Making mistakes on your FAFSA could delay your application and possibly make you lose out on some financial aid. The most common errors people make are listed below. As you complete the FAFSA, try to avoid these errors.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Student Aid
- Leaving blank fields: Enter a '0' or 'not applicable' instead of leaving a blank. Too many blanks may cause miscalculations and an application rejection.
- Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields: Always round to the nearest dollar.
- Listing incorrect Social Security Number or Driver's license number: Check these entries and have someone else check them too. Triple check to be sure.
- Entering the wrong federal income tax paid amount: Obtain your federal income paid amount from your income tax return forms, not your W-2 form(s).
- Listing Adjusted Gross Income as equal to total income: These are not the same figure. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income. This mistake is particularly common.
- Listing marital status incorrectly: Only write yes if you're currently married. They want to know what you're marital status is on the day you sign the FAFSA.
- Listing parent marital status incorrectly: The custodial parent's marital status is needed; if they've remarried, you'll need the stepparent's information too.
- Leaving the question about drug-related offenses blank: If you're unsure about something, find out before you submit your FAFSA instead of leaving it blank. A conviction doesn't necessarily disqualify you from getting aid.
- Forgetting to list the college: Obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it–along with any other schools to which you've applied.
- Forgetting to sign and date: If you're filing electronically, you will have to create a FSA ID. Your FSA ID is your electronic signature and will always be assigned to you only.
- Entering the wrong address: Your permanent address is not your campus or summer address.
Much of the financial information you need to provide is on your tax forms. Completing your taxes early can make the application process easier because you'll have the financial information you need in one place.
You can estimate your financial information using previous tax years and correct the amounts on the form later by going to the corrections page on the FAFSA website. If you are not required to file taxes you still have to fill out a FAFSA to get financial aid.
Materials that will help you complete the FAFSA:
- Social Security number
- Driver's license
- W-2 Forms for the previous year and other records of money earned
- Federal Income Tax Return
- Parent’s Federal Income Tax Return if you are a dependent student
- Current bank statements
- Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
- Documentation that you are a U.S. permanent resident or other eligible non-citizen.
Determining Dependency Status
Whether you are considered independent or dependent when completing the FAFSA determines how your financial aid is calculated and the maximum amount in Stafford/Direct Loans you can borrow.
You may feel that you should be able to declare independent status because you live on your own, file your own taxes, or receive no support from your parents. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education is extremely strict with regard to determining dependency status.
Regardless of how much support you actually receive from your parents, you will be considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes unless at least one of the following criteria is met:
- Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
- Be an orphan, ward of the court, or was a ward of the court until the age of 18
- Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States
- Be a graduate or professional student
- Be married
- Have legal dependents other than a spouse
- Be an emancipated minor or an unaccompanied homeless youth
If you do not meet one of the above conditions, you must file your FAFSA as a dependent student and include your parents' information.