Nearly one in three parents have never told their child about the FAFSA


RIVERWOODS, Illinois – (COMMERCIAL THREAD) – An annual Discover Student Loans survey found that 29% of parents had never told their child about asking for free federal student aid.® (FAFSA)I and 22% discussed it only once or twice. The FAFSA, which becomes available on October 1st, is a free annual app giving families access to the largest source of financial aid to help pay for college educationii. For many, this is the best way to access federal assistance.

Given the lack of discussions families have about FAFSA, it’s no surprise that only 37% of families responded that they are very familiar with FAFSA and plan to complete it this year. The survey also found that 31% of parents who planned to complete the FAFSA still had not completed it by May 2021 – a month before its deadline in June.

“It’s understandable that families feel anxious when it comes to paying for college. In fact, 30% of parents said that applying for scholarships, grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance caused their child to be anxious. When it comes to funding a college education, the sooner families can start saving and having those conversations, the better, ”said Manny Chagas, vice president of Discover Student Loans. “The same goes for the FAFSA. Applying early can provide families with opportunities for federal, state, and institutional support, such as grants and scholarships, as some schools provide financial assistance on a first-come, first-served basis.

Beyond a lack of discussion about the FAFSA among family members, Discover’s survey uncovered myths and misconceptions that can create barriers for families who complete the FAFSA application, including:

  • Only 20% of parents know the FAFSA is available in October, while just over half (51%) believe the FAFSA is available year round. Both statistics remain relatively unchanged over the past three years.

  • More than a third (36%) of parents think it takes 1-3 hours to complete the FAFSA. However, most families complete the FAFSA in less than an hour. iii

  • More than 4 in 10 families (42%) who are not planning on completing the FAFSA say it’s because they don’t believe they will qualify for federal assistance. In fact, 86% of first-time full-time students in 4-year public colleges received assistance. iv

To navigate the FAFSA filing process, half of parents (50%) say they have taken advantage of FAFSA guides and online resources, while 29% say they use material sent by a child’s school and 28% cite secondary school guidance counselors as a resource. .

For families looking for more resources, Discover Student Loans provides free tools and information to help them plan and navigate their college fundraising journey. To begin with, the FAFSA Assistant Tool from Discover Student Loans is an interactive resource designed to help families prepare to complete their FAFSA application. After answering a few questions, the tool provides personalized advice and considerations to help families organize themselves for the process. Families can also refer to the FAFSA Dos and Don’ts as an additional resource – all found on the Discover Student Loans site website which provides useful content for students, parents and counselors. For families looking for a way to compare college costs, check out Potential Careers and College Majors Earnings to help determine college ROI, they can visit the award-winning site My College Plan tool.

For more information on Discover Student Loans, please visit


All figures, unless otherwise noted, are from a Dynata (formerly Research Now / SSI) survey conducted on behalf of Discover Financial Services. The survey was conducted online May 10-15, 2021, with a total sample of 1,000 U.S. parents of college students (ages 16-18). The margin of sampling error is ± 2.53 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a digital banking and payments company with one of the most recognized brands in US financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has grown into one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover Card, a pioneer in cash rewards in the United States, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home loans, checking and savings accounts, and certificates of deposit through its banking operations. It operates the Discover Global Network comprised of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access points; PULSE, one of the country’s main ATM / debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payment network accepted worldwide. For more information visit

I FAFSA is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.




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