When it comes to college financing, the FAFSA Form is a critical document. This is because it is used not just by the U.S. Department of Education, but by the school you are attending (or schools you are looking at) to make decisions about financial aid. For this reason, it is very important that you fil it out correctly. So when you sit down to do it, don’t make these mistakes!
Not Completing It. The biggest mistake, of course, is not filling it out at all. There are all sorts of excuses, from it takes to long, to doing so is too hard, to assuming from the start that you won’t qualify for anything anyway. By not completing it, you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Don’t fall for the myths about the FAFSA; fill it out!
Not Reading It Carefully. Many students experience a delay in the processing of the form due to simple mistakes in filling it out. Here are 3 big mistakes to avoid:
- Household Size. This is the number of family members, and who they are is defined specifically in the instructions. Be sure you understand that definition before you answer this one.
- Amount of Income Tax. This is the amount of tax you paid on your income. It is also not the same as your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Check your tax return to be sure.
- Legal Guardianship. The form asks if you are, or were, in legal guardianship. Be sure of the definition of this term, because it does NOT include your parents.
Inputting Incorrect Information. This is a similar mistake to the above. Be sure that every answer you give is as accurate as possible. Reread the form after completing it to be sure. Make sure they match up to other official documents. This includes full LEGAL name and an accurate Social Security Number.
Not Signing It. It is hard to believe, but after going to the effort of getting all of the information together and completing the form, many students fail to sign it with their PIN and submit it! If you don’t have a PIN or forgot it, then reapply for one! Don’t quit right before the finish line!
Not Reporting Parent Information. No matter what, if you are considered a dependent of your parents by the Department of Education, you need to provide your parents’ info as well. This is true even if the IRS does not consider you a dependent.
Not Being Prepared. As you can see, filling out the form involves some degree of preparation. Before you start, gather together all of the information you need to complete it.
Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This is a big mistake because not using it makes filling out the form harder! Tax information can be transferred into the FAFSA automatically from the IRS database. You can’t use it if you are using estimated income (because you haven’t filed your tax return yet) or before the IRS has it available (in most cases it will be two weeks after you file), but it is worth using if you can!
The FAFSA form is key to your educational financing. Put in the time and the effort to fill it out completely and accurately. It is now easier than ever!
If you are looking for more information about federal financial aid for college, then download my free book, Applying for Federal Financial Aid: The Definitive Guide for Students and Parents.
For more information about what happens after you graduate, get my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.
You can also access the latest news on student loans, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and read articles in my Library. Continue to educate yourself as you go through the process of making smart decisions about college financing!