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FAFSA Tips and Avoiding Common Mistakes


The easiest way to fill out your FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid is to apply early and do it online

If you are not quite ready to file your FAFSA, the FAFSA4caster tool, from the Department of Education can be a great help. This tool can estimate your federal student aid eligibility by offering some basic information.

Early Application Is Vital

Did you know that numerous colleges and states rely on the FAFSA to figure out non-federal student aid funding eligibility? Many of these options have limited funding or early deadlines. Therefore, the earlier you complete the FAFSA, the more funds you may qualify for.

FAFSA Completion Requirements

Check out this handy FAFSA Checklist and print it off for easy review. Learning what you will need to have ready when you sit down to apply will simplify the process.

Easily Apply Online or Via Mobile App

There are mobile and online applications to help you complete your application. This is more efficient than original paper applications since they rely on skip-logic and ask relevant questions. Additionally, these electronic applications are processed quicker and will be more accurate. The app and the FAFSA website have been designed to capture common errors. You can track your progress and have easy access by creating an FSA ID. This provides access to your electronic application and allows you to save options, have an electronic signature and gives you a timely submission. 

IRS Data Retrieval

By applying online you have the option to retrieve your IRS Data. This is done to automatically populate the FAFSA and simplify the application process. It lessens errors and reduces your chances of being selected to verify your FAFSA information. 

Common Errors to Avoid

Remember, mistakes can cause an overall application delay. They can also limit how much aid you are eligible for. Be sure to read all of the questions carefully on the FAFSA to avoid any errors. Some of the most common errors include:

  • Using decimal points or commas in numeric fields. Be sure to always round to the closest dollar.
  • Never leave blank fields as too many will cause an application rejection due to miscalculations. Instead, enter “not applicable” or a “0” as opposed to leaving any field empty.
  • Not using your legal name; list your name the way it is written on your Social Security card. Avoid nicknames or any spelling variations.
  • Listing an improper driver’s license number or Social Security Number. Always triple-check these numeric entries for accuracy. If your folks do not have SSN or Social Security Numbers, list 000-00-0000. Do not include a Taxpayer Identification Number or make up a random number.
  • Don’t enter the wrong permanent address by listing a summer address or temporary campus residence.
  • Improperly filing income taxes as head of household. If there are any issues in filing the head of household status, the school will require an amended tax return to be filed with the IRS before any financial aid rewards are delivered.
  • Entering an improper federal income tax paid amount. This number is not on your W-2 form(s), it is on your income tax return forms from two years ago.
  • Failure to list both parents if they reside together. If both of your biological or adoptive parents live together in the same house, you need to list both parents on the FAFSA even if they are not married.
  • Listing the AGI or Adjusted Gross Income as equal to the complete income from working. The total income from working and the AGI is not always the same. In the majority of situations, the AGI is bigger than the total income from working.
  • Incorrectly listing martial status. The Department of Education is looking for your marital status on the day you sign the FAFSA. If you are legally recognized in a same-sex marriage, your spouse’s information is additionally required.
  • Not registering with Selective Service. If you are a male between the ages of 18-26, you need to register with Selective Service or you will not be eligible for federal student aid.
  • Not reporting unborn children. If you are pregnant or have a child that will be born during or before the award year and you need to provide the child with more than half of their support, be sure to include the baby as a household member.
  • Incorrectly listing your parents’ marital status. If your custodial parent has remarried, you will have to include your stepparent’s info on the FAFSA. If your parents are in a same-sex, legally recognized marriage, they will both need to be listed as Parent 1 and Parent 2.
  • Send a copy of your income tax returns. You don’t need to include any tax return copies with your FAFSA. Any information that is received with your FAFSA will be destroyed. Also, do not write any comments or notes in the margins.
  • Failing to recognize yourself as a student. The student filling out the FAFSA needs to count themselves as a household member attending college during the award year.
  • Not listing the college. You need the Federal Student Code for the college you wish to attend and list it with any other schools you have applied to.
  • Not signing and dating the paper copy of the FAFSA.

 

Get Help And Don’t Stress

Don’t get upset or stressed out with the FAFSA. Simply review the Help section on the website or contact by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED AID. The Department of Education has answers to FAQs regarding the FAFSA. There is also the Web Live help secure online chat where you can ask customer service reps specific questions.