The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a required document that all students must submit in order to be eligible for federal financial aid. Even though it is an important document that should be double-checked, most students make at least one error while filling out the form. Making even a small mistake can result in a significant decrease in the amount of financial assistance you receive or delay the processing of your form by up to three weeks. In the worst cases, you could even miss the deadline for tuition payments due to these small errors. When filling out this crucial financial aid document, follows these quick tips so you can avoid making common FAFSA mistakes:
Do Not Procrastinate. To avoid missing deadlines and rushing to get it submitted at the last minute, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. If you wait to submit the FAFSA until mid-April i.e. income tax time, you might miss important deadlines for state financial aid and assistance from your college.
Apply Online. If you
submit the FAFSA online, you will find that the system is automated to catch common errors. The online application also includes worksheets that will accurately calculate information and enter it into the proper fields for you. Another bonus is that your application will also be processed much faster and doesn’t run the risk of being lost in the mail.
Do Not Leave Any Fields Blank. If a question does not apply to you, write in ‘0’ for financial questions or ‘No’ for background questions instead of leaving them blank. If you leave the item blank, a FAFSA processor will probably contact you, assuming you forgot to answer the question. This will ultimately delay the processing of your application.
Verify Personal Information. If you are submitting the FAFSA online, make sure all of your personal information"including your full name, permanent address and Social Security Number"has all been entered correctly before entering it into the FAFSA form. Also, provide your current marital status.
Do not Enter Inaccurate Income Tax Information. If you don’t provide the federal income tax you paid for the current year, you will pay based on last year"s federal tax return. Do not use information from your W-2 forms. If you need to, fill out the FAFSA with approximate numbers from your previous tax return. You can update the information later by visiting the corrections pages on the FAFSA website.
Correct Errors. If you notice an error after you submit your FAFSA, you can correct the mistake by visiting the website and clicking on "Make FAFSA Corrections." The changes are typically processed within three to five days.
Omit Retirement Assets. The FAFSA does not require you to provide information regarding retirement accounts, such as IRAs or 401Ks. If you want to maximize your financial aid eligibility, consider allocating funds from your savings account to the retirement account.
Confirm Federal School Code. To make sure your financial aid package is sent to the correct colleges, verify the federal school code. Conduct a search for the institution by name, state, or category in the online application. On the FAFSA, you can add up to 10 colleges to which you have applied.
Do Not Use Commas or Decimal Points. When filling out the numeric fields, always round to the nearest whole number instead of using commas and decimal points. This may cause the form to behave erratically or skew your data.
Ask for Help. If you need assistance in filling out the FAFSA, take advantage of online chat sessions offered by FAFSA via Web Customer Service Live Help or call the toll-free phone number.
Proofread. Make sure to proofread the application a few times before you submit it, looking out for missed questions, spelling errors, and typos. Have someone else look over it if you need. When it comes to increasing your chances of receiving financial aid faster, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Do Not Forget to Sign. When you are finished filling out the FAFSA form, remember to sign the application. If you are filing as a dependent, your parents must sign your form as well. If you are submitting online, you can sign electronically using a personal identification number obtained from the Federal Student Aid PIN website.