Who should file the FAFSA?

One of our readers posted a great question in response to a recent blog item, If You Applied Early.. Or not...

Bill wrote:

My son, a high school senior, applied to an out-of-state public college this fall (rolling admission) and has been accepted for Fall, 2012. In addition, he recently received from them a merit based scholarship that will make up a lot of the difference between in-state vs. out-of-state tuition. We see no reason to apply for financial aid through FAFSA, as the EFC calculations show us contributing more than it costs per year. I don’t see it worth going through the hassle. Do you agree?

Bill, first and foremost, check with the financial aid office at the college to which your son has been accepted.  While some colleges will tell you there is no need to file the FAFSA, other colleges will want -- or may require -- you to file the FAFSA so that they have it on record. You will want to be sure to fulfill all the requirements at the college where your son has been awarded the scholarship so that his award remains in good standing.

But there is also at least one additional important reason for filing the FAFSA even though it appears you may not qualify for federal financial aid.  Students from families who apply for aid by filing the FAFSA and do not show calculated need are eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans from the federal government. Unsubsidized Stafford loans have more favorable terms than private commercial loans. For example, payment on the principal does not begin until six months after the student leaves college. Unsubsidized Stafford loans are awarded through the financial aid office of the college the student will attend and can be awarded only to students who submit the FAFSA.

Lastly, families who did not qualify for aid should consider reapplying in subsequent years, even if they think they won’t qualify. There are many factors affecting eligibility for financial aid, and some can change from year to year. The good news? Applying in subsequent years is much easier than applying the first time around. If you filed your FAFSA online, for example, you will be able to access a version that has much of your information prepopulated, and you can then make any necessary changes and adjustments.

There are many free resources available to help you complete the FAFSA, including the following:

Federal Student Aid Information Center


College Goal Sunday




You can find more resources in our book and here on the website. Just scroll down toFinancial Aid Resources.


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