FAFSA Tips & Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Student Aid
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.
- 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 at fsaid.ed.gov. 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.
Here is a list of 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 noncitizen.