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Common FAFSA Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Common FAFSA Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

FAFSA filing season is almost upon us. For the 2024-25 FAFSA, the application will open up in December (it will return to the fall opening next year). This is one piece of the college and financial aid application process that stresses out many families. The application has recently been revised to be less challenging and more streamlined, but it can still feel scary. Today, we’re sharing 12 common FAFSA mistakes and how to avoid them. The point is not to stress anyone out further, but rather, to help you feel more prepared and ready to file this important application for your student’s financial aid! 

12 Common FAFSA Mistakes (and how to avoid them!)

#1: Filing too late 

We recommend submitting your FAFSA as soon as possible after they become available, especially this year. 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. With the deadline being later this year, all offices are anticipating a much faster turnaround time and will need all of us to do our best to be on time and accurate. 

#2: Not filing at all

There are many students every year who simply do not file the FAFSA. They don’t understand the form, 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. The form has also been streamlined to make the process easier, too! 

#3: 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. You can get an FSA ID at any time, so take care of that today and you’ll be ready for the winter!

#4: 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.

#5: Using the wrong name

Make sure the name you use on the FAFSA matches the name associated with your Social Security Number. No nicknames. This mistake can cause major delays and we don’t want that! 

#6: Missing deadlines 

Check all state and college financial aid deadlines. Most fall before the end of the calendar year, so it’s important to track them and make sure you’re completing everything on time.

#7: Old way IRS Data Retrieval Tool new way FTI

 The FAFSA Simplification Act requires, wherever possible, the Department of Education use data received directly from the IRS to calculate a student’s SAI (Student Aid Index) and Pell Grant award.

#8: Omitting information

Although FTI  does provide a lot of information, look for the questions which need your specific details. These most likely refer assets, net worth of buisness, net worth of farm, family size and foreign earned income exclusion.

#9: 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. This will make the financial aid process easier later on. 

#10: 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 – so don’t sweat this one!

#11: 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 or your application will be delayed.

#12: Not checking your work

Carefully check your form before submitting it. A few extra minutes now could save you a lot of stress later.

Remember to take your time and take a deep breath as you begin filling out your FAFSA. This form is crucial for financial aid and careless mistakes will only delay the process. Spend time gathering the documentation you need before beginning your application and just take your time. 

Want More Help with Your FAFSA Application? 

CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.

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