According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration (NASFAA), making a mistake on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can hurt you in two ways. One, it can extend the time it takes to process your application. Two, because some states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid—funds which may have early deadlines and be limited—it can reduce the amount of money potentially available to you. Here is a list of the most common FAFSA mistakes reported by NASFA:
- Blank fields: instead of leaving a field blank, enter a “0” or “not applicable” on the form.
- Commas/decimal points in number fields: always round to the nearest dollar amount.
- Incorrect Social Security/driver’’s license number: triple-check these numbers for accuracy; if you don’t have a social security number, enter 000-00-0000; never make up a number or use a Taxpayer ID number.
- Incorrect name: use your legal name, the same one that appears on your Social Security card.
- Incorrect address: be sure to use your permanent address, not a temporary school or summer address.
- Wrong income tax amount: this should be the amount shown on your income tax return from two years prior—not your W-2 form(s).
- Incorrect Adjusted Gross Income (AGI): in most cases, the AGI amount and the total income from working are not the same; AGI is generally larger than total income from working.
- Incorrectly filing income taxes as head of households: if there’s an error in the head of household filing, the school will need an amended tax return to be filed with the IRS before paying out awards.
- Marital status error: this should be your marital status on the day you sign the FAFSA; if you are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, you also will need to provide your spouse’s information.
- Parent’s marital status error: if your custodial parent has remarried, you need to include the stepparent’s information on the FAFSA; if two parents in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, you must list both.
- Failure to list both parents living together: if your biological and/or adoptive parents live in the same household, you must include both on the FAFSA form—even if they are not married.
- Failure to report unborn children: If you have/will have a child born before or during the award year—and you will provide more than half of the child’s support—count that child as a member of the household.
- Failure to count yourself as a student: The student completing the FAFSA must count him/herself as a member of the household attending college during the award year.
- Failure to register with the Selective Service: if you are a male, age 18-26, you must register with the Selective Service; otherwise, you become ineligible for federal student aid.
- Forgetting to list the college: make sure you include the Federal School Code for the college(s) you are applying to attend.
- Forgetting to sign and date: if you’re completing a paper form, remember to sign it.
- Sending in extraneous materials/notations: remember, you do not need to include a copy of your tax returns with your FAFSA, nor should you include notes in the margins of your application.
Source: National Association of Student Financial Aid Website, https://www.nasfaa.org/fafsa_tips
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