Financial Aid

Our Latest FAFSA Questions

Questions include does applying for financial aid hurt my chances for admission, what if my parents don't have an SSN, and how do I fill out the FAFSA when my parents are divorced?
Student using laptop

Every college in the country requires the FAFSA as part of the financial aid application process. If you're one of the millions of families completing the application this year, you may have some questions. We answered the ones we've received most recently from parents and students.

Q: Does applying for financial aid hurt my chances for admission?

A: In most cases no, and it can often help. Admissions offices want to admit students who they believe will fit well at their school, regardless of their financial status, and accept the students they want to accept. When it comes down to filling the last few spots within a freshman class, a college may consider the financial status of a handful of potential students, and take that information into consideration when deciding on those final decisions. But otherwise, your financial status is often irrelevant. And remember, if you need financial aid to attend a school, it's always a good idea to apply. The only way to be considered for financial aid is to submit an application.

Q: What if my parents don't have an SSN? Should I list their Tax ID on the FAFSA?

A: No, if your parents don't have an SSN, they'll need to put all zeros in the SSN field on the FAFSA. They won't be able to get an FSA ID username and password to electronically sign the FAFSA, so they'll need to print the signature page after completing the FAFSA, sign it with a pen, and mail it to the address indicated.

Q: How do I fill out the FAFSA when my parents are divorced?

A: If your parents are separated or divorced, you'll need to select the parent you've lived with the most over the past 12 months. That person is considered your custodial parent (if you lived with both parents the same amount of time, select the parent that contributed the most financial support). You'll only report that parent (and that parent's current spouse, if there is one) on the FAFSA. You won't list any information about the other parent on the FAFSA. It's important to note, however, that if you're required to submit the CSS Profile for any school, you'll follow the same pattern of the FAFSA, but your non-custodial parent may be asked to complete a separate Profile application.

Q: I was unemployed much of this year. How will that affect my financial aid?

A: The FAFSA always asks about your income from two years prior, so if you were unemployed most of this year, the financial aid offices won't know that. Send an email to every college to which you're applying and provide them the details of your unemployment: when it began, your estimated annual income, and your new projected year income, if you've found a new job. Submit any relevant documentation with your note. The financial aid office can take that more recent income information into consideration when determining your financial aid.

Q: Is my financial aid impacted by my 401(k)?

A: You won't report the value of your 401(k) on the FAFSA (though you'll include the annual amount you pulled from your income into your 401(k)), so the total value of your retirement won't affect your financial aid at any school that only requires the FAFSA. The CSS Profile does ask you to report the total value of your retirement accounts, but many schools don't take this information into account when assessing financial aid eligibility.

Q: How do I send the FAFSA to my colleges?

A: You'll be asked on the FAFSA to list the colleges where you're applying. By doing so, those colleges will receive your FAFSA data electronically. If you're applying to more than 10 schools, list 10 schools on the FAFSA (the limit), submit the FAFSA, wait to receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) by email (then you'll know those first 10 schools have received your data), and then go back into your FAFSA, remove those 10 schools, and add your additional ones.

Q: When is my FAFSA due?

A: Your FAFSA deadline depends on the colleges where you're applying. They may have all different dates. Check the financial aid page within each college's website to find out the school's due date, and submit your FAFSA before your earliest college deadline.

If you'd like a full overview on the FAFSA, we invite you to watch our Understanding the FAFSA webinar, available anytime on our website. And if you have any questions, we're always here for you. Reach out to us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or