Navigating college financial aid applications can be overwhelming, and a lot of high school students assume that filling out the FAFSA will be stressful. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be daunting, especially if you’re going into it without any idea of what’s going on. Financing a college education has become more affordable than ever thanks to growing financial aid offerings at schools across the country, but it’s easy to overlook these resources out of fear of the FAFSA. What’s more, making too many mistakes on the form can mean receiving a smaller aid package or even an application rejection.
Don’t worry — as long as you’ve done your research, completing the FAFSA will be a lot easier than you might think. Here are seven common FAFSA mistakes to avoid so that you’ll be on your way to an affordable college education.
1. Going to the wrong FAFSA website
This may seem like a given, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t go to the correct FAFSA website. Don’t confuse FAFSA.gov, the correct FAFSA website, with FAFSA.com. You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. If you’re asked for credit card information, you’re not on the official government site.
2. Waiting until the last minute
The FAFSA opens on October 1 every year. Do yourself a favor and file your forms as close to this date as possible to maximize the amount of financial aid that you’ll receive for higher education, whether through grants, scholarships or work-study aid. Specific kinds of financial aid will be awarded to those who apply the earliest, so don’t delay!
3. Not knowing FAFSA vocabulary
You’ll probably come across some unfamiliar words or terms throughout the application, so take some time to go through the main definitions you’ll need to know to answer these questions. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of putting in the wrong information for certain questions and ending up with a package that isn’t right for you and your family.
4. Forgetting necessary materials for the FAFSA
To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need the appropriate tax return file with you to refer back to. For the 2023-2024 FAFSA, this will be your 2021 tax return. In addition, you’ll need your checking and savings account balances and information about other family financial assets. Don’t forget to report all sources of untaxed income as well, including Social Security, child support and workers compensation/disability income.
5. Leaving questions blank
This is the most common error on the printed version of the FAFSA, but it can happen online, too. If a question doesn’t apply to you or the answer is negative, be sure to always write in a zero. Too many blank answers will lead to a miscalculation of funding and sometimes application rejection.
6. Skipping the double and triple-checks
When filling out a series of different names and numbers, errors are likely. Be extra careful while putting in your full legal name, your current home address, your tax and income details, Social Security Number and driver’s license number.
7. Forgetting to sign your name and date
This is self-explanatory, but it can cost you! Forgetting these two details in addition to several other mistakes can mean an application rejection as well.
Don’t make applying to college harder than it needs to be! Once you’ve gotten the FAFSA out of the way, you can rest assured knowing that you’re on your way to getting the financial support you need to pay for your education. On top of federal help, schools like Marymount University are constantly finding ways to make college more affordable through financial aid and scholarships.