10 Ways to Fail the FAFSA

You may have already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) -- and if not, you really should -- but have you reviewed your submission to make sure that it is free from errors? One out of every seven FAFSAs contain a mistake which can delay processing and may even result in your form being returned.

Now that your eyes are fresh and you don't have to focus on the nitty gritty numbers, return to the FAFSA website to review your form. You have until September 22 to submit any corrections. To help you, fellow college guide College Tidbits published 10 common errors students make:

  1. Leaving fields blank - Many students skip fields when the answer is zero or if the question is inapplicable. Do not do this. Instead, write in a zero. A blank response will be interpreted as a mistaken omission.
  2. Using W-2 information for income - The FAFSA requires the information that is found on the 1040 federal tax return (or 1040A or 1040EZ forms), not the W-2. Make sure that you and your parents have entered this information correctly. If you or your parents have not filed taxes this year yet, you may estimate the values and then submit a correction later.
  3. Forgetting to report all income - Things like Social Security, child support, and Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) income sources are often neglected. Some scholarships will also need to be reported. Don't forget about other assets like bank accounts, stock portfolios, or retirement accounts either.
  4. Neglecting to sign the application - This is one of the big mistakes that will result in having your form returned. If you're a dependent (even if you're living away from home and even if your parents don't fund your college education in any way), both you and your parents must sign the FAFSA. If you file online, you may use your PINs. Your parents should have received a PIN as well.
  5. Waiting on your parents - You may be great about getting your taxes done on time, but many adults will get as close to April 17th as they possibly can before filing. If your parents are one of these types of people, don't wait for their taxes before submitting your FAFSA. Always make your best guess for now and correct it later.
  6. Filing late - The priority deadline has already passed, and so have a few state deadlines. It's not too late to file your FAFSA if you have not done so already, but aim to get it done as close to the January 1st opening as possible.
  7. Forgetting to file every year - Many students forget that the FAFSA has to be completed and submitted for every year you plan to be a student. Doing it once is not enough.
  8. Read more tips at College Tidbits.

If you have questions, consult the FAFSA's FAQ section on their web site, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED AID (1-800-433-3243).

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