing an on-campus job related to career goals is a good way for you to help pay college costs, get experience and create ties with the university.
Myth 8 – Millions of dollars in scholarships go unused every year
Professional scholarship search services often tout this statistic. In fact, most unclaimed money is slated for a few eligible candidates, such as employees of a specific corporation or members of a certain organization. Most financial aid comes from the federal government, although it is a good idea to research nonfederal sources of aid.
Myth 9 – My folks will have to sell their house to pay for college
Home value is not considered in calculations for federal aid. Colleges may take home equity into account when determining how much you are expected to contribute to college costs, but income is a far greater factor in this determination. No college will expect your parents to sell their house to pay for your education.
Myth 10 – I should live at home to cut costs
It’s wise to study every avenue for reducing college costs, but living at home may not be the best way. Be sure to consider commuting and parking costs when you do this calculation. Living on campus may create more opportunities for work and other benefits.
Myth 11 – Private schools are out of reach for my family
Experts recommend deferring cost considerations until late in the college selection process. Your most important consideration is to find a school that meets your academic, career and personal needs. In fact, you might have a better chance of receiving aid from a private school. Private colleges often offer more financial aid to attract students from every income level. Higher college expenses also mean a better chance of demonstrating financial need.
Myth 12 – We can negotiate a better deal
Many colleges will be sensitive to a family’s specific financial situation, especially if certain non-discretionary costs, such as unusually high medical bills, have been overlooked. But most colleges adhere to specific financial aid award guidelines and will not adjust an award for a family that feels it got a better deal at another school.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Download and Read this Basic Information on Federal Student Aid
- FAFSA4Caster – Estimate the Amount of Federal Aid You Will Receive
- Financial Aid Glossary: Learn the Lingo
- Financial Aid Checklist
What You Will Need to Complete The FAFSA
Note: Keep these records for your use. Don’t mail them to FAFSA.
- Social Security Card – Entering your social security number correctly is very important
- Driver’s License
- W-2 forms and other records of income
- Federal Income Tax Return or, if you are a student, your parents’ Federal Income Tax Return
- Your current bank statements
- Your untaxed income records
- Your current business & investment mortgage information, business & farm, stock, bond and other investment records
Steps To Take
- STEP ONE: Gather your financial paperwork
- STEP TWO: The FAFSA is available on fafsa.ed.gov on Jan 1
- STEP THREE: Complete the FAFSA (make sure you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool option)
- STEP FOUR: FAFSA sends info to colleges you selected
- STEP FIVE: Colleges will contact you for any extra information needed
- STEP SIX: Colleges will send you award letters
- STEP SEVEN: Decide what aid you want to accept
- STEP EIGHT: Notify your college of your aid acceptance decision
Why Should You File the FAFSA?
It’s the only way to apply for ALL federal and most states’ financial aid, including Pell grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans.
Even if you have a full ride scholarship or savings to help pay for college, filing the FAFSA is a good bakup plan to cover unexpected expenses.
Many scholarships require you to file the FAFSA as part of the application process.
You never know what financial aid you might end up getting. Many students file the FAFSA and are surprised to find they qualify for a grant of need-based scholarship.
It doesn’t take as long as you think. Usually less than one hour form start to finish.
It’s not as difficult as you think. FAFSA on the web (www.fafsa.goc) has “Help and Hints” on every section, as well as online chat, phone help, and a frequently asked questions section. You can also come to a UHEAA FAFSA Completion Open House or ask your school counselor for help.
You aren’t required to accept loans. The FAFSA is just an application.
There’s no reason for students not to file their FAFSA every year they are in college.
Students Planning an LDS mission: Why We Recommend You Still File the FAFSA
We recommend that you file the FAFSA in the spring of your senior year of high school. Filing your FAFSA as a senior makes the renewal process much easier when you come home from your mission. If you have time to fit a semester of college in before you leave for your mission you may be eligible for financial aid. If your plans change suddenly (for example, due to an unexpected injury) you will be ready to attend college before leaving on your mission. If your visa is delayed and you cannot leave on time, you will have something better to do than sit around and wait.
Following up on the FAFSA
After you’ve finished filing your FAFSA, you probably still have some things to do before you can get your financial aid for college.
Follow up with your college to make sure you’ve turned in ALL the paper work they require. Often there is an extra form or two to apply for financial aid from your school specifically, and without it they can’t process your financial aid awards.
Make sure you’re hitting the right deadlines. Each school sets it’s own priority filing deadline for when you should have your FAFSA completed. Don’t miss your school’s deadline.
Common FAFSA Mistakes
- Don’t leave blank fields: Enter a ‘0’ or ‘not applicable’ instead of leaving it blank. Too many blanks may cause miscalculations and an application rejection.
- Don’t enter the wrong federal income tax paid amount: The best way to avoid this is by useing the IRS Data Retrival Tool in the FAFSA. You can find this amount on your federal income tax return, not your W-2’s
- Don’t list Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) as equal to total income from working: AGI and total income from working are not necessarily the same. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income from working.
- Don’t include the value of primary residents’ value of family farm or retirement accounts as assets.
- Do use the correct primary identifiers: Double check your Social Security Number and Driver’s License Number and have someone else check them too. Triple check to be sure. If your parents do not have Social Security Numbers, list 000-00-0000. Do not make up a number or include a Taxpayer ID Number (TIN). Enter the correct address. Use your permanent home address. Do not list a temporary campus or summer address as your permanent address. Use your legal name. Your name must be listed on your FAFSA as it appears on your Social Security Card. Make sure you double check instead of assuming you know for sure what is on your card. Entering nicknames or ather variations of your name will cause processing delays.
- Do count yourself as a student: The sudent completing the FAFSA must count himself or herself as a memeber of the household attending college during the award year.
- Do register with the Selective Service: If you are a male, aged 18-25, you must register with Selective Service. Failure to do so will make you ineligible for federal student aid.