Remember back in school when you didn’t know the answer to a test question, and you left it blank. What did the teacher tell you every time that happened? “Don’t leave it blank. Put something; guess if you have to but don’t leave a question blank.” Pretend I am your former teacher and the FAFSA is the test. One of the most common mistakes families make is leaving a question unanswered. If the answer is zero, put zero. If the question doesn’t apply to you, put N/A, but don’t leave it blank.
Another mistake is using the wrong tax documents. The federal tax return is the correct document, NOT your w-2 form. In addition to the tax return information, untaxed income must be reported like social security payments and child support. Be sure that your marital status is reported correctly – parents and student… This means at the time the document is submitted not some date in the future. Also, if there are stepparents in the picture, report their information too.
When reporting the size of the household, they mean everyone – even the one doing the counting. And don’t forget to sign the application. Using the PIN number, you received is how the electronic application is signed. Be sure to file on time – and that means early. If you have not submitted your paperwork by Thanksgiving, have it submitted before the end of that holiday weekend.
“If at first you don’t succeed, look in the trash can for the instructions.” Don’t be guilty of this when working on the FAFSA. There are a ridiculous number of instructions, links and phone numbers available to answer any questions that arise. There is no reason that anyone going to college should not get the FAFSA completed early without any omissions or errors. You give the federal government a piece of your income with every check. Shouldn’t some of that money come back to help pay for college?