11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

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12 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. I am a single parent. If I fill out the FAFSA with the previous tax information, I have up to February 7th to update with my 2015 tax information?

    • No, February 7 is when the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) will be available. You can use the IRS DRT after you file 2015 taxes to automatically import your updated tax info into the FAFSA. Keep in mind that you cannot use the IRS DRT immediately after you file taxes. You may have to wait a few weeks before you’re able to use it: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/irshlp14.htm

  2. When entering parent financial information, it is my understanding that funds that are reserved exclusively for retirement do not need to be added. Is this true?

  3. My son will be freshman in college in September 2016. We filled out FAFSA with his info and mine. I’ve been divorced from his father for 12 years. The father pays child support but is not allowed any contact with the kids because of a criminal record. I have full legal custody. Does the legal Father’s income information have to be able n the FAFSA as well? And how in the world do I do that for a person I’m not allowed to contact (for the safety of the kids) nor allowed to know his address etc. Thanks.

  4. I am working with a great niece who lived with her Mom (divorced from the Dad) the majority of the year. Her Mom is not supportive and on welfare and hasn’t filed and doesn’t plan to file a tax return. How is this situation addressed in the FAFSA. Thanks for your help.

  5. Hi I wanted to know how many times can we go in and update fafsa. My daughter applied to more colleges that we didn’t add to fafsa.

    • You can make as many corrections as you need (before your deadlines), however you cannot do them simultaneously. After you click “SUBMIT MY FAFSA NOW” we will process your new information. You cannot make any changes until processing is complete, which could take up to 3 days. Basically, every time you make a change (even if that means adding one more school) you’ll have to click SUBMIT. If your daughter decides to include another school, she’ll have to wait another 3 days or until her FAFSA is considered “processed.” Here’s how to make updates: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update

  6. We have 8 adopted children who receive money from Title-4E programs. Does this money need to be claimed on the FAFSA? I can’t find an answer. Thank you.

    • No. Any extended foster care payments that are provided directly to the student under the same authority (Part E of Title IV of the Social Security Act) that a State uses to make regular foster care payments to foster parents are considered to be “excludable income” under HEA section 480(e)(5). Thus, such payments are not considered as untaxed income in the calculation of the student’s EFC and should not be included as untaxed income on the student’s FAFSA. Source: https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1318.html

  7. !. I’m self-employed, 100% commission. My income fluctuates from year to year & I haven’t received my 1099s yet to file taxes. We should file an estimated FAFSA NOW and then update after filing taxes?

    2. Is there any extra forms because of my self-employment?

    3. My husband is retired, draws a small pension & social security. Since I still work we pay taxes on his Social Security & pension. His income is fixed, is there a way to differentiate this on the FAFSA so it’s clear he’s not in the workforce earning a wage even though we’re paying taxes on his Social Security & pension?

    4. We receive $1500 a month from SS because we have 2 minors & my husband is on SS. We will lose $500 of that when my high school senior turns 18 2 months before she goes to college. Is this included in the FAFSA and how can we make it clear that we will be losing that income?

    5. We have to provide & pay for our own health insurance which is a HUGE EXPENSE for us & take a huge chunk out of our monthly income. Is that taken into account on the FAFSA?
    thank you so much!

    • 1. If your 2015 income was very different from your 2014 income, use the income estimator (available from within the FAFSA) to estimate financial information instead of 2014 taxes: https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1617/help/fotwfaq68.htm, that way you can still submit your FAFSA early and your income estimates will be accurate.

      2. No.

      3. It has to be reported. Adjusted gross income includes more than wages earned, it includes Social Security. Use this table: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fotw04cF4c.htm

      4. It doesn’t matter if your child is turning 18 soon because we ask about the benefits received in the year 2015. Most of the questions on the FAFSA want to know your situation as of the day you sign the FAFSA, not days in the future.

      5. FAFSA asks for balances of savings, checking accounts, and tax info. Insurance payments are not required. http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out#financial-info

  8. What is the advantage to using the 2014 tax return to file early and then updating once the taxes are completed, why not just wait for the 2015 tax return to be completed.

    • Because some need based aid and grants such as FSEOG and work study runs out on a first come first served basis. Filling it out early with estimates puts you ahead in the queue.

    • The advantage is filing before a deadline. We understand the process to go back and make updates can be cumbersome, but there are some scholarships and types of aid that have a deadline before you’re able to file taxes. If you wait, you could miss out on that money unless you use 2014 estimates and submit the FAFSA now. Remember that some aid is first-come, first-served. Check deadlines here: http://fafsa.gov/deadlines.htm

  9. If a student is living with her brother and has not lived with her mother or father the majority of the year does she have to claim her mom and dads income or does she file independently?

    If a student is in Foster care through the state do they file independently?

    • In the first case, FAFSA will generally find her to be dependent and require parental information unless she is married, homeless, serves in the military or is over 24, and some other cases. In the second, she would be independent because of having guardianship appointed by a court.

  10. Is there a mechanism in FASFA for estimating 2016 income that is projected to be much lower than the income represented on a 2015 income tax return (due to recent unemployment)?

    • No. We do not ask you to report 2016 income. Most of the questions on the FAFSA want to know your situation as of the day you sign the FAFSA, not days in the future. However, you can talk to the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and explain your situation. They are usually able to help if there was a significant change in your or your parent’s income for the present year or if your family has other circumstances that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  11. Two questions:

    Is the new FSA id something new for 2016?

    We do not have our taxes back yet and I made slightly more then last year, but my daughter made less. Should we go ahead and estimate with her making less or weight till they are done?

    • 1. Yes. The FSA ID is new as of May 2015.
      2. You have two options. You can use 2014 info as estimates, OR you can use the income estimator (available from within the FAFSA) to estimate financial information instead of 2014 taxes: https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1617/help/fotwfaq68.htm, that way you can still submit your FAFSA early and your income estimates will be accurate.

  12. My parents are separated in different states but are filing married on their taxes. Whose income do I report. I live with my mom who doesn’t work.

  13. I divorced 3 years ago. I have not remarried and my ex is not remarried. We have joint custody. Does it matter which parent completes the FAFSA?

  14. I have had a girl living with our family for over a year and we are her only support. She is now 18 and her mother lives out of state and has not supported her financially in well over a year. I have power of attorney, but am not her legal guardian. How do we handle filling out her fafsa?

    • She cannot report you as her parents on her FAFSA unless you have legally adopted her. She will need to get her mother’s information. However, if she cannot, she can still complete the FAFSA even if her parents are unwilling to provide their information. Answer “no” to being able to provide parent information and also “no” to the special circumstance question. The downside is she may only qualify for unsubsidized loans. Check with your school’s financial aid office for further assistance with her unique situation. More info: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#unwilling-parents

  15. I am divorced and remarried. I have 1 son, my husband has 2 sons, from a previous marriage. All 3 will be in college during 2016-2017 year. My son lives with us and we claim him on our taxes. My step sons were in college in 2015-2016, and we pay a portion of each of their tuition. However, on our taxes we only claim 1 of them. What is our household sizes and how many are in college on my FASFA?

    • It doesn’t matter who you claim on taxes. Our dependency requirements are different from the IRS. Answer the question about household size based on this: Your parents’ household size should include yourself, your parent(s), and the number of children (other than yourself) who will receive more than half of their support from your parents between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. Also include the number of people who are not your parents’ children but who live with your parents and receive more than half of their support from your parents, and will continue to receive more than half of their support from your parents between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

      Here’s the question about people in college:
      https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1617/help/pnumInCollege.htm

      If the stepsons receive more than half of their support from you, they will be included in this number. If not, then do not include them.

  16. My daughter will be attending college the fall of this year. Her father and I are divorced…with I being remarried. Her father had paid child support which paid for most of my daughters expenses throughout the year but she lives with me. Which parent fills out the FASFA for her?….rather, which parents income is shown? Also, her father had to go on disability part of the year so then my daughter was receiving benefits from that…. Just want to make sure we are doing this correctly.

    • She will use info from the parent whom she lived with more during the past 12 months. If this parent is legally remarried, this means she has a stepparent and she will need to report her stepparent’s information. This means her biological parent’s info is NOT reported. However, there will be a question about child support received in 2015 which is where you can report her father’s contribution. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#divorced-separated

  17. My moms birthday is wrong on my fafsa. When she goes to sign it it will not let her because it’s incorrect data

  18. I was laid off my job as of 12/31/15. I was the primary bread winner for the family. I do not know when I will get another? Filing FASFA based on my 2015 income does it reflect my current status? What can I do?

    • You’ll still have to report 2015 tax information on the FAFSA. However, if your situation does not change, you should make an appointment with the financial aid office at the school to discuss the change in your circumstances. Bring any documentation that you might have.

  19. My son is now responsible for paying child support, but while in school we as his parents are actually paying it. Can this expense be entered on the Fafsa and where would it be entered?

    • Yes, there is a question about “How much total child support did you pay?” Enter the total amount of child support you (and if married, your spouse) paid because of divorce or separation or as a result of a legal requirement in 2015. Do not include support for children in your household.

  20. My daughter is in her junior yr of high school, she will graduate w/ the class of 2017. Is it to early to start this process?

  21. Our daughter graduated from college and started grad school this past Fall 2015 at the University of Minnesota. We completed FAFSA and our initial notification said that she was eligible for grant money. However, the U of M said they don’t participate in FAFSA for grad students. Is this true for all grad schools? Do we have any other options?

  22. Just obtaining to FSA ID has been stressful. Starting with the first of thee kids.. the pin number is no longer valid, which we understand so are trying to create new FSA ID. We get through the process and it said she created one already, which we have not. I called the 800 # for assistance and they said they would email it to her. She got two emails with two different numbers. She followed the instructions on last email and entered the code which told her she can now create an ID number. She she went through process again only to have screen say she already has one. So I called 800# again and that person was of no help, just reiterated to click on email link and enter code, which we already did. Then my daughter got an email that said her call case is closed. So we have called twice and still have no ID number. Frustrated!!

    • The FSA ID is a username and password. It’s not a number like the PIN was. The email you got was a secure code that links your email with your FSA ID, it’s not a number you use to sign your FAFSA. After the email is linked to your FSA ID, you no longer need that code. Here’s a video to show you how it all works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLi0q7hkFns

  23. My household includes my 16 year old son and my boyfriend. We are considering getting married but are wondering if his income can NOT BE submitted if we aren’t married and don’t mention that he is in the home and contributing? My son will be submitting the FAFSA in two year for his first year of college in year 2018-2019.

  24. My husband and I both work full time jobs. We also own a farm. When we tried to pull from the IRS records, it didn’t pick up our farm loss, only the income. So, everything had to be put in manually.

  25. We just sold our home, moved in with my parents and are in the process of looking for another house. The cash balance in our bank account is quite large until we find a new home (probably the next 3-4 months during the time the FAFSA is due to our kids’ schools). Since we live with family we do not pay rent. What is the best way to report this on the FAFSA so that we do not miss out on aid that we were entitled to the past few years?

    • Most of the questions on the FAFSA want to know your situation as of the day you sign the FAFSA, not days in the future. Since you will not be able to change that info by the time you submit your children’s FAFSA, talk to the financial aid office at their school and explain your situation. They are usually able to help if there was a significant change in family income for the present year or if your family has other circumstances that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  26. My daughter was born in April 1993 and she was Married in May 2013, and divorced in August 2015. Shee hasn’t lived at home since she got married, and since the divorce she still lives on her own. So is she still a dependent?

  27. We have filed out the FAFSA and my son recieved no aid, but we did not indersetand we could use estimated income since he was out of work for most of 2015. Can we resubmit with adjustments?

    • You can log in to make corrections once your FAFSA is processed, which takes about 3 days. Here’s how to make updates: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update

      Did you file a 2016-17 FAFSA? Your son’s aid is not calculated yet. The schools takes it from there. If he gets accepted, they use your FAFSA information to determine how much financial aid he’s eligible to receive at their school. Each school will send you an aid award which outlines the amount and types of aid he qualifies for. Both the amounts and types of aid may vary from school to school, so be sure to compare aid awards carefully. For specific details: https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps

  28. I understand that parents have to have a FAFSA ID. Where do I find where to do this on the FAFSA website?

  29. We does our foster daughter list as her parents? She is in our care but we have not adopted her. Does she list her biological parents? Who’s tax info does she use?

  30. I joined the National Guard over the summer. I was wondering if this affects my financial aid while I am in college? There is a question about active soldiers. I am considered active in the army but I am not active duty. Do I answer yes or no?

    • Here’s how you answer:
      Select Yes if you are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee who is on active duty for other than state or training purposes.
      Select No if you are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee who is on active duty for state or training purposes. Also select No if you are not currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

  31. My husband and I have legal guardian ship of a high school senior. When it comes to the parent portion we have his biological parents ss numbers from paperwork and we know they receive SS disability. But we don’t know how much and we don’t know anything regarding their taxes. Will we need to obtain this information? They have already told us they won’t provide it to me.

    • Yes, it is better for you to obtain that information so we can form an accurate picture of the family’s total financial strength. Legal guardians cannot be reported on a student’s FAFSA unless you have legally adopted the child. If the parents are unwilling to provide financial information, the student can still complete the FAFSA. Answer “no” to being able to provide parent information and also “no” to the special circumstance question. The downside is they may only qualify for unsubsidized loans. Check with the school’s financial aid office for further assistance with their unique situation. More info here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#unwilling-parents

  32. My daughter was born prior to 1/1/93 and will start working on her masters degree in the 2016-2017 school year. Do I need to provide parent information for her?

    • No. Graduate students are considered independent on the FAFSA and do not need to report parent information.

  33. My daughter lives with me and her dad and I are legally divorced. I understand that the FAFSA should show my financial information not her dad’s because I am the parent of primary residence. However, we take turns claiming her on our tax returns. How will this effect the FAFSA if her dad claims her on his taxes but I fill out the FAFSA?

  34. My husband was previously married and has two children. We do not claim them on our taxes but he does pay child support. Can they be listed in the household size on the fast a?

    • No. You cannot claim them unless they will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. It doesn’t matter who claims who on taxes, our dependency requirements are different from the IRS. There will be a question about child support paid in 2015 that your husband can answer in his parent section. https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1617/help/totalChildSupPaid.htm

  35. My husband and I have lived apart for the last 11 years but are legally married with my son spending equal time at both homes and all expenses being split….how do we file? We file separate taxes with one of us claiming him as a dependent and one claiming his brother…..does this effect how we file?

    • It doesn’t matter who claims your son on taxes, our dependency requirements are different from the IRS. Are you considered legally separated by a state? If you are NOT, then you’re still considered “Married” for purposes on the FAFSA (even if you live in separate households). That means your son will have to report financial information on both of you. More details: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info

  36. One of the common mistakes I always read about is listing only one college choice. If my son is going to be a sophomore next year and is attending the same school, should he still list more than that one college he’s attending?

    • Is your son planning to change schools? If so, he can list more than one college if he wants other schools to receive his information. If not, then no, he does not need to. The mistake about listing only one school is mostly in reference to high school seniors who are filling out the FAFSA for the first time.

  37. My biggest confusion is about the tax information. My mom and I both have very different incomes this year compared to last year. So we didn’t think it was even useful to put down last years information and we can’t even estimate because we had multiple jobs and the wages differ. So why is it better to submit one with wrong information and then change it later? Wouldn’t it change your aid???

  38. We did FAFSA for my daughter this year . It assigned her a grant amount but because we have to file an extension every year and it is always close to the final due date in October we lose that grant amount. what can we do to secure that grant or is that something from the school she is attending . Getting the extension in early is out of my control due to a partnership K1 we are always waiting on . any suggestions

    • Are you referring to the Federal Pell Grant or some other grant? And are you talking about a tax extension? It seems like you’re unable to update your daughter’s FAFSA on time due to filing your taxes late, therefore you’re missing a deadline to receive a grant. You should talk to the school or the company handing out the grant about how flexible they are and what options you have for this year.

  39. If my niece’s parents are divorced and Mom claims her on her taxes per divorce decree but she lives totally with her father, who supports her totally financially, who needs to apply for the FAFSA ID and who’s tax info needs to be reported? Since her father does not have her on his taxes at all since the divorce.

  40. Hello! I am a disabled single mother. My son turns 18 on Feb 7th 2016. He receives $80 a month as my dependent from SSDI. (Disability). Does he have to claim that info on fafsa even though he will only receive it for 1 more month?

    Also does he have to claim his part time fast food job as income? He made less than 10,000 per year and I was told he does not need to file taxes (tax return) on this small sum.

    Thanks for your help!

  41. We filled out the FAFSA using our 2014 tax info and will update when we do our 2015 taxes. I just recently lost two of my biggest clients which will not show up as a loss of income until 2016. This is when I need the aid. I checked the box dislocated worker. How does this all work?

    • Most of the questions on the FAFSA want to know your situation as of the day you sign the FAFSA, not days in the future. Even though you cannot change this information on the FAFSA, you can talk to the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and explain your situation. They are usually able to help if there was a significant change in your or your parent’s income for the present year or if your family has other circumstances that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  42. If my biological parents (listed on my Birth Certificate) were never married, but technically had “joint custody” of me, and my father has been claiming me on his tax returns and paying child support – BUT really has nothing to do with me, do I need to use his income information when I file? He does not live in the same state that I do. He has made it clear that he will not contribute to my college expenses and once I turn 18 (February), the child support payments stop.
    In addition, my mom did marry in 2008 but has since recently divorced (December, 2014) and will be filing individual tax returns for 2015, do I need to use her ex-husbands income?

    • You will report information about the parent who provided more financial support over the past 12 months. It doesn’t matter if your biological father claims you on his taxes. We have different dependency requirements than the IRS. There is a section on the FAFSA about child support received in 2015 that your parent can fill out. If your mother is legally divorced by the time she helps you complete your FAFSA, read this for more details on what to report: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#divorced-separated

  43. Question regarding #9. You say that colleges don’t see the other schools on your list. Is this a new policy? If not, I’m wondering how the schools know where they appear on a student’s list. When we were going through the application process for our sons a few years ago, we were told by several schools that they do sometimes look at this “FAFSA position” when reviewing applications, and in some cases use it to make application decisions. (The belief being that students list schools in preferential order, so the higher on the list a school appears, the more likely the student is to attend that school if admitted.)

    In further researching this, I discovered it’s actually a fairly common practice among schools. So I’m wondering how schools know their position on a student’s list if they don’t see the other schools that appear on it.

    • It’s new as of the 2016-17 FAFSA. A while ago we became aware of possible misuse of the list of Federal School Codes provided on a student’s FAFSA. In response, we have implemented a change on the 2016-17 FAFSA. Schools will only see themselves listed, not other schools the student has reported. If you’d like to see more details, it’s on Page 3 of the 2016-17 “Summary of Changes for the Application Processing System” here: http://ifap.ed.gov/ifap/byAwardYear.jsp?type=sumchngsappsys

  44. When answering all ythe questions about dependcy, the FAFSA resulted in me being dependent on my parents still. I am 20, but no longer live with my parents full time. Why am I considered their dependent still and would this pose any problem?

    • Not living with your parents does not make you an independent student. 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. More info here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out/dependency

  45. How do we list the sole supporter of the household if they are not the applying students biological parent, the couple is unmarried, and he does not have legal custody of student? Applying student qualifies as a dependant on taxes submitted to the IRS.

  46. My Ex-wife and I have a daughter starting her second semester in a state college in the state that I am a legal resident. My ex lives in the neighboring state. My ex has maintained custody although court documents show joint custody. Can my daughter use my address for second semester assistance and continue throughout to graduation and if so does my daughter list me as guardian or her mother who again lives in adjoining state?

    • Are you legally divorced? If the parents are divorced, the applicant should answer the questions about the parent with whom they lived with more during the past 12 months. More info: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info

      Here’s more detail about the “parents’ state of legal residence” question: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/parentResidenceF4c.htm
      If your legal parents have different states of legal residence, answer for the parent that you lived with most during the last 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, provide information about the parent who provided more financial support during the last 12 months, or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent.

  47. I haven’t worked for almost a year now. Does it mean that I have to use my old w2 form from last year to do the fafsa? I’m so confused

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