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Frequently Asked Questions About the FAFSA

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

 

What’s Covered:

 

 

In this article, we will provide answers to some frequently asked questions about completing the various sections of the FAFSA. For more information refer to The Ultimate Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA. 

 

Student Demographics

 

Do EAD card holders identify as citizens? 

 

EAD card holders are usually ineligible non-citizens. Only green card holders or those with DACA, DAPA, or refugee status qualify as eligible non-citizens. 

 

Are trans students required to register with the Selective Service System?  

 

The answer depends on where you fall on the trans identity spectrum. If you are an MTF (male-to-female) student, then you have to register. If you are an FTM (female-to-male) student, then you do not need to register. The response you submit depends on the sex you were assigned at birth.

 

How do you indicate that a student is homeschooled? 

 

Visit the “Student Demographics” section of the FAFSA and respond “homeschooled” to question 26: Has the student completed high school or an equivalent? Selecting “homeschooled” will remove questions related to high school from the application.

 

School Selection

 

How do you submit the FAFSA if you are applying to more than 10 schools?

 

Once you have completed the FAFSA, you are going to click on “Sign & Submit” and submit the FAFSA to the first 10 schools to which you are applying. After you receive confirmation (approximately 1 to 2 days) that the 10 schools to which you submitted the FAFSA have indeed received the FAFSA, then you will return to the “School Selection” section, “remove” the names of the schools to which you already submitted the FAFSA, and input the names of the remaining schools. 

 

Are all major public and private schools available in the FAFSA? 

 

Yes, practically every accredited four-year college is represented in the FAFSA. Some for-profit colleges and non-traditional programs (e.g. coding boot camps) may not be available. 

 

Parent Demographics

 

If the parent is divorced, what information do you need to provide regarding parent number two’s educational level? 

 

If your parents are divorced and there is no relationship to the second parent, then you do not need to provide an answer for parent number two’s educational level or any of the following questions. You can select “other/unknown” as your response.

 

The parent of one student has a bachelor’s degree from an international college. What response should we provide when asked if a parent has a bachelor’s degree from the U.S.?

 

Some college applications or supplemental applications within the common application may ask about whether a parent has a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution. If a parent received a bachelor’s degree from an international college, then the appropriate response is that the parent does not have a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution. 

 

FAFSA questions related to parental educational attainment do not specify U.S. or non-U.S. institutions and are merely asking about the attainment level. The appropriate response would be “college or beyond.” It is appropriate to respond that the parent graduated from college or professional or graduate school as indicated by the degree they received from the international institution that they attended, or indicate “college or beyond.”  

 

Parent Financials

 

Which tax year information is needed for the 2023 – 2024 school year? 

 

You will need to provide the information from the 2021 tax year, which are the taxes you would have submitted prior to April 2022.

 

If the parents of a student are divorced and one parent is not involved, do you need to report the income of the noncustodial parent? What if both parents are involved? 

 

For the FAFSA, if a student’s parents are divorced and the student resides with only one parent, you will answer questions about the parent with whom the student lived more during the past 12 months. If the student spent equal time with both parents in the past 12 months, then you will respond to questions based on the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months. If the selected parent has remarried, then you will have to provide information regarding the stepparent regardless of any prenuptial agreement that may relieve one partner of paying for the education of the other partner’s children. 

 

Tip: For parents who are divorced but on good terms, it is advisable to spend more time during the last year of high school with the parent with less financial strength in order to minimize the expected family contribution.

 

If our household income varies in 2021 and earnings are higher than normal, where can this context be provided in the FAFSA?

 

The FAFSA does not provide room for applicants to explain their circumstances. If you need to explain your situation, submit the FAFSA and then send a letter to the financial aid offices of the schools to which you are applying that explains your unique situation. In contrast, if you are applying to schools that are using the CSS profile, you will have the opportunity to explain any special circumstances. 

 

What assets need to be disclosed?

 

Assets to disclose include money in cash, savings, and checking accounts, businesses, real estate beyond your primary residence, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, etc. 

 

Assets that do not need to be disclosed include your primary residence, value of life insurance, and retirement plans. 

 

Do you have to provide bank statements and investment statements as evidence of the asset balances that you report? 

 

Yes. You have to provide supporting documentation and this is typically accomplished through the IDOC system, which is a system to which you will gain access after you submit the FAFSA and the CSS profile. 

 

Student Financials

 

How is a student’s assets evaluated by the FAFSA? 

 

According to the Federal Student Aid Handbook, student assets are assessed at the rate of 20%. Since parental assets are assessed at the rate of 5%, it is advisable for students to move any income and savings into a parent’s savings or checking account until after submitting the FAFSA. 

 


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