Financial Aid

7 Commonly Asked Financial Aid Questions (With Answers)

Learn if applying for financial aid will affect your admissions decision, if you should fill out the FAFSA if you don't think you'll get any aid, if you report Social Security benefits on the financial aid applications, and more.
Teenage girl talking about financial aid with grandmother outside

Are you applying for financial aid this year or have you already? The application process often generates questions from families, and we're here to provide the answers. We've included some of our most commonly asked questions below, along with each relevant answer. If you're in need of a full financial aid overview, watch one of our recorded webinars anytime. We have recordings available on the topics of Financial Aid 101 (in English and Spanish), Understanding the FAFSA®, and the CSS Profile®.

Q: Will applying for financial aid affect my admissions decision?

A: In most cases, the admissions office at a school will admit the students they want to admit, regardless of each student's financial status. Some schools, often when filling the last spots within a class, may look to the financial need (financial aid eligibility) of students in order to determine how much financial aid each student would potentially need to attend that school. Again, this is often the case only when an admissions office is filling the final spots within a class. It's also important to keep in mind that many schools strive to admit an economically diverse class, and this benefits all students. If you need financial aid to attend an institution, apply for financial aid.

Q: Should I fill out the FAFSA if I don't think I'll get any aid?

A: Even if you don't believe you're eligible for financial aid, it's a good idea to submit the FAFSA, at least for freshman year. Some colleges award certain scholarships to students who fall just outside the bounds of qualifying for need-based aid (and this can only be determined if the FAFSA is submitted), while some programs (institution or state-based) require the FAFSA to award certain merit-based funds. As well, filing the FAFSA will qualify the student to receive the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, no matter the family's financial status.

Q: Can I use a different year's income information than the one asked about on my financial aid applications?

A: The FAFSA and CSS Profile both ask for income information from two years prior on the applications. You must report the correct income for the year notated. However, if your current year's income differs significantly from two years ago, contact each college's financial aid office with that information. They could take this information into consideration when determining your financial aid.

Q: What do "investments" mean on the FAFSA?

A: Investments on the FAFSA include any real estate you own besides your primary home, trust funds, UGMA & UTMA accounts, money market funds, mutual funds, CDs, stocks, bonds, and college savings accounts. Remember, you can always reference the information icon that appears after most questions on the FAFSA, which provides definitions and details for each question.

Q: Do I report Social Security benefits on the financial aid applications?

A: If your Social Security benefits are taxed, they will be included in your AGI, which you already report on both the FAFSA and CSS Profile. If your benefits are not taxed, do not include them on the FAFSA. However you should include them when reporting untaxed income on the CSS Profile.

Q: How do I complete the financial aid applications if I file taxes in another country?

A: If you use another country's tax return, you will need to manually answer the income questions on the financial aid applications as best you can using the figures on your foreign tax return. If your return uses a currency other than the U.S. dollar, the way you report your information depends on the application. On the FAFSA, covert all figures to U.S. dollars using the Federal Reserve's published exchange rate posted on the date you complete the application, and then report that converted amount on the applications. On the CSS Profile, you'll be presented with a page on which you can choose the currency used on your tax return. You should answer the questions using the exact figures as listed on your tax return, in that same currency, and the Profile will convert your income figures to U.S. dollars for you.

Q: If I didn't apply for financial aid for my first year, can I apply for my second year?

A: You can always submit the FAFSA to appy for federal and state aid. When applying for financial aid funded by the school (called institutional aid), this answer actually depends on the college. Some schools allow you to apply for aid as a new applicant every year, while other schools only allow you to apply as a new applicant in certain years (for example, your freshman and junior years). Check with each college's financial aid office to find out their policy.

Still have a question on the financial aid process? Reach out to us via phone at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or by email at We're happy to help.

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