September 10, 2019

Discover Student Loans Survey Finds 97% of Families Plan to Complete the FAFSA, but Confusion Still Exists

Only 24 percent of families know the FAFSA becomes available October 1.

RIVERWOODS, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Nearly all families surveyed (97 percent) plan to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ®)1, according to a 2019 Discover Student Loans survey of parents with college-bound students aged 16–18. Filling out the FAFSA is free and provides access to the largest source of financial aid to help pay for college. In 2018, federal student aid provided more than $122.4 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds to approximately 12.7 million students attending nearly 6,000 participating schools.2

Of the 97 percent of families who plan to complete the FAFSA, 43 percent of parents say they will complete it on their own, while 37 percent say they will complete the FAFSA with their child. Seventeen percent say their child will complete the form and the parent will sign it, and only 3 percent say no one in their family will complete the FAFSA.

“It’s great that most families are planning to fill out the FAFSA and nearly half are including their children in those discussions,” said Nicole Straub, Vice President for Discover Student Loans. “The FAFSA is an important first step toward paying for college as it’s used to determine students’ eligibility for federal, state, work-study, and institutional aid like grants and scholarships.”

While most parents with college-bound students plan to fill out the FAFSA, some appear confused around timing and why they should fill it out. Only one-fourth of parents know the FAFSA becomes available in October, and more than half believe it’s available all year. According to the 3 percent of parents who say their family will not complete the FAFSA, the top reasons are not needing federal aid (50 percent) and not believing they would qualify for it (37 percent).

“More than a third of parents said filling out financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA, causes them anxiety. However, completing the FAFSA only takes about 30 minutes which is one reason why everyone should fill it out. Even families who don’t need financial aid or don’t think they will qualify may receive some aid. We’ve seen around 85% of students receive some form of financial aid3,” said Straub. “It’s really important to know that some schools award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so parents and students should fill out the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available on October 1.”

Discover Student Loans offers a variety of free resources to help families navigate how to pay for college, including College Covered – a site created to provide students, parents, and high school counselors with the know-how to plan and pay for college. College Covered provides a variety of resources to help families understand the FAFSA. Discover’s FAFSA assistant is an interactive tool that can help you prepare for the FAFSA application by answering just a few questions. In addition, families can refer to the FAFSA Do’s and Don’ts guide as an additional resource.

Discover Student Loans provides private student loans and is not affiliated with the FAFSA or federal financial aid. For more information about Discover Student Loans, please visit

About the Survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI) survey conducted on behalf of Discover Financial Services. The survey was conducted online fielded from June 19–24, 2019, with a total sample size of 1,501 U.S. parents of college bound students (aged 16–18). The margin of sampling error was ±2.53 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover card, America's cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its direct banking business. It operates the Discover Global Network comprised of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance around the world. For more information, visit

1 FAFSA is a registered trademark of the U.S. Dept. of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.



Rob Weiss
Discover Financial Services

Source: Discover Financial Services