$3.6 billion. That’s how many Pell Grant dollars the high school class of 2022 left on the table by not completing The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To put that amount of money in perspective, you would have to spend over $100,000 every day for the next 25 years just to make a $1 billion dent!

The good news is, $111.6 billion of federal financial aid did get used by 9.8 million students who took the time to fill out the FAFSA according to the U.S. Department of Education. No one’s saying filling out the FAFSA is a fun task, but certainly worth the hour it takes to do so. Especially when you consider the average person spends two and a half hours a day on social media.

 For those looking to attend college in the fall of 2024, the application opens on October 1 and must be submitted by June 30, 2024.

Deciphering fact from fiction is an important first step in preparing to fill out the FAFSA so if you have a teen in your life that could use some guidance, pass the following information along!

FAFSA Fact #1: The form is free to complete

One of the most important facts about the FAFSA is that it’s completely free to fill out! You should never pay anyone to fill out the form for you. If you need help, you can get free assistance from your school’s financial aid office or the Federal Student Aid Information Center.

FAFSA Fact #2: You can fill out the form online

Filling out the FAFSA online is the quickest and easiest way to complete the form. The online form is available at studentaid.gov, and you can submit it electronically. If you prefer to fill out a paper form, you can request one from the Federal Student Aid Information Center.

FAFSA Fact #3: You may be able to get aid for more than just tuition

Federal financial aid can help cover more than just tuition costs. You may be able to use aid to cover expenses like textbooks, room and board, and transportation. Additionally, some types of aid may be used to cover expenses like study abroad programs or internships.

FAFSA Fact #4: Each student and parent needs their own FSA ID to complete the FAFSA

To complete the FAFSA, each student and parent must have their own FSA ID. This is a unique username and password that is used to access federal student aid websites and sign legally binding documents electronically. Sharing an FSA ID with someone else is against federal law and can result in penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

FAFSA Fiction #1: You don’t need to fill out the form every year

Many students think that once they’ve filled out the FAFSA once, they don’t need to do it again. However, you need to fill out the FAFSA every year that you want to be considered for federal financial aid. This is because your financial situation may change from year to year, and the amount of aid you’re eligible for may also change.

FAFSA Fiction #2: Only students with good grades can get financial aid

Many students believe that only students with good grades can get financial aid. However, this is not true. While academic achievement may be a factor in some types of aid, such as scholarships, it’s not the only factor. Financial need is also a major factor in determining eligibility for federal financial aid.

FAFSA Fiction #3: You only need to fill out the FAFSA if you’re applying to a four-year college

The FAFSA is not just for students who are applying to four-year colleges. You can also use the form to apply for financial aid for community college, trade school, and other types of postsecondary education.

FAFSA Fiction #4: My parents make too much money so I won’t qualify for any aid

This is a common myth about financial aid eligibility. While it’s true that income is one factor in determining financial aid eligibility, it’s not the only factor. Additionally, the amount of financial aid you may be eligible for will depend on a variety of factors, including the cost of attendance at your chosen college, the type of aid you’re applying for, and the number of family members attending college. Even if your parents make a high income, you may still be eligible for some forms of financial aid, such as unsubsidized loans or work-study programs.

See how Money Path can help

If you want a better idea of just how much you’ll need to attend college after high school, the Money Path app is the perfect tool. This web-based application can demonstrate the financial impact of completing the FAFSA by helping to determine how much funding you’ll need from savings, scholarships, or family, in addition to federal financial aid, to cover the cost of college. Money Path also allows you to compare in-state vs. out-of-state tuition and two-year vs. four-year colleges, so you can make smart decisions about your student loan needs.

And the best part is, you can revisit the app and adapt your plans throughout your high school and college experience so every year you fill out the FAFSA you can have a better idea going in of how much you’ll need.

For more information about how to bring Money Path to your school at no cost, click here. To purchase it for individual use at home, click here, and don’t forget to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize your eligibility and allow yourself enough time to plan for any remaining funds that may be needed. If you wait until late spring to complete the form it reduces your ability to apply for scholarships or to work with the university to explore other funding options, so mark your calendar for October 1st!