Why Does the FAFSA Ask Strange Questions?

on February 28, 2017

Students and parents often wonder why the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) includes certain questions. Even the strangest questions on the FAFSA are there for a reason.


The FAFSA asks about a student’s driver’s license to help prevent identity theft. Colleges can use a student’s driver’s license information to prevent someone else form picking up the student’s refund check. Note that the student’s driving record does not affect eligibility for financial aid. The driver’s license number is not used to verify citizenship or drug convictions. Do not substitute a conditional use permit or state identification card number instead of a driver’s license number. This is an optional question.


The question about current and former foster youth is used to send information to them about additional financial aid resources that may be available to them.


The purpose of the high school question is to help high schools track how many of their students have filed the FAFSA.


The purpose of the parent education level question is to identify students who are first in their family to go to college. Some states and colleges have special financial aid programs for these first-generation students.


There are some intentionally redundant questions on the FAFSA to help improve the accuracy of the FAFSA. For example, the FAFSA could determine the answer to the dependency status question from the student’s date of birth. By retaining this question, the FAFSA forces the student to resolve conflicts between answers to the two questions, yielding a more accurate application.

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