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Paying for College

Misconceptions Surrounding Financial Aid

For the many people who would not otherwise be able to afford college, financial aid makes the dream of a continued education possible . Unfortunately, some myths exist around financial aid that causes many people to believe that it is not an option for them. Moving past these misconceptions may allow you to obtain the financial assistance you are eligible for so you can advance your dream of earning a college degree.

Financial Aid Myths

Below are some of the financial aid myths you will have to look beyond to take advantage of the financial aid programs available to you.

  1. My Parents Make Too Much Money for Me to Qualify

    Money is not the only factor taken into consideration for financial aid awards. It also depends on the size of your family and other factors. Examples of additional factors include such things as state funding levels, college endowment levels, your grades, and family financial assets.

    Most schools require you to complete FAFSA forms before you are eligible for scholarship awards. Scholarship funds are also considered part of financial aid and may be awarded to people for many of the following things, and more:
    • Athletic performance
    • Academic performance
    • SAT or ACT scores
    • Musical talent (voice, instrumental, etc.)
    • Organizational participation
    • Military service
    • Community service

    Each of these types of scholarships represents a form of financial aid that can assist you in obtaining a college degree.

    Finally, the cost of attending your college of choice plays a significant role in eligibility. Even if your parents make more than enough for you to attend a small community college, you may need assistance in paying the costs of attending a major university or private college.

  2. Only Students with Perfect GPAs Get Financial Aid

    The purpose of financial aid is to assist students from all backgrounds in getting a college education. Not every student gets perfect scores on every test. Financial aid, at least on the federal level, is about a financial need and not about historical academic performance. However, once you receive financial aid, you must maintain a certain GPA to continue receiving it.
  3. Only Minority Students Receive Financial Aid

    There are no racial or ethnic requirements for receiving federal financial aid for grants, loans, or work-study programs. Some scholarships may be available for people of certain races or ethnicities, but overall access to financial aid is available to people of all races.

    Also, being a minority does not guarantee students access to financial aid either. While some scholarships limit participation to certain racial or ethnic groups, they do not ensure that all students within those groups will receive a scholarship or grant. Most have requirements other than race, such as pursuing specific academic majors, keeping a certain GPA, participating in community service, or other economic factors.

  4. All Financial Aid Packages are the Same

    This is simply not true. When you fill out the FAFSA form, make sure you send it to all of the colleges you are considering. These forms are used to help determine eligibility for a variety of financial aid resources, including:
    • Grants
    • Loans
    • Work-study programs
    • Institutional scholarships

    Since different colleges and universities cost different amounts to attend and offer different options for work-study programs and institutional scholarships, you may discover that your financial aid package goes further at one college than the others you are considering. You also might find that some colleges and universities offer more generous financial aid packages based on the size of their endowment or available funds, or their desire to recruit students from a broader geographic area or varied demographic background.

  5. Financial Aid is an All or Nothing Proposition

    The truth is that many families qualify for some financial aid, but not enough to cover all the costs of attending college. The purpose is to assist students in getting their degrees. Your aid package will probably not cover the entire cost of attending college.

    Moreover, you may qualify for more money during your freshman year than in subsequent years (based on eligibility factors, costs of attendance, and availability of funds). However, loans are almost always available as an option, however unattractive they may be.
  6. I Didn’t Qualify Last Year, So I Won’t Qualify This Year

    The truth is that financial aid requirements, limits, and available funds are constantly changing. Also, specific schools and universities add new scholarships, grants, and programs all the time. The fact that you did not qualify last year does not necessarily mean you will not qualify in the future.

    Students who did qualify for funds in the previous year, by the same token, are not guaranteed funds in future years. The best course of action is to fill out the forms as early in the year as possible and do so each year you are in college. One thing is certain; you will not receive financial aid if you do not fill out the form.

Moving past these myths can help you take advantage of the financial aid resources and programs that are available to you, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study programs and more. The first step, though, is filling out the FAFSA form.

Please note, information and interactive calculators are made available to you as self-help tools for your independent use and are intended for illustrative purposes only. We cannot and do not guarantee their applicability or accuracy in regards to your individual circumstances. All examples are hypothetical and are for illustrative purposes. We encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance issues.