The FAFSA is your key to unlocking financial assistance for college.

The 2022—2023 FAFSA opens on October 1, and it's your key to unlocking financial assistance for college.  But for many students and their parents, the process seems complicated and confusing. North Central Michigan College is here to help by busting three common FAFSA myths.

Myth #1: I won’t qualify for any aid because my parent(s) make too much money.

FACT:  Don’t make assumptions when it comes to federal financial aid awards.  There is no financial cutoff for federal student aid.  While it’s true that some types of aid, like Pell grants, are based on demonstrated need, many factors besides income level are considered to determine aid amounts.

Almost all students who complete the FAFSA qualify for some form of federal financial aid.

Plus, many colleges and universities require you to have a completed FAFSA on file before they will award their own institutional scholarships. You could be missing out on a lot of money if you don’t complete the FAFSA.

Myth #2: I won’t qualify for any aid because I don’t receive any financial support from my parent(s).

FACT: Even if your parent(s) are not currently supporting you financially –– and even if you’re not living with them­­ –– you’ll still need their information to fill out the FAFSA.  Unless any of these circumstances apply to you, you are considered a “dependent student.”  All dependent students must provide financial information from their legal parents (biological or adoptive).

When you complete the FAFSA, you’ll be asked whether you are able to provide your parents’ financial information.  Hopefully your parents will work with you on this, even if they cannot help you pay for your college expenses, and even if they’re not currently supporting you financially.  If they are not willing to provide their financial information, you will select this option: “I am unable to provide information about my parent(s).”

Not having your parents’ financial information will limit the types and amount of financial aid you’re eligible to receive.  It’s important to do all that you can to work with your parents on the FAFSA.

Myth #3: If my parent(s) complete the FAFSA with me, they will have to pay for my college costs.

FACT: The Department of Education uses financial information from your parents to determine your expected family contribution, or EFC.  

Your EFC is simply a measure used to determine what types and how much aid eligibility you have.  It’s only an estimate.  It does not equal the amount you will pay for college, and the amount you actually pay might end up being much lower or higher.

Colleges subtract your EFC from their cost of attendance for one year, including tuition.  This is how they calculate your financial need.  It’s also how colleges decide which kind of financial aid package to offer you.

Once you know what your financial award will be, you can talk to your parents about how to pay for any costs not covered by financial aid.

Did you know?  When you complete the FAFSA, you must list the FAFSA code for at least one college you’d like to receive your information.  You can list up to 10 colleges if you’re filling out the FAFSA online, but only a maximum of four colleges if you’re competing a PDF version of the FAFSA.  The college(s) you list will receive your information within a few days, but they might not contact you with a financial aid offer immediately. North Central Michigan College’s FAFSA code is 002299.

Katie Malone photo

Katie Malone is North Central's director of Financial Aid and resident FAFSA guru.