Ask the Experts: What If I Don’t Make Any Money?

October 12, 2011 | posted by Jeff Sheely.

This week we have another question submitted through our Ask the Experts form. if you have any questions about financial aid or paying for college, be sure to submit them here.


This year I did not work at all and so I will not have any tax returns to file. How then do I apply for financial aid and how can it affect my aid? I’ve have had aid for the previous couple of years.


That’s a great question, Solace. This is a common situation for many college students, as they simply don’t have time to work a job in addition to attending classes and completing their schoolwork.

The process of applying for financial aid will be the same that you’ve followed in years past. First, you’ll need to make sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). On this form, you’ll find a question that asks if you’ve filed your taxes. There will be three options – “yes”, “not yet but I plan to”, and “no” – and in this case, you’ll simply choose the third.

By choosing “no,” you’re indicating that you haven’t made enough money to file taxes, but you will still be required to answer another question about exactly how much money you’ve made for the year. In your case, enter “0″ in that field. Then you’ll want to complete the rest of the FAFSA as usual.

Whether or not your lack of filing affects the aid you receive is up to your school, but in most cases the fact that you have zero income will not hurt you. In fact, it will often help, as it shows that you have more need than someone who is making money. However, each school has its own set of criteria for aid, so it will depend on how your school distributes their money.

If you want a better idea of how your school is likely to treat your situation, simply get in touch with your financial aid office. They will be happy to walk you through the process and make sure you understand what you need to do in order to receive aid.

Good luck, and make sure to file your FAFSA as soon as you can. In many cases, aid is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it pays to be at the front of the line!

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