Financial Aid February
During February — Financial Aid Awareness Month — SCHEV is busting common myths about FAFSA.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Virginians missed out on millions in grants and loans for college in 2017 — simply because they didn’t fill out a form.
As a result, Virginia’s high school class of 2017 left on the table an estimated $53 million in potential student aid last year, according to finance site NerdWallet. Many of those students may have fallen for common myths about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA (see article below, “Five Myths Virginians Have About FAFSA”).
For example, many students and families think they should not complete the FAFSA because they live in middle-class households. False! Another common myth holds that students must accept any and all loans proposed to them by the process. Not true!
Making college more affordable is among the top goals of The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, the Commonwealth’s strategic plan for postsecondary education.
Last year Virginia recorded 63% FAFSA submissions overall.
A full list of FAFSA completions by Virginia public schools, updated weekly, is available here: http://www.schev.edu/index/students-and-parents/resources/123go!/SFP/fafsa-submissions
A list of Virginia institutions’ deadlines to submit financial-aid applications can be found here: www.schev.edu/FinancialAidDeadlines
This federal site includes a wealth of information about student financial aid: www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Five Myths Virginians Have About FAFSA
By the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
#1 - MYTH: The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) was released on October 1. It’s too late to submit it now.
FACT: It’s not too late to submit a FAFSA, but if you plan to attend school for fall 2018 do it soon. To be considered for federal student aid for the 2018-2019 academic year, you must complete a FAFSA between October 1, 2017, and June 30, 2019. However, state and school financial aid deadlines are much earlier, with March 1 being common. It is highly recommended that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can after October 1 each year to ensure that you don’t miss out on available aid. Most state and school financial aid is limited and generally awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
The FAFSA is required for a student to be considered for federal and most state and school aid. Most colleges have their own financial aid deadlines for FAFSA and other applications such as the CSS Profile, institutional scholarship application and summer aid application. A list of deadlines for Virginia colleges is available at schev.edu/FinancialAidDeadlines. Please note that the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG), a state program for residents attending select private colleges, requires a separate application that must be submitted to the colleges on or before July 31. Read more about VTAG at schev.edu/VTAG.
#2 - MYTH: “My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
FACT: There is no income cutoff to qualify for federal student aid. Regardless of whether you have low or high income, most students qualify for some type of financial including low-interest loans. Many factors — such as the size of your family, your year in school, whether you have siblings in college — are taken into account. And remember, when you fill out the FAFSA you’re also automatically applying for aid from your state, and possibly from your school as well. 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 FAFSA form and find out. Plus, you never know: Your family’s financial circumstances could change and having a FAFSA already on file would be beneficial.
#3 – MYTH: “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
FACT: While a high grade point average will help a student get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most of the federal student aid programs do not take a student’s grades into consideration.
Need-based federal financial aid isn’t based on grades — but you do have to make decent grades to keep your aid. Once students are in college and receiving federal aid, they must maintain the minimum satisfactory academic progress guidelines set by the college or university to continue receiving federal financial aid. Typically this will require you to achieve at least a certain GPA and earn a minimum number of credits each semester or school year.
State and school aid may require a minimum GPA and satisfactory academic progress. Check with the financial aid office at your preferred colleges for more information.
#4 - MYTH: “I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA form.”
FACT: You don’t need to wait. In fact, you can submit your FAFSA as early as October 1 of your senior year of high school. You should list any college you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet and you don’t even have to 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 you listed, the school will just disregard your FAFSA form.
You can add up to 10 schools at a time on your FAFSA. And if you need to add more than 10 schools, you can do so after you receive your Student Aid Report by logging into www.fafsa.gov and choose the “Make a Correction” option.
The colleges you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.
#5 - MYTH: “I have to accept what they offer me in the financial aid award letter.”
FACT: You do not have to accept everything in the award letter. After you submit your FAFSA, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from each college to which you have been accepted. Your letters will outline how much the school will cost and what kind of financial aid package you'll receive for one academic year. All financial aid award letters don’t look the same, but they include the same standard information, such as:
• Federal student loans.
• Cost of attendance (COA), the calculated cost of attending the college, which includes transportation, room and board, tuition and fees, supplies, books and other expenses.
• Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a number used to determine your eligibility for federal and some state and school aid that is calculated from the financial information provided on your FAFSA.
You do not have to accept all the financial aid from your award letter. You can choose to decline loans, work-study, etc. The schools will give you an opportunity, usually by a set deadline, to accept your aid online. It is recommended that you first accept scholarships and grants (that is, free money; check for conditions), then work-study (earned money), then federal student loans (borrowed money), as needed. Learn more about accepting aid at this page: studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/accept-aid.
Remember to borrow only what you need and accept loans with the best terms and conditions — usually federal loans. If you need to use loans, you can always request less in loans through your college financial aid office. If you are thinking about applying for private loans, be aware that there are differences between federal student loans and private loans. Learn more at this web page: studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/federal-vs-private.
• Federal Student Aid
• FAFSA Completion by High School
• Free Application for Federal Student Aid
• Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID
• How to Create an FSA ID (pdf)
• Federal Student Aid Toolkit for School Counselors
• Federal Student Aid Resources [Order Publications]
• Federal Student Aid YouTube
• FinAid: The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid
• FastWeb scholarship search
View full lists of state financial aid programs.