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7 FAFSA Mistakes to Avoid

FAFSA, financial aid, filling out the fafsa, FAFSA mistakes to avoidDon’t jeopardize your chances of receiving financial aid

Are you planning on filing for financial aid to support your post-secondary education? The first place to start is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Don’t be scared away by this application. New technology has made it faster to file, so there is no reason to procrastinate. When applying, be sure to avoid these common mistakes, as described by the Department of Education’s blog.

Mistake 1: Giving up
Even if you don’t think you will be eligible for financial aid, you should complete the FAFSA. You never know what options there may be, so it does not hurt to apply. If you gather all the documents you need ahead of time, it can be filed in as little as 30 minutes. Thirty minutes could gain you hundreds or thousands of dollars, if you are eligible!

Mistake 2: Wrong website
Whatever you do, please be sure to use the correct website. It is fafsa.gov. Any other website could be a fraud. Completing the FAFSA is free. If any website tries to charge you money or asks for your credit card, you are on the wrong site. Don’t fall for this scam!

Mistake 3: Waiting too long to get your FSA ID
To file your FAFSA, you will need an FSA ID, and it can take a few days for your ID to be active. So don’t wait until the last minute. Register for your FSA ID well ahead of time. And if you are a dependent, make sure your parents register for their ID too.

Mistake 4: Waiting too long to file
Filing early is better! File as near to the beginning of the calendar year as you can. And don’t worry if you haven’t filed your income taxes yet. You can use an estimate if you expect your income to be similar to the previous year. Then later you will have to update your information after you file your taxes, but it’s still better to file early. It is important to apply early because some (but not all) of the awards are offered on a first-come first-served basis. You also need to pay attention to deadlines. There are federal and state deadlines, and each school will have its own deadline. Don’t miss these deadlines! File by whichever deadline is earliest.

Mistake 5: Careless errors
When you are applying, make sure you understand all of the questions and definitions. Double check all of your responses and make sure you are answering correctly. People have been known to spell their own names wrong. Others forget to sign their application (using their FSA ID). In other words, it pays to double-check everything!

Mistake 6: Confusion over parent info
Your dependent status for FSA is different from that of the IRS. Even if you live fully independently from your parents, you may still be considered a dependent and need to report your parents’ income information. Be sure you understand whether you are dependent or independent.

Mistake 7: Listing only one school
The FAFSA allows you to list many potential schools. You should list every school you are considering, even if you never end up applying. Listing all your potential schools will give you more options as you get closer to making your final decision.

For more information on completing your FAFSA, see Five Things to Know about Financial Aid and FAFSA. And try your best to avoid these pitfalls!

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This article was provided by the Harris School of Business as part of our student blog, offering students and the public information about jobs, career development, career training and more. Contact the Harris School for more information.