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Common FAFSA mistakes to avoid

Up to this point, the college application process has been all about you.  However, if you are considered a dependent student, then completing the FAFSA application will be a team effort.  Before you dive in to filling out the form, be sure that everyone involved has gathered the information they need (social security numbers, tax information, FSA IDs, etc.).  In addition, avoid the following common mistakes when completing the FAFSA form.   

  1.  Not completing the FAFSA.  Students and families don’t complete the FAFSA form for a variety of reasons.  They think “We make too much money for financial aid” or “the form is too much work”.  This is a big mistake!  Even if you don’t qualify for federal grants, the FAFSA is also the application for federal work-study (your ticket to a campus job), or federal student loans (unsubsidized federal loans do not require demonstrated need).  If you don’t complete the FAFSA you will lose out on financial aid options.   
  2. Not completing the FAFSA on-time.  Most schools have a preferred filing deadline for the FAFSA form.  Students who submit their FAFSA information to the school by the deadline will receive the best consideration for financial aid.  Fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible as it typically takes 3-5 days for a school to receive your FAFSA data (sometimes longer).  Start now!   
  3. Not getting an FSA ID.  An FSA ID is the username and password you will use to sign in and complete the FAFSA form.  This ID will also allow you to sign and submit the form electronically.  You and your parents will each need a unique FSA ID.  It can take up to 3 days for your FSA ID to be activated so that you can begin completing the FAFSA.  Apply for your FSA ID now!     
  4. Not following directions.  This may sound simple but read the directions and complete the FAFSA form carefully.  Inputting incorrect information could cost you thousands of dollars.  If you are confused about a question, there is help text and online resources that will guide you through completing the form.   
  5. Not listing all the colleges you are considering.  Each school will receive their own copy of your FAFSA data.  You should list every college that you are considering (even if you aren’t sure if you will apply or be accepted).  You can list up to 10 colleges initially and there is an option for you to list even more.  Don’t worry – the colleges can’t see what other schools you have on your list.   

Take Action 

Check out more detail on tips above and other mistakes to avoid on the US Department of Education blog “Homeroom”.  The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) also has a detailed list of FAFSA tips and mistakes to avoid.  Make it a priority to get your FAFSA done as soon as possible!   

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