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Mistakes When Completing the FAFSA

The most important step in the financial aid process is filling out your FAFSA, which determines your eligibility for financial aid from your intended college and the federal government. Most students don’t pay for college out-of-pocket, so pay close attention to the directions on the FAFSA because mistakes will delay your application. Although you can correct errors once you get your Student Aid Report (SAR), those mistakes will shorten your timeline and cause you to miss college financial aid deadlines.

Fill out the FAFSA as soon as it’s available January 1st to avoid last-minute hassles and common mistakes before sending in your financial aid application. To get the fastest results, apply online. The online FAFSA catches mistakes, and provides worksheets to avoid any tax-related mistakes. See our list of ways to avoid making common mistakes when completing the FAFSA so that your application, and your financial aid, won’t be delayed.

  1. Verify your Social Security number. Your SSN is 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. If you file the FAFSA online, 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, write "0". Do not leave any answer blank. Also, do not skip the “drug convictions” questions.
  4. Do not leave the fields on earnedincome blank. Report the wages, salaries, and tips earned from the students’ work 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. Income is not counted twice. Income determines your allowance for Social Security tax payments and a special allowance for families where both parents are employed or the student and spouse are employed.
  5. Report income tax, which is determined by the tax tables on the income tax form. Do not report 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 receive more than half of their support from your parents. If you are an independent student, report only the people living in your household receive more than half of their support from you. 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 parent you reside with 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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Last Reviewed: January 2020