Many families have already completed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in hopes of obtaining precious financial aid which can make college affordable, yet other families are delaying or struggling to complete the form. According to the Department of Education’s official blog, the FAFSA is easier than ever, but there are still some common mistakes which could result in the loss of financial aid altogether or receiving less financial aid than what their student might otherwise be eligible to receive:
• Failure to file: There are many types of financial aid from the federal and state governments, as well as the schools. The FAFSA also determines eligibility for federal student loans and the federal student-work program. File the FAFSA, or you will never know what you are missing!
• Wrong website: Some unscrupulous websites mask as the FAFSA, but they are trying to get you to pay money when there is no fee for this form. Make sure you only use the official website, https://fafsa.gov/.
• No FSA ID: This is the electronic signature that is required for both student and parents. It is free and easy to obtain, but many families fail to obtain their FSA ID before beginning the FAFSA process.
• Waiting too long: This could cost you money when it comes to the FAFSA. There are state deadlines to contend with, and certain forms of financial aid that are available only on a first-come, first-served basis. Don’t wait until filing your 2015 income taxes to begin. Use estimates now and go back to make revisions later.
• Know your definitions: There are certain terms which impact your financial aid award, such as “household size” or “legal guardianship.” Read the instructions carefully, or scroll over the help areas to make sure you answer these questions correctly. If you are not sure, use the help options to get an answer.
• Inaccurate info: Don’t rush too quickly or enter information without understanding what is required. Using a name that does not match what is on your Social Security card, confusing the parent and student information, or misunderstanding the difference between income and income tax could all cause delays or reporting errors.
• Problems with parent info: If a student is independent no parent information is required, but the FAFSA is very specific about what dependency means. Even if you think you are independent, go through the process to determine if you have to provide parental information. Also be sure to understand exactly what is required with parents, divorced parents, and stepparents. You want to provide the information needed, but don’t overshare.
• List your colleges: You can list up to ten colleges the first time through. If you have more you can go back later, delete a few, and add the new names. Just make sure to repeat the process if you make any revisions later.
Finally, be sure you sign the FAFSA using your FAFSA ID. Now get out there and get that FAFSA done!