6 FAFSA Mistakes and How to Avoid ThemApril 10, 2023
If you’re interested in applying for federal financial aid for college, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is a detailed application where you share your personal and financial information. That information is then used to help determine how much federal aid you can qualify for.
But making mistakes on your FAFSA can negatively impact your financial aid offers. Here are several common FAFSA mistakes to avoid when applying for federal financial aid.
1. Completing the FAFSA late or not at all
To receive federal aid offers, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA by a certain date. For the 2023-2024 academic year, your FAFSA must be submitted by June 30, 2024. Failing to submit it by the deadline will mean you won’t receive aid offers for that academic year. Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to ensure receiving potential financial aid options.
Another mistake to avoid is not completing the FAFSA at all. Many applicants make this error because they assume their household income is too high to qualify for federal aid. The truth is that not all federal aid is need-based, so you may receive some generous aid offers even if your household income exceeds the threshold for need-based financial aid.
2. Missing information
Completing the FAFSA requires some preparation and gathering of paperwork. Not only will you need to provide your personal and financial information, but you’ll also need to share information about your parents’ financials if you’re a dependent student.
Here’s what you may need to have on hand as you’re completing your FAFSA:
- Your Social Security number or alien registration number
- Copies of past tax returns for you and your parents
- Copies of W-2 forms
- Bank and investment account statements
- Proof of any other earned income, such as W-9 income
- Information about any other assets you or your family possesses, such as investment property
Gathering this information beforehand can make it easier to complete your FAFSA. It’ll also save you significant time.
3. Not getting or using an FSA ID
The Federal Student Aid office recommends signing up for a username and password on studentaid.gov. This username and password will serve as your FSA ID, which can be used to easily identify and update your FAFSA form. If you’re a dependent student, both you and your parents should get an FSA ID.
Not only will the FSA ID let you easily access your FAFSA, but it will let you save the information you enter. For instance, if you start entering info into your FAFSA but don’t have time to finish it, it’ll be saved in your account so you can easily complete the form later. You won’t need to redo your entire FAFSA form.
4. Spelling errors or omitting questions
Typos and omissions are common mistakes on the FAFSA. To avoid them, it sometimes helps to complete one portion of the FAFSA at a time and recheck your information before moving on to the next.
As long as you’re logged in with your FSA ID, the information you enter will be saved. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the FAFSA and concerned about typos and missed questions, you can take a break and review the information you’ve entered later.
5. Not signing your FAFSA
Once you’ve entered and reviewed all your information carefully, you’re ready to submit your FAFSA form. But just because you’ve entered all of your personal and financial information doesn’t mean you’re done. You’ll need to sign the form for it to be considered complete—and it will need to be complete if you want to receive financial aid offers. You can sign using your FSA ID or another way.
6. Only completing your FAFSA once
Let’s say you complete your FAFSA before your first year of college and only receive loan offers and no grant offers. While this may be discouraging, it could still make sense to fill out the FAFSA before each academic year of college. That’s because offerings and requirements for aid can change over time.
So while you might find you don’t qualify for any special grants or need-based aid one year, you may be eligible next year or a year after that. This is especially true if your family’s financial situation changes due to unemployment, divorce, or another unexpected life event.
The bottom line
The FAFSA is a complicated form, and mistakes happen. But being aware of common FAFSA mistakes can help you avoid making them. And the good news is that if you do make a mistake on your FAFSA, chances are it can be fixed. You’ll have the option to edit certain information on your FAFSA form a few days after you submit it, or you can speak to your college’s financial aid office for additional guidance.