Parents' Educational Level

Filing the FAFSA 2016-2017 Edition Cover PaperbackThe Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA

Download our free PDF to maximize your eligibility for financial aid.

Get my ebook now 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks questions about the highest educational level attained by the student’s parents.

These questions are used for state grant purposes and do not affect eligibility for federal student aid. The answers to these questions are used to determine if the student is the first member of his or her family to attend college. Such a student is often called a “first-generation college student.” Some states and colleges offer additional aid to students who are the first in their family to go to college or graduate from college.

Select the highest grade level completed by the student’s parents. Parent 1 and Parent 2 in these questions mean birth or adoptive parents, not legal guardians, stepparents, or foster parents. This differs from the definition of “parent” used in the rest of the FAFSA questions.

Please note that this question asks about the highest grade level completed, not the highest grade level attended. If a parent has attended college but not obtained a Bachelor’s degree, the “High school” option should be marked.

Also note that this is a screening question, defining college completion as having received a Bachelor’s degree or more advanced degree. If a parent has obtained an Associate’s degree or certificate but not a Bachelor’s degree, the “High school” option should be marked because this parent has not completed a 4-year college degree program.

Some states may have more restrictive definitions of first-generation college student status. These states will follow-up with the family to determine whether the student will qualify as a first-generation college student under the state’s definition.

If a parent has completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher in a foreign country, he or she must select “College or beyond” even if the Bachelor’s degree involved only three years of postsecondary education.

The Student Survival Guide: The perfect tool for navigating high school & college!
Try it!