Don’t Make These 7 Common FAFSA Mistakes
Applying for college is an exciting time, but the stress of paying for your education can be daunting. One of the most challenging aspects of sorting out the financial side of going to college is applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
With the recent move to the October 1 release date, some aspects of the application have changed over the past few years.
The FAFSA form can be confusing to both students and parents. Therefore, it can be easy to make mistakes. These mistakes, however, can be costly. Here are some of the most common pitfalls made when filing the FAFSA, and how you can avoid them.
Waiting Too Long To File
While the federal deadline is June 30, schools and states often have different deadlines, which can begin as early as February. You no longer have to wait until you file your taxes. With the new release date, you can use last year’s tax information. Financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first served basis, so applying as close to the October 1 release date as possible will benefit you.
Additionally, to file the FAFSA, you will need an FSA PIN. The process to acquire one can take several days. If you wait until your state’s FAFSA deadline to start the process, you will miss the deadline.
Not Completing The FAFSA
Students and parents often find a section of the FAFSA that seems complicated and will give up on filling it out. This is a big mistake. By not completing the FAFSA, you will not be eligible for any financial aid at all. Rather than abandoning the FAFSA, seek advice online, from free community workshops or from friends or family members who have filed before.
Leaving Fields Blank
Similarly, if you’re not sure about a field or it doesn’t apply to you, some may leave it blank. In doing so, the processors will assume you forgot to answer it. It could then register as an error and hold up your submission. Instead, fill in a zero in those fields.
Providing Incorrect Information
Inputting incorrect information is one of the most common mistakes made on the FAFSA. Typos or misunderstanding of the question can lead to this problem. Providing erroneous information can be costly in determining your award.
One of the more common mistakes that arise on the FAFSA is understanding the use of the words “you” and “your.” When the form uses these words, it is asking for the student’s data, not the parents’. Parents will often put their own information in these fields. Some fields ask for parents’ information specifically.
Mistyping a Social Security number, not filling in the student’s complete legal name or using an incorrect address are also typical examples of inaccurate information.
To avoid these errors, be sure to thoroughly review your FAFSA application and understand what the questions are asking before submitting.
Another common error on the FAFSA is accidentally misreporting income. Interest payments, child support, and workers compensation do count as relevant sources of income. However, retirement savings accounts and assets such as a home do not count. Be sure to understand what to include. Accidentally overstating income could hinder the amount of aid you receive.
Forgetting to Sign the Document
One of the simplest mistakes made on the FAFSA is forgetting to sign it. The student and the parents need to sign the form digitally. Forgetting to sign it will delay processing. These delays will cause you to lose your spot in line, meaning you could be losing out on aid.
Paying To Fill Out the Form
There are some professionals available for hire to help you with the FAFSA. While this may seem appealing because the form is a daunting task, paying someone to file for you may be a waste of money. Many of those posing as FAFSA experts come from scam sites looking to take your money. Even if you’re going to a trusted source, such as your financial advisor, it might be unnecessary. The form has been streamlined in the past several years. Therefore, it may take careful attention, but you should be able to fill it out yourself.
The FAFSA can be a stressful and daunting process for students and parents alike. Mistakes, very literally, can be costly in terms of missing out on federal financial aid. These mistakes can be avoided by being aware of common errors and taking the time to review your FAFSA before submitting carefully. With some careful attention, you will be able to file with confidence.