Chances are, if you’ve spent a significant amount of time online, you’ve encountered shady advertisements from websites claiming that financial aid can solve all of your money worries overnight. Although financial aid can be a wonderful tool for degree-seekers, it is important to also be aware of the myths of financial aid.

Before you make the decision to go back to school, it’s important to sort through the truths and un-truths of federal financial aid. To help, we have provided the following guide to the 3 most common financial aid myths, courtesy of ClassesandCareers.com, a free college information service:

1. “Anyone can get it” – Federal financial aid was created to make it possible for those lacking the means to still attend college and earn a degree. However, there are still certain stipulations on who can receive financial aid. Not everyone qualifies for Stafford Loans and Pell Grants. Here are some of the guidelines governing who qualifies:

  • You have to be enrolled at an accredited college or university.
  • You cannot be in default on any past student loans.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • If you file taxes individually, your taxable income must be less than $80,000 for the year prior. If filing jointly, it must be less than $150,000.

Other qualifications are determined by individual schools. The only sure way to determine if you qualify for financial aid is talk to a professional financial aid advisor at an accredited school.

2. “You can go to school for free” – Depending on how much tuition, fees, and books are at your school of choice, you may be able to cover all of your school expenses without digging into your pocket book. But it’s not likely. According to CollegeBoard.com, the average college tuition for public universities is up to $7,020 per year. Private schools are up to $26,273. This means that even with Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, which cap out at $5,500 per year, you will likely be paying out of pocket and dipping into some private student loans. In addition, you do need to pay back those loans, making them anything but free.

3. “A website can help you get it” – Federal financial aid is administered by the schools and the federal government. This means there is no middleman and no other organization that can get financial aid for you. Bottom line: don’t believe anyone who says they can help you get free stimulus or Pell Grant money. That’s not how the system works.

Once you enroll in school, a financial aid counselor will walk you through the process. Based on your financial need, they will determine how much you qualify for and how much you should take.

ClassesandCareers.com is dedicated to educating our users about their options in education. In addition to resources on our site, we also connect users with representatives at some of the best online colleges to answer their questions.

If you are interested in learning more about going back to school, visit ClassesandCareers.com and use their financial aid assessment tool. You will be contacted by a representative from an accredited online school to determine your educational and financial aid options.

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