This is a question that I get often. Many parents and students want to know if it is worth the “hassle” of filling out a FAFSA if it does not bear fruit. You would think that there would be a definitive “yes or “no” answer to this question. Unfortunately, as with many other aspects of the FAFSA, the answer is not that simple. To be honest, it is kind of a loaded question. The response that I give when this question is asked is actually “possibly” or “maybe”. I will need to dive deeper into your individual situation to give an answer that is not so vague.
Many people are not aware that Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are generated from filling out a FAFSA correctly. So, if you are planning on having loans under the student’s name, then it is highly recommended that you fill out a FAFSA. Almost ALL students are eligible for unsubsidized loans regardless of the amount of income reported on the FAFSA. Stafford loans have low-interest rates and will be deferred up to six months after the student leaves college. It can be difficult to find a private loan with terms that are as attractive as a Stafford loan. In addition, you must have a FASFA submitted to be eligible for Parent Plus and Graduate Plus Loans. It is also a possibility that a college may require a student to have a valid FAFSA on file to be eligible for certain in-house and outside scholarships. I have also had students and parents tell me that their college requires all students who wish to be considered for early decision to fill out a FAFSA, regardless of their financial situation.
As you can see there is a lot to think about here. Generally, unless you are planning to pay for college upfront with all cash and do not care to receive any possible grants or loans, then you probably do not need to submit a FAFSA unless your college requires it for early decision. My advice would be to submit at least one FAFSA for a student’s first year of college. Then you will know for sure whether it’s pointless for you to fill out a FAFSA moving forward.