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Mistakes When Completing the FAFSA

The most important step in the financial aid process will be filling out your FAFSA, which will determine the aid you’ll be eligible to receive not only from your intended college, but the federal government. Chances are you won’t be paying for your college education out of pocket, so be sure to pay close attention to any and all directions when it comes to filling out that FAFSA. One minor mistake could delay your application, and while you can correct errors once you see a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), if you’ve applied for aid late, you may be cutting it close for many colleges' financial aid deadlines.

Go ahead and fill out the FAFSA as soon as it’s available January 1st to avoid any last-minute hassles and, better yet, avoid any common mistakes before you even send in your financial aid application. (Apply online to see the results of your FAFSA even faster. The online FAFSA form will also catch any errors for you, and provides worksheets for you to fill out to avoid any tax-related mistakes.) See our list below of ways that you can avoid making common mistakes when completing the FAFSA so that your application, and subsequently, your financial aid, won’t be delayed.

  1. Verify your Social Security number, the most important identifying information on your application.
  2. Sign and date the form. (Both the student and a parent for a dependent student must sign the form). If you file the FAFSA online, be sure to print, sign, and mail the signature page once you’ve completed the application.
  3. Complete the entire form. List the net worth of your assets as of the day you complete the FAFSA. If your answer to some questions is zero, be sure to write "0" instead of leaving the answer blank. Don’t skip the question related to drug convictions.
  4. Don't leave any fields on income earned blank. Report the wages, salaries, and tips earned from work for the student and each parent if the student is dependent. Report the wages, salaries, and tips earned from work for the student and spouse if the student is independent. This income will not be counted twice, but will determine your allowance for Social Security tax payments and a special allowance for families in which both parents are employed or the student and spouse are employed.
  5. Report the actual income tax paid, which is usually determined by the tax tables when completing the income tax form, not the amount withheld by your employer as shown on your W-2 form.
  6. Report the correct number of people who live in your household or attend school. If you are a dependent student, report only the people who live with your parents and will continue to receive more than half of their support from your parents. If you are an independent student, report only the people living in your household who will continue to receive more than half of their support from you. In order to be included in the number of people listed in school on your FAFSA, your sibling(s), spouse and/or children must be attending at least six hours in one term, and working towards a degree from a college that participates in federal financial aid programs. Parents are excluded from that number.
  7. Verify your Federal School Code so that you’re sending your financial aid information to the right colleges.
  8. Answer "no" to graduate student status if you’re not working toward your second degree.
  9. List the current marital status of your custodial parent (the one with whom you reside and whose information is listed on the FAFSA), even if they are divorced or remarried.
  10. Use your permanent mailing address on the application, not your campus or summer address

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