As you are probably painfully aware by now, the 2022-23 FAFSA will come online October 1, 2021. This is the document that helps colleges determine how much financial aid they will offer, so it is very important to be prepared. My last blog listed the documentation you should gather now. I will review specific completion steps in September, once the preliminary forms are available.
For now I just want to focus on the mental aspect of completing the FAFSA. While it is good to take a serious approach, you don’t want to get so worked up about it that you become stressed and make mental errors. To help get your mind in the FAFSA game, here are 12 common FAFSA missteps and how to avoid them.
- Filing too late: I recommend submitting your FAFSA as soon as possible after they become available October 1. Some programs have limited funding, and you don’t want to miss out, but you also want to leave plenty of time to fix any errors you might make, or reply to a request for verification.
- Not filing at all: There are many students every year who simply do not file the FAFSA, for whatever reason. They don’t understand, they think they earn too much or too little, or they think it is too complicated. You need this form to access federal, state and institutional funds, some scholarships, and federal student loans. Department of Education provides plenty of step-by-step completion guides, and has resources available to ask questions.
- Not having an FSA ID for parent and student: The FSA ID is a username and password that provides access to Department of Education information. Both parent and student must have one, but you can get an FSA ID at any time.
- Forgetting who is filing: Technically the FAFSA is completed by the student, but in reality most parents do it, and that’s where it can get confusing. If the FAFSA says “you” or “your,” that question requires the student’s information. The FAFSA does clearly identify which questions are intended for parent information.
- Wrong name: Make sure the name you use on the FAFSA matches the name associated with your Social Security Number. No nicknames.
- Missing deadlines: Check all state and college financial aid deadlines. Most fall before the end of the calendar year.
- Not using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool: This automatically fills in the FAFSA with information from your 2020 federal income tax return. Using the DRT save a lot of time.
- Omitting information: Although the DRT does provide a lot of information, look for the questions which need your specific details. These most likely refer to pension information or personal assets not listed on your taxes.
- Limiting college listings: The FAFSA is free to submit, so it does not cost anything to list additional colleges on your application. You can even include those that you are only thinking about at this point, even if you never actually decide to apply.
- Too many digits: Some people like to be very precise and include commas or decimal points in the numeric fields. This is not necessary. Rounding to the nearest dollar is just fine.
- Not signing the FAFSA: If you are filing electronically, you will use the FSA ID to sign the application electronically. Don’t omit this crucial step.
- Not checking your work: Carefully check your form before submitting it. A few extra minutes now could save you a lot of stress later.
Get your head in the game, take your time, take a deep breath, and get ready to dive into the FAFSA. Slow and steady will win the race, and help make sure you don’t make FAFSA mistakes that could cost you time and money.
CFAA is here to help with every step of the financial aid process Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.