10 Myths about Financial Aid & The FAFSA

Future Rowan students touring campus with their tour guides

  1.  We make too much money, so we won’t get anything.

MYTH! There is no income cut off, so eligible students will qualify for something, including low-interest loans that do not require a credit check or co-signer.  

Prof tip: Don’t make assumptions on what you may receive. Fill out the FAFSA and decide if you want to use the aid or not. You have to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for many state aid programs such as the NJ Tuition Aid Grant.  

  1. The FAFSA opens on Jan. 1.

MYTH! The FAFSA application now opens on Oct. 1 of every year. Financial aid is first-come, first-served. So it could pay off (literally) to get your application in quickly. 

Prof tip: You don’t need to wait for you or your parents to file their taxes to submit. 

  1. It costs money to submit your FAFSA.

MYTH! The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Applying will help students access money for college like grants, scholarships and federal work-study, as well as provide access to federal student loans. There is only one official FAFSA form online, and you should complete it at fafsa.ed.gov or the myStudentAid mobile app. 

Prof tip: Stay away from spoof websites, especially if they request a payment.

  1. You only need to complete the FAFSA one time (OR you only need to complete the FAFSA your first year).

MYTH! You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

Prof tip: Apply early!

  1. I need to wait until I’m accepted to college before I complete my FAFSA.

MYTH! You don’t need to wait! You can start as early as your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, 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, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

  1. My parents don’t pay my bills, so I don’t need to include their information on the FAFSA.

MYTH! Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student by the federal government for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. If you are dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

Prof tip: Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA people) asks a series of questions to determine a student’s dependency status.

Learn more here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/dependency  



  1. I need to use the 2018 taxes to complete my FAFSA.

MYTH! The FAFSA form asks for financial information, including information from tax forms and balances of savings and checking accounts. The 2019–20 FAFSA form, which became available Oct. 1, 2018, asks for 2017 tax information.

  1. The expected family contribution is the exact amount you have to pay.
Rowan Financial Literacy Expert Brandi Blanton standing near Savitz Hall
Brandi Blanton

MYTH! Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. Your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) are all considered in the formula. It also takes into consideration your family size and the number of family members who will attend college during the year.

Your EFC is NOT the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.

Prof tip: To understand your out of pocket financial obligation, subtract the financial aid awards from the tuition amount. 

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Story by:
Brandi Blanton, Financial Literacy Expert