11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

The 2016–17 FAFSA® is now available! The online FAFSA has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. Thanks to improvements like skip logic, where you only see questions that are applicable to you; and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows you to import your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA application, the FAFSA takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Just make sure to take your time so you don’t make one of these mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA®

I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA is too hard,” “It takes too long to complete,” I never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. By not completing the FAFSA, you are missing the opportunity to qualify for what could be thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes little time 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 Using the Correct Website

The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. That’s .gov! 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.

3. Not Getting an FSA ID Ahead of Time

We’ve made a big change to the FAFSA process this year in order to increase security. Students and parents can no longer use a Federal Student Aid PIN to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You must, instead, use the new FSA IDa username and password. Once you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA. If you don’t want your FAFSA to be delayed, register for an FSA ID now. If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need to create an FSA ID too.

The key to making the FAFSA simple is being prepared. The process will go much smoother if you register for an FSA ID and gather everything you need to complete the FAFSA before you start the application.

4. Waiting to Fill Out The FAFSA Until After You File Taxes

Because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to fill out the FAFSA early. However, the 2016–17 FAFSA is available beginning January 1, 2016, well before most people have their 2015 taxes filed. This, however, shouldn’t stop you from getting the FAFSA submitted. If your income from 2014 is similar to your income from 2015, you can use your 2014 taxes to estimate the financial information on the FAFSA and get it submitted now. You can then update the FAFSA after you file 2015 taxes, preferably using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Not Filing by the Deadline

States, schools, and the federal government each have their own FAFSA deadlines. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, you should fill out your FAFSA (and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school), by the earliest of these three deadlines, if not sooner!

6. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and 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:

  • Your Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific definition of how your or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number.
  • Legal 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.

7. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see on the FAFSA:

  • Confusing Parent and Student Information: I know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA for their child, but remember, the FAFSA is the student’s application. When the FAFSA says “you” or “your”, it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter the student’s information. If we are asking for parent information, we will specify that in the question.
  • Entering 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.
  • Entering 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.
  • 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.

Tip: If you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, this number will be pulled for you, directly from your income tax return.

8. Not Reporting Parent Information

Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you’ll need to provide parent 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.

Bonus: Who is my parent when I fill out the FAFSA?

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

Click to enlarge

9. Listing only one college

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Do not make this mistake! Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ANY college you are considering to your FAFSA, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

10. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

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 7, 2016. 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.

Tip: If you used income estimates to file your FAFSA early, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your FAFSA shortly after after you file your 2015 taxes.

11. Not Signing the FAFSA

So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons, maybe they forgot their FSA ID, or their parent isn’t with them to sign with the parent FSA ID, so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you. If you don’t have or don’t know your FSA ID, register 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.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

464 Comments

  1. My twin daughters will be attending college fall 2016. Their fafsa was pulled for verification process, which has been a pain. I’ve been the only parents since they were 2, my boyfriend lives with me and we have 2 small child. I was informed today that I will have to included his income on the reins fafsa does that sound right?

    • Read this to find out who to report on your children’s FAFSA. If you’re not legally married to your boyfriend, you do not have to report his financial information on the FAFSA because he’s not considered your children’s legal stepparent.

  2. I was only married for 3 months in 2015. I married my wife in September of 2015. When I filed my taxes, I filed single since I was single for the biggest part of the year. I am completing my FAFSA app and it’s asking for “our” gross adjusted income as if we filed jointly. I don’t understand how to do this if we didn’t file jointly. In fact, I have filed my taxes, but she has not yet filed hers. I don’t know how to handle this situation

    • It doesn’t matter where your daughter lives, that doesn’t change her dependency. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

  3. If my daughter lived off campus last summer and now will she be considered a independent. Also do I have to put her stepfather even though he didn’t legally adopt her.

  4. RE: Sandra Voung’s comment, “You shouldn’t be completing the FAFSA for your child.” As so much of the required information comes from, and may be known only by, the parents, why should the parents not complete the FAFSA? If the information provided is accurate, what business is it of the financial aid office or the federal government whether that information was assembled and entered by the parent or the student?

    • The student applying for aid is the owner of their FAFSA. If the student does not know answers to the “Parent” sections of their FAFSA, they can pass off their FAFSA to the parent via Save Key. Also, students need their FAFSA information if they wish to apply for any scholarships and grants that use the FAFSA to determine their eligibility. Another example: problems may arise when parents create an FSA ID in behalf of their child. The student isn’t informed their parent did this, and then they try to create an FSA ID only to find out that it’s already been created and they cannot login to see their FAFSA information. This can result in their account being locked, and overall, it can delay receiving aid.

      • The student doesn’t own the FAFSA nor do they own any of the aid that will be provided (or not, depending). The parent(s) information is being used to determine whether or not the student will be eligible for aid; the parent(s) will be paying for the student that doesn’t receive aid or receives only a small percentage of aid, and the parent(s) are those paying for most everything the student needs while in college because not enough money can be made working less than 20-hours per week while attending school.

        • However, there are many students with parents that are unwilling to provide their financial information on the FAFSA, and ultimately, might not support their children financially. For these students, they are able to submit a FAFSA without their parent’s info. However, their eligibility for certain types of aid may be limited. The student is attending college, not their parent. The FAFSA owner is the person attending college.

  5. My son’s mother and I were never married. I am on the birth certificate. He has lived with me the past 9 months. I’m’ currently divorced from another women. Can I provide my financial information? and the question about divorced, does that apply to woman not his mother?

    • Both you and your son’s mother are considered “legal parents” on the FAFSA. This means that your son will provide the parent information from whom he lived with more during the past 12 months. That person is you. Since you are legally divorced, we do not need further information. Your son can submit his FAFSA with only one parent’s financial info (yours). More details.

  6. My child gets a disability check for a learning disability. Is he still eligible for financialaid /Pell grant? And I’m a single parent who gets ssi. I don’t file taxes. Will this hinder him from receiving aid. Should he apply for full time or part time status due to the disability according to the fafsa rules

  7. I was recommended to put as much money into a cash value life insurance plan to reduce my EFC. Is it too late if I start the plan in 2016 when my student starts in the Fall and can I contribute to it annually rather than a lump sum?

  8. Can I and my student use the same email address but different user names and passwords etc… to set up our FAFSA ID’s? We all use the same email address but not sure we can do that with the FAFSA ID process.

    • No. An email address can only be linked to one FSA ID. You’ll need to use a different email address for each FSA ID.

  9. My husband and I haven’t filed taxes in the past three years (family medical problems have taken a lot of our time and we do NOT owe taxes). We are working on catching up and as I stated, we do not owe taxes (we overpay each year) but we know we still have to file taxes. Question is: for the FAFSA, will our application be ok with just our W2 information for 2015 or will it kick back until we catch up filing our taxes from previous years.

    • The 2016-17 FAFSA asks for tax information from 2015. You can complete the FAFSA now even if you or your parents haven’t filed 2015 taxes yet. Just select “will file” and use 2014 tax info to estimate the financial information. Make sure you sign and submit with your FSA ID. Then, once you/your parents file 2015 taxes, log back in and update your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Detailed instructions.

  10. Financial aid is a farce for most middle class. contrary to what was stated there is an income limit. The majoruty of financial aid is in the form of a loan. The EFC listed is pretty much what you will have to pay. We putvthree kids through college filling out a FAFSA each year for every one. unless your child can apply as a non dependent all they will get are loan offers. Post college they will be badgered by collection agencies to payup. At least the Parent plus loans can be cancelledcafter 10 yrs if you wirk for a qualifying job or after 20yrs in non qualufying jobs. and they come with life insurance. Financial Aid is a farce in this country unless your on welfare, then everything is free!

  11. I never understand when articles state everyone should fill out a fasfa form. I have helped my son every year . We file early . Never has he ever qualified for any scholarships or any type of money. He lives on his own and evidently we as parents shouldn’t worry about our own future or retirement , but fasfa guidelines come up with a crazy amount we should be able to pay. Unfortunately my son will have major loans . We will do our best to help him but I felt fasfa was worthless.

  12. I have legal custody of my grandson, I have not adopted him. He has lived with me since 2002 when his mother (my daughter) was killed. His father has no contact with him per court order and we have no idea where he is at this time. Do we use our (grandparents) income on FAFSA or no? I am getting conflicted information from the school counselor and what is written here.

  13. My ex-husband is on disability. He has almost no contact with our kids, and I HABENT been able to get in touch with him as he lives across the country. SSI provides child support each month until they are 18. Does he have to be included in our FAFSA application?

  14. We completed FASFA last year for my daughter based on my 2014 taxes. She is now working and will be filing by herself for 2015. Should her FASFA be updated with her 2015 taxes or mine? Are there any pros or cons on whose should be used?

    • You shouldn’t be completing the FAFSA for your child. The FAFSA will ask for financial information from BOTH the student (your child) and her parent(s). They are completely separate sections.

  15. I have twins that will attend college in the Fall. Question – do I need to create 2 FAFSA ID’s for me as the parent? I know that they each have to create their own FAFSA ID.

  16. I have a FASFA ID for myself for last year. I am a parent who is also attending college. My daughter is a senior and we are filling out her FASFA, when it asks for the parent to sign and create a new FASFA ID. Should I use mine or create a different one using my husbands info. We are married.

    • When did you create your FSA ID? It is a new process as of May 2015. Do not confuse it with the PIN, which we do not use anymore. As a parent, you can use the same FSA ID to sign your daughter’s FAFSA as well as sign your own FAFSA. It’s a digital signature and a way for you to log into the FAFSA. Your daughter will use her own FSA ID to access and sign her FAFSA. Only one parent needs to sign her FAFSA, so your husband does not necessarily need to get his own FSA ID.

  17. My grandson’s father and stepmother put him out of the house. He has lived with us his grandparents for the last year with no support from his father, mother or stepparent. He works part time and is planning to start spring or summer semesters of Community School. We are both retired. How should he submit for financial aid?

    • It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t live with his parents, he still needs to provide their information. The only way he can use his grandparent’s information is if you legally adopt him.

      • That’s not entirely true. Many schools will ask for additional information about his relationship with his biological parents. If it’s a case of abuse or abandonment, or a similar circumstance, the college may be willing to perform a dependency override using what’s called “professional judgment”. Speak with the college directly, or the college he is most likely to attend. They will want additional documentation, but it is worth pursuing.

  18. I am so confused. My son is a hs sr, graduating in May 2916. I went to college over 10 years ago. I have a fafsa pin under my name. My loans were dismissed due to disability. When I start helping my son start the process. 1. Are we too late for him to be eligible for aid this Aug. What taxes do we use? 2. Do I use my pin? Local hs not helpful they push everyone into military. Not sure where to begin.

  19. My son wants to attend a university in Canada. Can we still file for financial aid?? He was born there but he resides in US.

  20. My parent has been trying to make an FSA ID but every time the Personal Identification Information is entered it says “The information you entered is already associated with an FSA ID.” Is there anything that either of us has to do to change this?

    • That means your parent has already created an FSA ID. You need to enter the username and password associated with your parent’s FSA ID. If they forgot it: on the “Log in” page, you’ll find links that give you the option of retrieving your username or password through your verified e-mail address or by successfully answering your challenge questions.

  21. Thank you so much for the information provided. My daughter is in the 10th grade and we have started to prepare. Listing the schools, how financial aid works. What scholarships and grants are available. This will help us immensely.

  22. How does the government figure out how much they think parents can afford? Our income is 100K and the FAFSA says we can pay $27K for our son for next academic year! How are we supposed to do that? We certainly aren’t saving anywhere near that amount each year so how do they come up with a figure like that? Even half that will be a serious struggle. What is the formula??

      • and it’s a joke……you are penalized for making a comfortable living. It’s more of the same……..govt puts you in a class based on many factors, and presto, you don’t qualify for anything. Meanwhile, the guy down the street that chooses not to work gets his kids’ college for free. Not sure why Sandra Vuong doesn’t reply to these comments. Everyone knows that an income threshold is THE deciding factor in this

  23. One of my children have already filed out the Fafsa for 2 years. I have another one starting college Aug 2016. She needs to go in and create her own Fafsa application correct? Does Fafsa but these 2 together then so they can get better loans with having 2 in college?

  24. I want to be sure. I have a daughter that has filled out a Fafsa for the last 2 years. Now I have another daughter would will be starting college Aug 2016. She did get her username and password set up. Does she go in under her information and credit her own Fafsa information as a new application. Does this information come together so with 2 children in college the get better loans?

    • New application. Each student must have their own FAFSA and FSA ID. Family members cannot share a FAFSA. When both children are filling out the FAFSA, there will be a question that asks “While you are in college, how many people in your household will be college students?” which is where they will declare their siblings are also attending college. The number of people going to college is one factor of how much aid they’ll get. However, there are many other factors, so keep that in mind.

      • Thanks for this info. I’ve been wondering the same thing, if my second child could somehow be added to the existing FAFSAs we’ve already done for the first child. I hate doing things twice.

  25. I completed a 2015/2016 in April 2015 for the upcoming school year for my son who is now a senior and will graduate in May. Do I need to file for FASFA since this is his last semester? My understanding is that the 2015 filing was for both fall and winter semesters.

    If he decides to go on to obtain a masters degree somewhere in the fall, should I file for the 2016/2017 year?

    • First of all, you shouldn’t be completing a FAFSA for your son. The student (your child) is the owner of their FAFSA. If he’s attending school:
      7/1/15 to 6/30/16: complete a 2015-16 FAFSA (which you did already)
      7/1/16 to 6/30/17: complete a 2016-17 FAFSA (he can renew his FAFSA)

      Graduate students can complete a FAFSA if they want to apply for federal financial aid. They will be considered independent and do not have to provide parent information. Keep in mind that graduate students who already have a bachelor’s degree will not be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Federal Pell Grant.)

  26. All that is left on our FASFA (for the last 10 days now) is for the parent signature. I (the parent) have tried for hours over many, many days to get my parent FSA ID to work and nothing has worked. When I look up the ID and the password, they are correct. The error message says it doesn’t match the ID/email being used in the FASFA but when you go back and look, it does (and it also doesn’t match the students FSA ID/email like they say). I also waited until I received the confirmation email. I have wasted so much of my life on this one thing that should be simple. Why has this process been made so complicated that no one can figure out how to sign their FASFA?

    • The parent’s FSA ID is totally different from the student’s FSA ID. You and your child should have different usernames, passwords, and emails associated with your FSA ID. Can you double-check to make sure your name is typed out correctly in BOTH places?

      1. Your FSA ID profile and
      2. Your child’s FAFSA

      This includes capitalization and any spaces. Your name must be exactly the same as it appears on your Social Security card.

      • But I “HAVE” done all those things you said. I mentioned each of those things in my original post. I have decided that it’s just not going to work and I’m going to physically sign and mail in the signature page.

    • This happened to me as well. I submitted it without signing and will try again after I calm down. There’s always the option to print and sign if all else fails.

      • You are right about the calming down part! I’ve wasted more than 2 hours of my life trying to digitally sign that thing! That’s more time now than filling the whole thing out! I have now printed, signed and snail mailed it in! We’ll probably have to do that every time we modify it also!

        • I went through the same thing. I called customer service. Talked to three people on three different questions. They were AMAZING. I understood them perfectly, were nice, compassionate and VERY HELPFUL.

  27. Hi. I received some life insurance when my husband passed away 7 years ago. I invested it but have this earmarked for my disabled son’s future. When I applied for FAFSA, this money is seen as disposable income when it is not. What can I do?

    • Sounds complicated, it may be worthwhile to find a clever accountant. I use one for my taxes every other year. This is what they are in business for.

  28. If I have primary custody of my child and claim her on my taxes only, is my ex husband tax info required, along with his wife’s?

  29. I am a divorced parent my daughter lives with me, her father pays support. In last years we have taken turns claiming her on taxes. So for fasfa, does the child use “claiming parent” info for fasfa? Or should I say does a parent have to claim the child in order to fill out fasfa with their info?

  30. Last year when filling out our daughter’s FAFSA, we were denied the parent loan and had to obtain a co-signer for the loan. We obtained the co-signer and resubmitted the loan. Several weeks later when her loan was never released to the school, we found out that somehow it came back saying that we hadn’t signed our MPN. I know I had filled out that form once, but then when the cosigner is added, that first MPN apparently is no longer valid, so you have to do it twice. We filled out the 2nd MPN and waited again for our loan to be released to the school. Again it never showed up. Finally after over 7 weeks of waiting and numerous emails & calls to our school, we discovered that the counseling hadn’t been completed. Once we were able to complete that, the loan was finally disbursed. Is there a step by step instructions for someone who has to obtain an endorser? There were some steps that I completed 2-3 times (signing the MPN & counseling), because I couldn’t tell if they were accepted when they were completed before the endorser was added. Some kind of checklist on the site tracking the completed steps would be so helpful to know if some forms needed to be resubmitted after the endorser is added. The process is hard enough without adding in the extra stress of an endorser and I could not find any kind of detailed instructions for that part of the process.

    • Thanks for the tip, that is really helpful to us. We’re sorry your experience with getting a PLUS Loan did not go smoothly. Most of our PLUS Loan information is on this page. The school’s financial aid office is responsible for providing detailed instructions about their process for requesting a Direct PLUS Loan. Even though many schools require that you request a Direct PLUS Loan at StudentLoans.gov, this isn’t the case for every school. Because each school is different, we currently do not have a checklist that can be applied to every school’s requirements.

  31. Can you give more info on how or access your info on the IRS data retrieval tool? My accountant is not familiar with it.

    • At the point in the FAFSA online application where it asks you to enter income tax info…it will give you the option to go to irs website to input info. You enter your filing status, address you filed under and it retrieves your return and automatically inputs it on FAFSA.

    • After you file taxes, log in to fafsa.gov and change your tax filing status to “Already completed.” From here, the FAFSA has a feature that allows you to automatically import tax information from the IRS into your FAFSA. This is called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) and it will be available on February 7, 2016. Unfortunately, you cannot use the IRS DRT immediately after you file taxes. You may have to wait a few weeks after you file taxes before your data can show up in the FAFSA.

      Here is a video from last year that walks you through the entire process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoiBrTvqgJU
      This video still mentions the PIN, which we do not use anymore. You will use your FSA ID to access the IRS DRT.

      We will be posting an in-depth blog about it in early February.

  32. my daughter will graduate in May 2017 and use the 2017/18 FAFSA application for college. our 2015 tax return shows a large inheritance that my husband received from his deceased father’s estate. would it be wise for us to forego the early Oct. 1, 2016 FAFSA application date and wait until 2017 and use our 2016 tax return to more accurately reflect our income (and not the inheritance)?

    • If your daughter is attending college in the fall of 2017 , you should fill out the FAFSA in January of 2017 which will be based on your 2016 income.

      • Hi Jennifer – our process has changed and you’ll be able to submit the 2017-18 FAFSA as early as October 1st, 2016! We will also accept 2015 tax info (this is new), not 2016 tax info. More information.

    • No. You should still complete it on time (after Oct. 1). You will be required to use 2015 tax information. You will not have the option to input 2016 financial info on the 2017-18 FAFSA. More: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/announcements/fafsa-changes

      Your daughter can talk to the financial aid office at the school she plans to attend and explain her situation. They are usually able to help if there are significant changes that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  33. My child has no contact with her biological father. He pays minimum child support, and that does not cover any college costs. I was never married to him. I am now married, but my child’s step-father will not be supporting her financially in college – I pay 100% for all of her financial support. Why do I have to include her step-parents financial information? He makes substantially more than I do, and his income is going to hurt her chances of getting financial aid! But he is not paying for any of her college. Seems to me this is not fair, and my child will suffer.

    • They really do not care. I was on my own and self-supported since I graduated high school and I still had to put in all my parents’ information even though they did not help me pay for school one cent. Because of that, they said my estimated family contribution was thousands and thousands of dollars. So now I’m strapped with that much in debt because I had to get loans to go to school and didn’t qualify for any grants or scholarships because my mom is so well-off. Which would be great but she didn’t help me at all…I still don’t understand why parental information is necessary in that instance..

  34. If you’ve had your identity stolen and fraudulent taxes filed, even if it was years ago, you can’t use the IRS retrieval tool

  35. When I try to electronically sign my daughters fads a, it says I can’t because that email is already in use. I believe it’s because I used the same email for my son 6 years ago or possibly tried setting up my daughters fafsa using my email because she didn’t have her own. How can Idelete this email from his and the mistake account and only have it connected to my daughters account?

    • Option 1: You can get your daughter her own email and log into her fsaid account and update her information with her new email. Your email address is then available to use to create you an account.
      Option 2: Create a second email account for you and then you can use it to create your FSA id.

  36. Anything this important that could have 11 likely mistakes ought to be simplified somehow. Just a thought…

    • Believe me, those explanations are simplified. There are tons more mistakes that can be made – those are currently the most common seen this past year.

  37. What if the student hasn’t lived with or been provided financial support by either parent for at least two years and has been living with a friend(who does not have legal custody), does he still need parents financial information.

    • If the parents can legally claim the student on their taxes, then yes, parent information is required. This is true even if the parents choose NOT to claim the student as a dependent on their own tax return. There are very few exceptions to this rule, although you can get all the details from the FAFSA website. I know this can be a source of frustration for some students..especially if parents refuse to provide info or cannot be tracked down.

    • Generally, yes, if he is under the age of 24, single, and has not served in the military or been homeless. He will answer questions at the beginning of the FAFSA which will determine whether he is independent or dependent for FAFSA purposes. Simply not having parental financial support is not a qualifier.

    • The answer is yes because I fall in the same situation. I spoke with a FAFSA representative and she told me that I was not considered an independent student unless I had a child or was married.

    • Yes. If a student does not meet the “independent student” eligibility requirements, he/she must provide parental information.

  38. My son is a high school junior and will graduate May 2017. I thought as soon as we got our 2015 taxes done we could fill out the FAFSA. Is that not correct? Do we HAVE to wait until October 2016?

    • The FAFSA is filled out in January 2016 for the school year that starts in the fall 2016. If your son graduates in May 2017, you will need your tax return from the 2016 calendar year. You will not be able to use 2015 taxes.

    • This is incorrect. Your son is graduating in May 2017 and will attend college in 2017-2018. This means the FAFSA will be available for you to complete at January 1, 2017 at the earliest. Complete it ‘Will File’ using estimates from 2015 taxa and 2016 pay stubs until you can use the IRS retrieval tool a few weeks after you file.

      Getting a little ahead of yourself there 😉

    • You’ll be applying for student aid for the Fall 2017-2018 year. You won’t apply until January 2017. The application isn’t even available for Fall 2017 until the January prior. You’ll use this year’s (2016) income information when you apply.

    • Mary why would you wait until October? FAFSA should be filled out as soon as possible, but will be most accurate if you use the numbers from your Filed 2015 Federal return. And if your son is only a junior, why are you doing FAFSA already? You will have to do it again next January, which is what they will use to calculate any assistance for a freshman starting college Fall of 2017. Good luck :)

      Carrie, (mother of college senior and hs junior)

    • You have to wait until October to complete the 2017-18 FAFSA. He can’t complete his FAFSA early for an award year when he won’t be enrolled in college. Our general eligibility requirements also indicate you must have a high school diploma or GED, which isn’t going to happen until his senior year.

  39. I’m planning to attend a 2016 spring semester. I currently have no job and will be a full time student. I have made money but very little so little I didn’t even file for taxes in 2015 because they said I didn’t qualify. When I apply for fafsa what should I do to file it correctly in my situation.

    • If you worked and they took taxes out of your paycheck, you should file a return to get that money back. If you made very little money in 2014, you will be in such a low tax bracket, that your tax liability will be zero dollars and you’ll get it all back. You have three years to file a federal tax return to claim a refund due. TurboTax will let you file for free, in your situation. Go ahead and do it if you still have your 2014 W-2’s from all employers. If you don’t want to file, I do believe there is a question in the FAFSA that asks if you even filed a return.

    • You can select “Not going to file” when you see the question about 2015 taxes. You should be filling out the 2015-16 FAFSA which covers July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Check with your school about their deadlines for awarding aid.

      FYI the 2016-17 FAFSA covers July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. You must complete a FAFSA each school year you plan to be enrolled. If you do need to complete both, do the 2015-16 FAFSA first and some info will roll over when you complete 2016-17.

    • If he wants federal loans. There is no Pell grants for grads. Check with your son’s program to see if they require the FAFSA for institutional need based aid.

    • He can if he wants to see if he’ll be eligible for federal financial aid. Here are the types of financial aid we offer to grad students: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/graduate-professional-funding-info.pdf. He should apply for scholarships and fellowships too! Keep in mind that graduate students who already have a bachelor’s degree will not be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Federal Pell Grant.)

    • Yes, there are other government loans/assistance offered for graduate school based on his FAFSA. Submit is as soon as possible with your filed 2015 Federal Return in hand.

  40. I live out of country, my mother is a US citizen and my father is not (but he has a SSN). There is a tax deal between the two countries and therfore we pay very little tax in the US. Do i only report our US tax?

  41. My wife and I have been separated (that is how I answered the marriage question)since Feb 2014 but filed 2014 taxes jointly. After entering that information in FAFSA the form came back with a question of “are you sure you entered the correct information”.I was able to proceed but will that create any issues once I load my 2015 taxes as an individual?

    • No. How you file taxes is not related to how you complete the FAFSA. Even though you file taxes jointly, you must report your information separately.

  42. Will it hurt my son’s amount of aid he receives if he has a sizable amount of money in his savings account? My husband and I claim him on our taxes and use our income on the FAFSA, but know it asks for our son’s bank account information too. He worked a co-op last semester and saved a good deal, but hoped that wouldn’t hurt is amount of help.

    • We can’t say if moving his money to your account will have any impact on his aid since there are many OTHER factors to be considered. His eligibility for financial aid depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), his year in school, his enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school he will be attending. The financial aid office at his college will determine how much financial aid he is eligible to receive: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

      • there are no other factors. Your EFC is THE governing factor…..don’t believe all the other nonsense. I had 3 kids in college at one time, single dad, never qualified for anything because I had done a good job of saving money I guess. The trick here is to be financially irresponsible, then you might get a handout. If you save, work hard, etc…….gets you no assistance at all, unless you want a loan

  43. My daughter is filling out fafsa. My husband works and I am disabled and collect social security disability. How do we fill in the income part for 2015?

  44. We are trying to fill out the FASFA for our daughter and it will not let us use the same email that we use with our sons. What can we do? It tells us that it is already in use with anyone that is our son’s.

    • You and your daughter and sons all need to have separate accounts with an FSA id. Once you complete one child’s FAFSA, it will give you the option to transfer the parent info to a sibling’s FAFSA

    • The guidelines for the new FAFSA and ID’s require different email addresses for the students and the parents. This is their effort to keep parents from filling out the FAFSA for their student children. Remember, the FAFSA is for the student and they technically should be the one filling it out………..then they sign, and the parent has to log in separately with their own email and do their part.

      Most web email providers allow you multiple email accounts on your service. Mine allows up to 10 so all you really should have to do is create a separate account for your daughter, let her access the FAFSA from her email address, save it and then you finish your part.

      Good luck.

    • You shouldn’t be making an FSA ID for your child. That is the problem. Every FSA ID is unique and cannot be used with the same email address. Keep in mind that every FSA ID is also an electronic signature that is tied to a Social Security number. Your children should be making their own FSA ID using their own email address.

  45. What about inherited monies and land? Do these need to be listed? My son will be graduating in May and I inherited these from my father last year.

  46. My son will be attending college this fall. I am divorced and remarried. His biological father is not. He resides with me. Do i put my income and step fathers income and his biological fathers income on the fasfa appliction?

    • You must use the income of the parent (step-parent) the child lives with. If you file taxes as married filing jointly you will use both or your incomes combined on the Fasfa application. Then when you link the fasfa to the tax return there will not be any discrepancy, which could cause delay in Fasfa.

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