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The 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is now available! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as possible. Before you rush to fill it, read this blog to make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:
1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form
Here are the top reasons why people don't complete it:
It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. You can always get an unsecured loan. Also, the FAFSA form is not just the application for federal grants such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. It takes little time to complete, and there are “Help and Hints” provided throughout the application.
If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA form ASAP after Oct. 1. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and some states and colleges run out of money early. Even if it seems like your school’s deadline is far off in the future, get your FAFSA form done ASAP.
3. Not Getting an FSA ID
It’s important to get an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form. Why? Well, because when you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically. An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. Do not wait! Create an FSA ID now: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.
4. Not Using Your FSA ID to Start the FAFSA Form
When you go to fafsa.gov, you will be given two options to log in:
1) Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID
2) Enter the student’s information
If you’re the student, you should choose the first option. Why? When you do, some of your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application. This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Also, you won’t have to enter your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA form electronically.
5. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)
Note: The IRS DRT will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added.
For many applicants, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA form is entering the financial information. But thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer their necessary 2016 tax information into the 2018–19 FAFSA form using the IRS DRT. It’s the fastest, most accurate way to enter your tax return information into the FAFSA form, so if you’re given the option to “LINK TO IRS” button, take advantage of it!
6. Not Reading Definitions Carefully
Beware the FAFSA definitions! Read them carefully:
7. Inputting Incorrect Information
Here are the most common errors people make on the FAFSA form:
8. Not Reporting Required Information
9. Listing only one college
Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add all the colleges you are considering to your FAFSA form, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.
Note: If you’re a resident of certain states, the order in which you list the schools on your FAFSA form might matter. Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.
10. Not Signing the FAFSA Form
Many people complete the form, but forget to sign it! If you forget to sign the form, here’s an option to mail a signature page. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA form has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA form online.