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7 Common FAFSA Mistakes
1. Not Completing the FAFSA
I hear all kinds of reasons: "The FAFSA is too hard,"
"It takes to long to complete," I never qualify anyway, so why does
it matter." It does matter. By not completing the FAFSA you are missing
out on the opportunity to qualify for what could be thousands of dollars to
help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes most people 23 minutes to complete,
and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to
popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid
2. Not Being Prepared
The online FAFSA has gotten a lot easier over the last few years.
We've added skip logic, so you only see questions that are applicable to you.
There is also an option to import your tax information from the IRS directly
into the FAFSA application. But, the key to making the FAFSA simple is being
prepared. You'll save yourself a lot of time by gathering everything you need
to complete the FAFSA before you start the application
3. Not Reading Carefully
You're on winter break and probably enjoying a vacation from
reading for a couple weeks. I get it. But when it comes to completing the
FAFSA, you want to read each question carefully. Too many students see delays
in their financial aid for simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.
Don't rush through these questions:
Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific
definition of how you or your parents' household size should be
determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly
report this number.
- Amount of
Your Income Tax: Income tax is not the same as income. It is the amount of
tax that you (and if married, your spouse) paid on your income earned from
work. Your income tax amount should not be the same as your adjusted gross
income (AGI). Where you find the amount of your income tax depends on
which IRS form you filed.
Guardianship: One question on the FAFSA asks: "As determined by a
court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal
guardianship?" Many students incorrectly answer "yes" here.
For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include
your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian.
You are also not considered a legal guardian of yourself.
4. Inputting Incorrect
The FAFSA is an official government form. You must enter your
information as it appears on official government documents like your birth
certificate and social security card. Examples:
the Wrong Name (Yes, I'm serious): You wouldn't believe how many people
have issues with their FAFSA because they entered an incorrect name on the
application. It doesn't matter if you're Madonna, or Drake, or whatever
Snoop Lion is calling himself these days. You must enter your full name as
it appears on official government documents. No nicknames.
the Wrong Social Security Number (SSN): When we process FAFSAs, we cross
check your social security number with the Social Security Administration.
To avoid delays in processing your application, triple check that you have
entered the correct SSN. If you meet our basic eligibility criteria, but
you or your parents don't have a SSN, follow these instructions.
5. Not Reporting Parent
Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, file your
own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student
aid purposes, and therefore, you'll need to provide your parent(s) information
on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress
and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether or not you need to
provide parent information by answering these questions.
6. Not Using the IRS Data
For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is
entering in the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with
the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the
necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This year,
the tool will launch on February 2, 2014. In most cases, your information will
be available from the IRS two weeks after you file. It's also one of the best
ways to prevent errors on your FAFSA and avoid any processing delays.
Note: If you used income
estimates to file your FAFSA early, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to
update your FAFSA two weeks after you file your 2013 taxes.
7. Not Signing the FAFSA
So many students answer every single question that is asked, but
fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their PIN and submit it. This happens for
many reasons, maybe they forgot their PIN, or their parent isn't with them to
sign with the parent PIN, so the FAFSA is left unsubmitted. Don't let this
happen to you. If you don't have or don't know your PIN, apply for one. If you
would like confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted, you can check your
status immediately after you submit your FAFSA online.
To sign a FAFSA online, a PIN (Personal Identification Number) is required. For dependent students, a parent will also need a PIN number. Students and parents may obtain a PIN at
Step 2: The FAFSA Application
Federal School Code: 009744
The FAFSA determines if a student is eligible to receive state and/or federal funding.
The FAFSA application is an on-line process at
You can complete a
FAFSA on the Web Worksheet first to help you complete the on-line application, this recommended but it is not required.
Once the Department of Education (DOE) has processed the application, the student will receive a Student Aid Report. This is a record of the FAFSA application, not the financial aid award.
The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) listed on the SAR is derived from the information listed on the FAFSA. It measures the family's financial strength to determine eligibility for student aid.
During the application process, the student may be selected for Verification. We will request the appropriate documentation, if necessary.
Apply for admission to an aid-eligible program (Associate Degree or Technical Diploma). Certificates and apprenticeships are not eligible programs.
Meet program entry requirements as determined by the academic counselor before the start of the term and have an admitted status into the requested program
Be a U.S. citizen, a National or a permanent resident of the United States
Demonstrate financial need as determined by FVTC's Financial Aid Office using the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) application results
Not be in default on any educational loan and/or owe any repayment of grants to Fox Valley Technical College or any previously attended educational institution
Be in compliance with Selective Service
Be enrolled in courses and establish proper credit status prior to the
Maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the FVTC's Financial Aid
Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy (SAPP)
- Required for dependent student to establish independent status