FAFSA FAQ: Tips That Can Help Student-Athletes Score More Money for College

Published on October 14, 2021

For student-athletes the dream is always a full-ride scholarship even though NCAA data shows they just aren’t the norm – only about 2% of high school athletes are awarded athletics scholarships to compete in college.

Instead, most recruits might adjust their sights and aim to create a more complete scholarship package by combining athletic scholarship with other opportunities like financial aid. And that all begins with your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

What is FAFSA?
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a financial aid application which determines your eligibility for federal (and state) grants, loans and work-study funds administered by the U.S. Department of Education. The information from your FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – an index number that colleges use when determining how much financial aid you’d receive if you attend their school.

Why every student should fill out the FAFSA
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for federal aid, you should still apply. Most colleges and many private scholarships require students to submit their FAFSA to be considered for financial aid. Some colleges will even evaluate your FAFSA to determine which other kinds of scholarships, like merit-based scholarships, you could qualify for. Plus, a college (and college coach) may take your application more seriously when you’ve submitted a FAFSA.

Some schools also require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA in order to calculate their own financial aid using a different formula. You can find this list here. This form is not free to fill out, as each school requires an additional fee.

You may also find that a few schools require a third form specific to the institution to supplement the information provided on the FAFSA and/or CSS. The school’s financial aid website will usually let you know if this is required.

Do You Have to Fill Out FAFSA to Receive an Athletic Scholarship?
Since athletic scholarships are offered to athletes directly from the school, you don’t necessarily need to fill out a FAFSA to receive them. Some schools do require a student who is receiving a scholarship to fill out their FAFSA, so it’s always best to check with your potential future coach or the school’s financial aid department if you know that you’re being scouted.

Also, filling out the FAFSA may work to your advantage since you may qualify for more financial aid than you thought. Even if you have a full athletic scholarship, it only covers the cost of tuition, some fees, room, board and your books. You’ll still have to pay for your student fees, parking, snacks and late fees.

Can You Combine Athletic Scholarship And Financial Aid?
You can combine athletic scholarships and financial aid, but it’s important to know how the two items can affect one another and how NCAA regulations can affect this process for both the individual and the program. The specific regulations and policies around athletic scholarship and financial aid combinations can vary based on the division and the school, so it will helpful to speak with the Compliance Office or Director of Financial Aid at the schools you are applying to in order to be aware of how everything works and how it might apply to your situation in recruiting.

How college coaches use your FAFSA
Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is especially important to college coaches who can offer partial scholarships. Typically, coaches take your EFC into consideration when collaborating with School Admissions to build a competitive scholarship package. For example, if your EFC is low, meaning you won’t be expected to contribute to your college funds, they may work to supplement your package with need-based scholarships. But if they find you have a higher EFC, they may try to mix in merit-based scholarships you won’t be required to pay back.

What do I need to fill out the FAFSA?
The FAFSA To complete the FAFSA, you will need the following information and if you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent or guardian:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically.

When should I fill out the FAFSA?
ASAP! The FAFSA opens October 1 for the following school year (2021-22). Families are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible because aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applications are considered on a rolling basis until June 30, 2022, but college deadlines are usually earlier (often February or March). So, check the deadlines for schools on your list to ensure you complete your application on time.