Applying for Financial Aid: Top 10 FAFSA Mistakes

Posted by admin on in College Advice |

describe the image Though obviously consisting of five letters, the FAFSA, for some people, is a four-letter word.   The financial aid application has an overwhelming reputation, and many families dread completing it.   The good news is that the FAFSA has been simplified quite a bit in recent years, along with helpful skip-logic imbedded in the online version of the form. These days, many families are able to undergo the FAFSA completion process with little trouble.   Still, there are some common mistakes that families often make whenever filing the FAFSA.   Be mindful to avoid the missteps below, plus you’ll be well on your way to an easy financial aid application process.

  1. Paying for the shape :   The acronym FAFSA stands for Free of charge Application for Government Student Aid, and, as indicated by its name, the form could be submitted free of charge on the government website:   www.fafsa.gov .   There are private companies with similar-sounding web domains who will charge you money to submit your FAFSA for you personally.   If you’re asked for your bank card number, you’re on the wrong web page.   Back out & visit the official fafsa. gov site.
  2. Completing the form in the wrong time :   Each college has its own financial aid application deadline, and to ensure you are considered for all available aid at the chosen schools, be sure to submit your FAFSA by the earliest deadline in your list of schools, even if that means calculating tax information.   Missing the deadline by even one day could cost you thousands of dollars in financial aid, therefore take care to submit your form in a timely manner.  
    Note: Do not   go overboard in an effort to submit your FAFSA early, and try to complete the form prior to January 1 st from the year you’ll be starting university.   The new school year’s FAFSA does not become available until January 1 st , and any kind of FAFSA submitted prior to that time is the prior year’s application plus cannot be used to apply for the following year’s aid.
  3. Submitting the wrong person’s information :   The FAFSA will be written as if the student will be filling out the form, despite the fact that it is often the parent who takes on this responsibility.   Therefore , when the form says “you, ” it is referring to the student.   When asked for “your Social Security Number, ” “your income, ” etc ., do not mistakenly enter the parents’ information.   The form will stipulate when it is requesting parental information.
  4. Reporting greater than you have to :   Whenever asked to report your assets on the FAFSA, do not include your house equity, retirement accounts, insurance policies, or any type of small family-owned businesses.  
  5. Reporting lower than you have to :   Although the full value of your retirement balances are excluded from the FAFSA computations, the contributions you made to your 401k in the prior calendar year continue to be counted as part of your income.   Any kind of pre-tax retirement contributions should be documented as untaxed income.
  6. Income tax #1 :   Many families battle when asked for the income tax these people paid in the prior calendar year.   It is not simply the withholding from your w-2s, as you may be required to pay more when you file your tax return or you may receive a refund of some of your withholding.   The FAFSA guides you to the proper line item in your tax return to find your actual taxes paid.
  7. Income tax #2 :   Many people also misread the income tax question and simply re-report their particular income for the year, stating, for example , “I made $50, 000 last year plus paid $50, 000 in taxes. ”  Though you may feel your taxes are too high, no one has a 100% tax rate, so make sure you draw a distinction between both of these pieces of information.
  8. Small errors lead to large problems :   Be sure to proofread your FAFSA before distributing, and review the Student Aid Report summarizing your FAFSA information sent to you a few days later, to guarantee the information transmitted to the colleges will be accurate.   Seemingly small mistakes, such as transposing digits in a Social Security Number or using a nickname instead of a lawful name, can prevent the  confirmation of the student’s identity and can cause major delays in receiving (or outright denials of) financial aid.
  9. Only completing FAFSA :   While most colleges just require the FAFSA to apply for financial aid, there are a large number of schools that have extra requirements, such as submission of the CSS/Profile , copies of tax returns, etc .   Review every college’s website for its application specifications and heed requests for additional info.
  10. Not really filing at all :   Finally, the easiest way to miss out on help that you might have been eligible for is to not really apply for it.   Stay tuned to The Insider blog for an upcoming publish on why families who don’t expect to qualify for aid may still want to submit the FAFSA.   And don’t let fear of the FAFSA keep you from applying.   Take a little care to avoid the above mistakes, and FAFSA completion should be a straightforward and painless process.

Shannon Vasconcelos   is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Trainer, she was a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Tufts University and Boston University.

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