1. Not Completing the FAFSA:
We hear all kinds of reasons: The FAFSA is too hard." "It takes too long to complete." " I never qualify anyways, so why does it matter." It does matter. The FAFSA is not just the application for federal grants such as the Pell Grant. It's also the application for work-study funds, low-interest federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don't complete the FAFSA, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes little time to complete, and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid.
2. Not Using the Correct Website:
The official FAFSA website is: fafsa.gov That's .gov! You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. If you're asked for credit card information, you're not on the official government site.
3. Not Getting an FSA ID Ahead of Time:
An FSA ID is a username and password that you must use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent, if your considered a dependent student, will each need your own, separate FSA ID's if you each want to sign your FAFSA online.
4. Waiting To Fill Out the FAFSA:
If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA ASAP after October 1. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and some states and colleges run out of money early, so even if your deadlines aren't for a while, get your FAFSA done ASAP! Now that you're required to use earlier (2015) tax information to complete the FAFSA, you have no excuse to wait!
5. Not Filing by the Deadline:
As previously stated, you should fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline. Some priority deadlines will be earlier this year because the FAFSA is available earlier. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, fill out your FAFSA and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school by your earliest deadline, if not sooner !
6. Not Using Your FSA ID to start the FAFSA:
When you go to log in to fafsa.gov, you will be given the option to "Enter your FSA ID" OR "Enter the student's information." If you are the student, we highly recommend choosing the first option if you can. If you log in with your FSA ID, a lot of your information will be automatically loaded into your application. This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn't match the information on your FAFSA. Additionaly, you won't have to provide your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA electronically.
7. Not Reading Definitions Carefully:
When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and question carefully, because sometimes, how the FAFSA wants you to answer certain questions is not how you'd intuitively answer the question. Some items that have very specific (but not intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA are:
- Legal Guardianship
- Your Number of Family Members
- Number of Family Members in College
8. Inputting Incorrect Information:
Here are some examples of common errors we see on the FAFSA:
- Confusing Parent and Student information
- Entering the Wrong Name
- Entering the Wrong Social Security Number
- Amount of Your Income Tax
9. Not Reporting Parent Information:
Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you'll need to provide parent information on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether you need to provide parent information by answering these questions: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out/dependency#am-i-dependent-or-independent
If your considered a dependent student and don't provide parent information, your FAFSA may not be processed, you may not receive an EFC and/or you may only qualify for unsubsidized loans.
10. Listing Only One College:
Two-thirds of precollege FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Unless you are only applying to one college or already know where you're going to school, this is a mistake! Colleges can't see the other schools you've added, so you should add ANY college you are considering to your FAFSA, even if you aren't sure whether you'll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you're applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps: (https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fotwfaq14.htm)
It doesn't hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don't even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don't end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.
11. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool:
For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. And this year, the tool will be available on the same day the FAFSA launches. Since they are now requiring earlier tax information, (2015 instead of 2016 info), you'll already have filed your 2015 taxes by the time you start the 2017-18 FAFSA. This means you can transfer your tax info right away and you won't need to go back in and update your FAFSA with 2016 tax info. In fact, you can't update the application with 2016 tax info: 2015 is what's required.
12. Not signing the FAFSA:
So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons - maybe you forgot your FSA ID or your parent isn't with you to sign with your parent FSA ID - so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don't let this happen to you.