Costly Mistakes People Make Filling Out the FAFSA Form

Costly Mistakes People Make Filling Out the FAFSA Form

A primary step in pursuing money to help you to pay for college is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the first place all prospective students should start. Colleges use the data they receive from families to help determine eligibility for any financial aid. The U.S. federal government takes your data and uses it to determine eligibility for grants and student loans.

Unfortunately, mistakes on the FAFSA form sometimes happen. Also unfortunate is that these mistakes are often costly—potentially thousands of dollars. To avoid making them, be sure you carefully avoid the following mistakes.

1. Not Having an FSA ID

While paper FAFSA applications are still available, the majority of students file theirs online since it is processed in 3-5 days as opposed to 7-10 days—plus it’s more convenient. When filing online, students and parents need to have an FSA ID. This allows you to log in to your profile and also sign your documents electronically.

Create your FSA ID at least a week before October 1 when the application for the following year opens (it takes up to three days to approve), and then keep the FSA ID in a safe place because it’ll be needed again. Note: Parents and children need separate IDs to submit their income details—be sure not to plan to share a login because this can cause delays.

2. Missing the FAFSA Deadline

You should plan to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible when the window opens on October 1. However, make certain you don’t miss your state and school deadlines because the deadlines are not uniform across the U.S. or even with colleges. As soon as you decide to go to college, check your state’s deadline and also ask individual colleges you’re considering about any deadlines they have in place. However, even if you do miss it, the application stays open until June 30—even if you miss some award deadlines, but not filling out the FAFSA, you shut yourself out of any possible funds.

3. Missing FAFSA Directions

Empty spaces or wrong information entered into a FAFSA can cause delays. Be careful when filling out the pages and check to ensure information is accurate and no applicable spaces are left empty. Common mistakes to avoid are confusing parent and student information, entering details that don’t match FSA ID information, and the amount of income tax owed. Using the IRS DRT tool can help avoid that last mistake.

4. Not Saving FAFSA Form Frequently

As you fill out the FAFSA be sure to save data you’ve entered—and do it often! You don’t want to accidentally lose anything you’ve entered and have to start all over again.

5. Not Signing the FAFSA

Surprisingly, a big mistake is that students or their parents forget to electronically sign their FAFSA. Not signing it equates to an incomplete form and your application will be delayed until it’s remedied.

These are a few of the largest mistakes, but there are others. To get advice on properly filling out your FAFSA or help with other aspects of college planning, give Accolade Financial a call today—we’re happy to help!