Parent’s Education Level on the FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks questions about the parent’s highest education level. This question helps identify students who are first in their family to go to college, also known as first-generation college students. Several states and colleges have special financial aid funds for first-generation college students.
The parents’ highest education level does not affect eligibility for federal student aid. Rather, some states have special financial aid funds for first-generation college students. Since each state has a different definition of a first-generation college student, this screening question uses the most general definition.
For example, there are several possible definitions of a first-generation college student:
- A student whose parents do not have bachelor’s degrees
- A student whose parents do not have any college degrees or certificates
- A student whose parents never attended college
Of these, the first definition includes all students who would be included under the second or third definitions.
The answer to the highest education level questions should be based on the student’s biological or adoptive parents, not legal guardians, stepparents or foster parents.
Select “College or beyond” only if the parent has received a bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree, not an associate’s degree or certificate. If a parent has attended a four-year college but not completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree, choose “High School” as the answer.
If a parent has completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree in a foreign country, select “College or Beyond.”