Are you or your parents worried about filling out the FAFSA? We get it.
The FAFSA asks for a lot of private information. Families with members who are undocumented may be scared to fill out this federal form. Or maybe your parents believe that filling out the FAFSA will require them to pay for your college education.
These are legitimate concerns. We always recommend talking to a college counselor about any worries you may have about the FAFSA or financial aid process. These forms can be complicated. It helps to talk to someone that you and your parents trust.
But we can help you get started. Let’s discuss a few common questions:
Q: What is the FAFSA?
A: Great first question. Most people don’t know what “FAFSA” stands for. It is an acronym, short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA was developed by the U.S. Department of Education so students could apply for financial help to attend college. Students must fill out the FAFSA to get federal aid – and it is usually required for state aid, college aid, and many scholarships as well. If you need money for college, you should fill out the FAFSA.
Q: Can I trust the FAFSA website?
A: Yes! But it is important to make sure you are on the correct website. Type in “FAFSA.gov.” Start here and follow the instructions to get an FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA. The site is free and has been designed to keep your information secure. Don’t use any other website to apply for federal student aid.
Q: Why does the FAFSA form ask so many private questions?
A: The FAFSA form will ask you and your parents for social security numbers and tax information. The form will also ask how many people you live with and who your parents support. Yes, this is very sensitive information. The income and household questions are designed to measure how much financial help you will need for college. The social security numbers guarantee that the FAFSA form is yours, not someone else’s. It is a bit like applying for a job or filling out your taxes. It is OK for you and your parents to share your social security numbers on the FAFSA and with the federal government.
Q: My parents aren’t U.S. citizens. Is it safe for us to fill out the FAFSA?
A: It is safe to fill out the FAFSA as long as you are a U.S. citizen or a non-U.S. citizen that is permitted to apply for aid. Your parents may undocumented or use ITIN numbers. You and your family can still safely apply for aid. Federal law protects the privacy of everyone who fills out the FAFSA form. But there are important things to know. Start by reading our guide: FAFSA & Financial Aid for Immigrant Families.
Q: I am undocumented. Is it safe for me to fill out the FAFSA?
A: Unfortunately, you are not eligible for federal financial aid and you will not be able to fill out the FAFSA online. But states and colleges may be able to offer you aid. Some states have their own aid applications. Or colleges may ask you for similar information. Work with an adult you trust to figure out what college aid and scholarships you are eligible for. Start by reading our guide: FAFSA & Financial Aid for Undocumented Students.
Q: My parents don’t want to fill out the FAFSA because they don’t want to pay for college. What do I tell them?
A: First put their mind at ease, if you can. The federal government makes this clear: Parents are not required to pay for their child’s college education. But it is very important that they help you complete the FAFSA so you can get money from other sources, including the government, colleges, and private scholarships. Most sources rely on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for aid. If your parents still refuse to help, talk to a counselor at your school or in the financial aid office of the college you wish to attend. There may be other ways to get college money. 🙂
Kim Nauer is the founder of UnderstandingFAFSA.org and a higher education expert at The New School. Her latest questions: How does anyone read a financial aid letter? And will this all-new FAFSA in the fall really be simpler?