If you do not have any income, can you still complete the FAFSA? Read on to prepare yourself for options that may benefit you.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the typical form filled out by current and prospective college students in the United States. It is the form that drives and determines many things, including financial aid eligibility, grants, scholarships, or work study. The FAFSA is usually the essential first step toward going to college, but before filling it out, consider if it’s the best way to apply for aid, depending on your unique situation as a student.
The FAFSA qualifies students of all income levels and awards financial aid, so it’s not something you want to skip. Some colleges require a FAFSA even though they award aid without regard to family or individual income. Some state agencies and scholarship foundations list FAFSA as their first requirement as well. The most desirable type of loan for a student is a low-interest forgivable loan. The FAFSA automatically qualifies students for this type of loan, which is why it’s the go-to first step.
The biggest question here will probably be if you are considered an independent or dependent student. If you are an independent student, you will report your own information and a spouse’s if you are married. If you are a dependent student, you will report your parents’ information and your own. There are ten dependency questions on the 2020-2021 FAFSA form including (in summary):
- Were you born before January 1st, 1997
- As of today, are you married?
- At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces?
- Are you a veteran of the U.S armed forces?
- Do you have children who receive support from you?
- Do you have dependents?
- Are both parents deceased or were you in foster care?
- Are you an emancipated minor or does someone, other than a parent or stepparent, have legal guardianship of you?
- Are you homeless or self-supporting?
Determining if you’re a dependent student.
If you answered “no” to every question, you are a dependent student and you will need to include your parents’ information on the FAFSA form. Now that you have determined you are a dependent student, if you have no income, you are not obligated to file an income tax return, but non-filing verification may be required. The FAFSA requires you to report income from an earlier tax year, so how do you proceed? In this case, you would use your parents’ 2018 income information for the 2020-21 FAFSA form. If the 2018 income information is not a clear representation of your parents’ financial status, it may be beneficial to contact the school you are applying to and explain the situation. Financial aid personnel have the ability to assess unique situations and make changes to financial aid on a case-by-case basis.
Determining if you’re an independent student.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are considered an independent student and will not be required to provide parental information on the FAFSA form. If you are an independent student with no income, the school you are applying to might require more information from you, though. For instance, you might be asked to verify high school graduation with transcripts or an official letter. The financial officer may inquire about foster care or household size or other questions that may apply to your situation. Additionally, the officer could ask for legal documents or letters from a social worker or counselor. Filling out the FAFSA in this circumstance is still the first step toward going to college, and the extra documentation could help get you the assistance you need.
Untaxed income and assets.
The FAFSA also has questions about untaxed income and assets, so even if you aren’t working now, you may have information that proves helpful when applying for financial aid. It’s important to get this reporting accurate, especially if there is limited income and tax information available. Untaxed income questions could include things like interest income, child support, veterans non-education benefits, workers comp, disability, and untaxed portions of a health savings account. Asset examples include bank account balances, the value of investments like real estate (not a primary residence) and stocks and bonds.
Completing the FAFSA with no income.
The way to fill out the FAFSA if you have no income is to simply fill out as much as you can and be proactive when it comes to the school of choice. If you have to skip information or leave some things blank, be in contact with the financial aid office. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on financial aid that can make it possible to attend college. Every year, there are a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the form, but if you have no income, don’t let that stop you. Everyone who is thinking about college should fill out the FAFSA form. Visit https://fafsa.gov to complete the form via computer or a mobile device.