5 Common FAFSA Mistakes to Avoid

fafsa application

Chances are you’ve heard of the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), and if you have you’ve probably also heard that every senior in high school should submit one. The FAFSA is the first step to government-funded financial aid, scholarships, work-study, and many other things. With this being a critical step in college finance planning, it’s important to get it right so that you are eligible for as much financial assistance as possible! Check out these five common mistakes to avoid. 

1. Not Applying Every Year 

One of the biggest mistakes students make is not submitting the FAFSA every year. If you’re planning to attend a two- or four-year college or university, trade school, online school, or graduate program, you should fill out the FAFSA. You're missing out on potential financial aid if you skip a year. Be sure to fill out the updated form that corresponds with the school year you are attending. Even if you don't plan on earning grants, you should still submit a FAFSA since many scholarships or school-funded aid require this info. Keep track of which FAFSA forms you’ve filled out, so you don’t miss out! 

2. Not Discussing Parent Information Before Starting

Not collecting and discussing parent information before starting your FAFSA is something that could set you back when completing the FAFSA. If you are filing as a dependent, meaning someone can claim you as a dependent on their federal taxes, the FAFSA will require your parents' income to calculate your financial aid. However, it can sometimes become tricky knowing what information to include or who to include if you have stepparents, other legal guardians, or contributors. Learn how to report parents’ information on your FAFSA. Start discussing the information you’ll need them to collect so you can fill out the form quickly.  

3. Not Getting Your FSA ID 

One overlooked step in completing the FAFSA is creating an FSA ID. Both you and your parents, if filing as a dependent, need one to finalize the FAFSA. An FSA ID is your username and password to log in to the U.S. Department of Education online systems. Because it is used to sign documents it’s important to keep this information secure. Once you apply for FSA ID it will take three days for the Social Security Administration to confirm your information. Don’t wait! You can create an FSA ID even if you don’t have a social security number. Take care of it first thing. 

4. Not Listing All the Schools You're Considering 

The only way a college knows to start preparing a financial aid package is by listing it on your FAFSA form. The colleges will not be able to see who else you are applying for so make sure to utilize all 10 available spots on the FAFSA even if you haven’t finalized who you plan to apply to. There is no cost, and you can always swap schools out if there are new schools you want added to your list. Keep in mind the order that you list the schools may matter. For instance, some states require residents to list the schools earlier in the list for state aid. Always check the state’s requirements so you can maximize your aid. Make a list of your top school choices so you know which ones you plan to list and in which order. Just a reminder that it’s recommended to apply to five – ten colleges. We suggest 1-2 reach schools, 1-2 target schools, and 1-2 safety schools. 

5. Waiting To Apply 

Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Students who file their FAFSA sooner typically qualify for more grants and scholarships than those who wait. Try to submit your application as soon as you can after it opens each year. Your state may also have its own FAFSA deadline so be sure to research your state’s deadline, so you don’t miss it!  Put a reminder on your calendar to start your application as soon as it becomes available. 

So, what are you waiting for? Start your FAFSA form now! 

You May Also Like

These Related Posts