Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be stressful. Yet, it matters because the application process can help you cover the high costs of your education. You might find yourself hustling to get all your information in to avoid missing the deadline, but you’ll want to make sure that you get it right the first time. Missing or incorrect information could delay your application — or even cause it to be denied.
No one makes application mistakes on purpose, but there are some errors that are fairly common among students. Understanding some of the most common FAFSA mistakes will help you avoid those critical pitfalls.
Failing to Register for an ID
This information is particularly important for first-time applicants. You can’t even complete the FAFSA without registering for an ID and having your parents register for one as well. This can take a few days, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply. You’ll want to complete this step early before you even begin the application process.
Failing to Enter the Correct Social Security Number
A typo can certainly delay your FAFSA, but one of the more common social security number mistakes happens when parents of the students aren’t United States citizens or legal residents. You can’t fill in a taxpayer identification number in the slot labeled for social security. An actual social security number is necessary to begin the process.
Failing to Apply on Time
The application deadline may be listed as June 30th, but you’ll have a better chance of securing funds for your education when you apply early. Some colleges and even scholarship programs have their own deadlines, so you’ll want to get your application in as soon as possible, heeding all the deadlines and not just the official one.
This isn’t the time to procrastinate — not unless you want to risk losing out on potential federal student aid.
Using a Nickname on the Form
It doesn’t matter if everyone in your life calls you by a nickname. You must enter your full legal name on your FAFSA application. Otherwise, it will go straight to the rejection pile. Processors will be reviewing your information against your legal documents, which will need to match if you want any hope of approval.
Leaving Off Colleges
Another major error students make is completing the FAFSA without indicating the schools they’ll need forwarding to upon approval. Financial aid programs have many benefits, but mind-reading isn’t one of them. They won’t magically know where to send the information, so you’ll need to update your application as needed to list any schools you may choose to attend.
Waiting for Your Tax Return
It used to be the standard operating procedure to wait until after you completed your taxes to apply. Now, you can pull the prior year’s tax information directly from the IRS website to help prove income. There’s no need to wait for the next tax return to come in; doing so could delay your application and its approval. Just utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
Failing to Apply Each Year
One of the most common mistakes doesn’t even involve incorrect information — it’s failing to submit an application at all. Your income doesn’t have to meet the aid requirements for you to fill out a FAFSA. The form is often necessary if you want to obtain other types of grants, scholarships, or even student loans.
Additionally, some people may feel like they won’t qualify because of their age or other criteria. That simply isn’t true. Fill out an application even if you’re 99.99% certain you’ll be turned down. It could be a stepping stone to securing other financing for your education.
Forgetting Your Signature
The good news here is that the FAFSA allows for an electronic signature. It should be the easiest part of the process to sign the document, and yet, a missing signature remains one of the most common mistakes. You can print out the forms, sign them and mail them in or use an electronic signature, but expect a delay or outright rejection if you fail to sign the form the first time.
Leaving Out Information
The FAFSA wants what the FAFSA wants. You can’t pick and choose what information you’ll divulge. Make sure you don’t skip any questions. Too many blanks could lead to an immediate rejection of the application. It’s vital that you check your work before you submit it.
Filling out the FAFSA can be an arduous, time-consuming process that fills students with dread each year. Paying careful attention to detail could help prevent further frustration. Make sure to check your application for these common pitfalls, and you may just survive FAFSA season with your sanity intact.