Our Blog

By: Mike Kelsey

It’s January and in Financial Aid Land that means that FAFSA season is in full swing. Whether you’re the parent of a returning student or the parent of a prospective student, we hope that you’re taking the time to visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Below I hope you find some helpful tips, myths, and FAQs for filling out this form.


  • Have your student be the one actually sitting at the computer filling out the form.
    • Many of the questions on the FAFSA are asked directly to the student. For example: “What was YOUR income for 2010?” Parents often assume they are answering for themselves on these questions and sometimes enter their income information where the student’s should be. This mistake will significantly throw off a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  • Keep W2s, most recent pay stubs, and past tax returns handy while completing the FAFSA.
    • The answers you provide for the FAFSA questions are intended to be estimated. Using these three forms will help you in coming up with these estimates for the FAFSA and avoid returning to the form later to put in the correct numbers.
  • Don’t wait until February 1st to complete the form.
    • Although this is Gonzaga’s priority deadline, there are some scenarios that cause the FAFSA to take longer than expected. These scenarios may include calling an accountant or financial aid counselor to ask questions, as well as searching for documentation to help answer the FAFSA accurately.
  • Don’t EVER pay a fee to file the FAFSA.
    • The first word of the FAFSA is “Free,” you will never be asked to include any kind of payment information when filling out this form. If for some reason you are, most likely you are on the incorrect site.


  • MYTH:  We no longer claim our daughter or son on our tax returns and we do not support them financially at all. If I have my son or daughter file the FAFSA as an independent they will receive much more aid then if I have my income listed on there as well.
    • TRUTH: In order to file the FAFSA as an independent, the student must answer yes to one of the following categories:
      • Were you born before January 1st, 1988?
      • Are you married?
      • Are you pursuing a graduate degree this year?
      • Are you on active duty or a veteran of the armed forces?
      • Do you have children that you support?
      • Do you have any legal dependents?
      • Are you an orphan, ward of the state, or in foster care?
      • Have you completed the requirements to be considered an emancipated minor?
      • Were you ever considered in legal guardianship?
      • Are you at risk or being homeless or currently homeless?

If the student is not able to answer yes to any of these questions then they ARE a dependent, regardless of who claims them on their taxes and they MUST include parent’s tax information on the FAFSA.

  • MYTH: I’m divorced from the other parent of my son or daughter attending GU, can’t they use the parent’s tax information that makes less money so they can receive more aid.
    • TRUTH: Students are required to include the tax information of the parent that supported them financially at least 50% of the time during the last 12 months. Typically this is the parent that they lived with most frequently. If that parent has re-married the student MUST include the step-parent’s tax information as well.
  • MYTH: We’ve worked hard to purchase a comfortable house, ensure a strong life insurance policy, saved aggressively for retirement, etc. The value of all these assets will boost our expected family contribution to an unrealistic level.
    • TRUTH: The FAFSA has protections written in to its EFC formula to ensure that assets such as these will not be calculated when preparing a student’s EFC. The primary areas used for this calculation are income, assets separate from primary residence and retirement funds, and how many members of the household are in college. It should also be noted that credit scores are not used when filling out the FAFSA.
  • MYTH: You have to be a minority to receive financial aid.
    • TRUTH: The FAFSA never even asks for this type of information. The form is only concerned with calculating financial need. Religion, race, heritage, etc. will not come in to play when applying for federal funds.


  • Do I need to have my taxes completed before filling out the FAFSA?
    • No, the FAFSA is intended to be filled out based on estimates. The Department of Education is working with the IRS to make it possible in the future for families to simply check a box indicating that they’d like their tax information linked with their FAFSA information once it’s completed. This may not be available by February 1st but is something to look for in the future.
  • Is February 1st the FAFSA deadline for every school?
    • No, it’s important to note the deadlines for each school you’re applying to as each school is entitled to choose the deadline that works best with their system. It should also be noted that every school handles financial aid differently. The amount of aid you receive from Gonzaga could be in a different form and under different terms than that of another school. Gonzaga guarantees that the aid received from Gonzaga University will be available to your student for four years as long as the student remains full time and has a 2.0 cumulative GPA. Federal aid and state aid may change per legislative action and as student need changes from year to year.
  • Do I HAVE to fill the FAFSA out?
    • If you would like to receive any type of federal or state funding you must fill out the FAFSA. Also, if you fail to fill out the FAFSA you will not be awarded the Gonzaga grant known as Gonzaga Funding. This grant is based on student need and student merit. If we are unable to assess student need we will not award students this additional money, student merit is determined via their application to the university.
  • What if my income dramatically changes for some reason during the school year? Can the FAFSA be changed to give my son or daughter more financial aid?
    • If you experience a loss of income in some way, received some sort of “one-time income” last year, are paying private school tuition for ages K-12, get divorced, experience the death of a spouse, or have unusual medical expenses not covered by insurance, Gonzaga Financial Aid Counselors are able to use professional judgment to indicate this on your records. Some documentation will need to be provided as well as some additional information but part of the mission of our office is to help families through such difficult times.

These are just a few of the tips we have to offer, myths we frequently debunk, and questions that we commonly answer during the months of December, January, and February. If your questions go deeper than these listed, or you simply need some assistance filling out the FAFSA, please call the Financial Aid Office at 1-800-793-1716 or email them at finaid@gonzaga.edu. Gonzaga’s Financial Aid Website may also provide some clarifying information: www.Gonzaga.edu/FinancialAid. Good luck, Happy New Year!

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