11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

common-fafsa-mistakes

The 2017–18 FAFSA® is now available! This year, the FAFSA launched 3 months earlier than usual—on October 1, 2016.

Beginning this year, you’ll also be required to use earlier (2015) tax information than in previous years. How does that benefit you? Since you’ve already filed your 2015 taxes, you’ll be able to fill out your FAFSA right away without having to estimate your financial information! (And you won’t need to update your FAFSA after you file 2016 taxes.)

Start the FAFSA button

These exciting changes are sure to save you time and make the FAFSA much easier 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. The FAFSA is not just the application for federal grants such as the Pell Grant. It’s also the application for work-study funds, low-interest federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could lose out on 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

An FSA ID is a username and password that you must use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent, if you’re considered a dependent student, will each need your own, separate FSA IDs if you each want to sign your FAFSA online.

Why is it so important to get an FSA ID early? Well, 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, create an FSA ID now. If you’re a dependent student, have your parent create an FSA ID too. Just DO NOT share your FSA IDs with each other!

Create an FSA ID (button)


4. Waiting to Fill Out the FAFSA

If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA ASAP after October 1. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and some states and colleges run out of money early, so even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, get your FAFSA done ASAP. Now that you’re required to use earlier (2015) tax information to complete the FAFSA, you have no excuse to wait!

Which brings me to…


5. Not Filing by the Deadline

As I said, you should fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline. Some priority deadlines will be earlier this year because the FAFSA is available earlier. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, fill out your FAFSA (and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school) by your earliest deadline, if not sooner!

Check FAFSA Deadlines button


6. Not using your FSA ID to start the FAFSA

When you go to log in to fafsa.gov, you will be given the option to “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID” OR “Enter the student’s information.” If you are the student, we highly recommend choosing the first option (highlighted below) if you can. If you log in with your FSA ID, a lot of your 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. Additionally, you won’t have to provide your FSA ID again to sign your FAFSA electronically.

2017-18 FAFSA Login Enter FSA ID

 

IMPORTANT: We recommend that you, the student, start the FAFSA so you can choose the option above. However, if you are a parent who is starting a FAFSA on your child’s behalf, you should use only the option on the right (because you should not know your child’s FSA ID.)


7. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and question carefully, because sometimes, how the FAFSA wants you to answer certain questions is not how you’d intuitively answer the question.

Here are some items that have very specific (but not intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA:

  • 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.
  • Parent: The FAFSA has very specific guidelines for which parent(s) need to be reported on the FAFSA. (Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with who claims you on their taxes.)
  • 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, especially when the student doesn’t physically live with the parent.
  • Number of Family Members in College: Enter the number of people in your (or your parents’) household who will attend college at the same time you attend college. Don’t forget to include yourself. Do not include your parents in this number. This number should never be greater than your number of family members.

8. 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 your (the student’s) information. If we are asking for your parent’s 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 your Social Security card. 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 an SSN, follow these instructions.
  • Amount of Your Income Tax: Here, we are asking for your assessed income tax liability, not the amount of income tax withheld, and not your adjusted gross income (AGI). I know this is complicated. To make it simple, use this to find out which tax line number you should refer to when answering this question. (Note: It depends on which IRS form you filed.)

9. 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 you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.

If you’re considered a dependent student and don’t provide parent information, your FAFSA may not be processed, you may not receive an EFC and/or you may only qualify for unsubsidized loans.

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

Who is my parent when I fill out my FAFSA (Infographic)


10. Listing only one college

Two-thirds of precollege FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Unless you are only applying to one college or already know where you’re going to school, this is a 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. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

TIP: It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.


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 you forgot your FSA ID, or your parent isn’t with you to sign with the parent FSA ID —so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • If you don’t know your FSA ID, select “Forgot username” and/or “Forgot password.”
  • If you don’t have an FSA ID, create one. (Note: You may need to wait up to three days for your information to be verified before you can use your new FSA ID to sign the FAFSA, but it’s still faster than mailing a signature page.)

If you’re not able to sign with your FSA ID, you and/or your parent have the option to mail a signature page. 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.

Photo by Getty Images.

234 Comments

  1. FAFSA is a nightmare. Second child applying for college; my husband is completing the form all done and just needs to do electronic signature, but it keeps going tome as parent 1; he is the only one who submits the FAFSA for my older son and now for my daughter. Its so frustrating; it has to be done to get any chance of any aid, more than likely wont get anything as only people who make less than 70,000 a year get anything. Student loans for my son; not one penny given to him; even now with 2 in college wont get a penny. But need to submit the form and need to get it done before November 15 as cut off for early decision.

    • Parent 1 and Parent 2 signature has to match whoever you designated as Parent 1 or Parent 2 at the beginning of the “Parent Demographics” section. You can’t mix it up, the FAFSA will not properly sign if it can’t match your name from the FAFSA with your FSA ID name.

  2. I was filling out my application online but I am not getting the question that asks about Medicaid, SSI and other governmental aid programs. I have reviewed the application many times yet I still cannot find it. Where do I input this information?

    • It’s in the “Financial Information” section that is AFTER the section about “Parent Demographics.” Screenshot of 2017-18 FAFSA

  3. My ex-husband & I filed a joint return in 2015 and divorced in 2016. I filed a special circumstance form and was able to get the earning information changed which then enabled my son to be eligible for more aid. Will I have to file a special circumstance form again for the 2017-2018 FAFSA since I still have to use 2015 tax return?

    • The FAFSA will ask about your current marital status, which is separate from the taxes part. It will say “As of today, are you married?”: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fotw01eF4c.htm

      If you filed your 2015 taxes as married but you’re no longer married when you fill out the 2017-18 FAFSA, you’ll need to subtract your former spouse’s income.

  4. Please tell me where I can find more information about the definition of “Trust Funds” does this mean both Revocable and Irrevocable? What if access to the trust is limited and at the Trustee’s discretion?

    • Trust funds in the name of a student, spouse, or parent should be reported as that person’s asset on the application, generally even
      if the beneficiary’s access to the trust is restricted. If the settlor of a trust has voluntarily placed restrictions on its use, then the
      student should report its present value as an asset, as discussed below. If a trust has been restricted by court order, however, the
      student should not report it. An example of such a restricted trust is one set up by court order to pay for future surgery for the victim
      of a car accident.

      How the trust must be reported depends on whether the student (or dependent student’s parent) receives or will receive the interest
      income, the trust principal, or both. In the case of a divorce or separation where the trust is owned jointly and ownership is not
      being contested, the property and the debt are equally divided between the owners for reporting purposes unless the terms of the
      trust specify some other method of division.

  5. I accidently overstaffed the amount of investments and have already submitted the form. I don’t expect our son to qualify for anything other than possibly student loans. Do I need to go back in and edit this information and resubmit it again?

    • Most FAFSA information cannot be updated because it must be accurate as of the day you originally signed your FAFSA. For example, if you spent some of your savings after filing the FAFSA, you may not update your information to show a change in that amount. You should speak to the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend if there will be 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.
      https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update#what-changes

  6. My husband filed joint return for us but I signed up for the FAFSA ID with my information. Is IRS Data Retrieval Tool able to pick up our info or does my husband have to create a FAFSA ID?

    • Just yours. Your husband does not need an FSA ID unless he plans to go to college and complete a FAFSA too.

  7. How do you determine the amount of dependents if older children have filed tax returns. We have 2 adult children, age 24, who will be 25 in January 2017. Are they considered dependents

    • No. Dependency on the FAFSA is different from IRS dependency guidelines. Are you financially supporting your two adult children? Here are the FAFSA guidelines about “household size” –

      Who is included in the parents’ household size?
      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, 2017 and June 30, 2018. 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, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

  8. What if your expected income is less this year than it was in 2015 – what do I do? Should I wait until I receive the new tax income from 2016 and file for fsafa in Jan or feb of 2017 ? Or fill it out now even though 2016 income will be a lot less?

    • Fill it out now. You are required to use 2015 tax information. You will not have the option to input 2016 financial info on the 2017-18 FAFSA. If there are financial or family circumstances that cannot be reflected on your FAFSA, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1. States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply!

  9. How do you report if parent or anyone in household receives ssi, Medicaid, food stamps?
    There is no box to check this anywhere on the fasfa. So for that parent I put income of $0 and will not file tax return, is this correct.

    • The medicaid question is at the beginning of the “Parent Financial Information” section. You can type in an income of $0 and “not going to file” 2015 taxes if that situation is applicable.

  10. I recently found out that the name on my birth certificate does not match the name on my social security. While I have two last names on my birth certificate, one of those names is used as my middle name on my social security. Before I knew this, I applied to ASU with the name on my birth certificate. However, I created my FAFSA account with the name on my social. Would it be possible for me to change the name on my FAFSA to match the one on my birth certificate or will I have to change my name on my college application?

    • The FAFSA uses information that matches with the Social Security Administration. Whatever it says on your Social Security card, that is what you use for the FAFSA. Contact your school’s financial aid office about this if you think it will cause discrepancies later on.

    • Lizbeth, we have a similar issue in our family. In our case the name on the Social Security card is not used for anything else. The advice we received was to make an appointment with the Social Security Administration and have the name changed on the Social Security card. We haven’t done that yet, though.

  11. my daughter is trying to file her fasfa and it keeps telling her her address is incorrect ! And it is exact same address as always. Same punctuation and all. What could be the problem. She is so frustrated. Why is it so complicated to file. Problems every year!

    • There are a couple places where we ask for your mailing address. Can you confirm where you’re seeing this error?
      1. FSA ID profile – http://fsaid.ed.gov
      2. FAFSA demographic page
      3. IRS Data Retrieval Tool page (within the FAFSA)

    • My daughter kept trying the Irs tool but it wouldn’t accept her address…..we went through it twice, getting locked out both times after three attempts each.We ended up finding a paper record of what we needed, thankfully. We even had an isaccident rep helping us

      • Make sure you’re typing in the correct information when trying to connect using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. For instance, if your tax return uses “Street” you have to type “Street,” not “ST.” The system will not make a proper match if there’s a minor typo. There are also scenarios where you could be ineligible to use the IRS DRT: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/irshlp13.htm

    • Kandi I had this problem one year with my daughter’s FASFA we found that her tax return had the an error with her street address # (typing error) when we used the transfer tool in FASFA for tax return it would not work because addresses did not match. Took us forever to realize simple error. Good luck.

  12. Its says I need to send my parents signature still and i already tried to with my parents fafsa id but everytime i put ” submit my fafsa now ” it always keeps saying an error is on the page and it could be due to ” maintence ” but i do not know it has said that for two weeks, should i just the signature page ?

    • First, try clearing your cache or another internet browser to see if you can submit. If you see an error about your FSA ID information not matching when you try to sign, that could be another issue entirely.

      If you see an error at the Signature page, it’s probably happening because there’s a super minor typo in your Demographic page. That’s the page with all your info, like your name, birth date, etc. What you typed in the FAFSA Demographic page has to match 100% with what you typed in your FSA ID profile page. Even if there’s an extra space by mistake, this could throw things off on the FAFSA side.

  13. The institution I am attending is stating they need a statement for financial aid on why I didn’t earn credits for a semester before they can receive my financial aid. Is this true?

    • It might be. Every school has a satisfactory academic progress policy for financial aid purposes. Basically, you need to get specific grades in order to continue receiving financial aid each year you’re in school. If you didn’t earn credits because of an incomplete class, dropping a class, or grades, your school will consider that. Those are all things your school will check before determining if you’re eligible to receive aid again. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/staying-eligible#satisfactory-academic-progress

  14. Hi, i was asked to verify my citizen status by giving a copy of my passport to the school financial aid office. But i ask my school that i am currently attending and they said they are not colllecting anything… what should i do then?

  15. I currently have one daughter in college and I have remarried (in 2014). My husband is retired and does not draw a wage. He does receive money from his retirement and investments. Do we need to include his financial information on the FAFSA or just my salary that is earned through wages?

  16. For the 2016-2017 academic year, our daughter was just awarded student and parent loans. She rejected both. Where it asks if received federal money such as grants, work study, loans, should she answer yes or no?

  17. What effects are there in parents not filing income tax? There are three options which consist of them being filed, they will be filed, and will not be filed, are there any negativ effects in not filing taxes?

    • The FAFSA asks for tax information in order to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is used to calculate your eligibility for aid. Your eligibility depends on your EFC, your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending. The financial aid office at your college will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. If there is no tax information provided for the EFC calculation, that just means your EFC will be different than someone who is able to provide tax info. It doesn’t mean you’ll receive more or less aid than someone who did file taxes because the EFC is just one factor out of many used to calculate your aid: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated#who-calculates

  18. My daughter is trying to set up a FSA ID and the system is not matching her birthdate with her name and ssn. Who should I contact?

    • You have to type in her name as it appears on her Social Security card. Check for any discrepancies first. FAQ answer below:

      What if my information does not match with the Social Security Administration?
      You will not be able to use your FSA ID on Federal Student Aid websites if our records show that the Social Security number, name, and date of birth you provided on your FSA ID application do not match the information on file with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
      Update your personal information under the Edit My FSA ID tab on FSA ID log-in page if you believe you entered incorrect information when you applied. Contact the SSA if you believe their information is incorrect. To find your local SSA office, call 1-800-772-1213 or go to the SSA website at http://www.ssa.gov/.

      If you have further questions, please refer to the contact support at 1-800-433-3243.

  19. My daughter’s income combined with mine is under 43,000 and she lives off campus I don’t understand why she is not getting financial aid. We are two households hundreds of miles apart.

    • Federal student loans are financial aid. Was she offered any of those? We understand that free money, like grants and scholarships, are the preferred type of financial aid because they don’t have to be paid back. Many of the grants we offer, including the Federal Pell Grant, are “need-based”, meaning you must have certain level of financial need to qualify. Her school uses her FAFSA information to determine whether she qualifies for these grants. If she still has a gap between what her school costs and the amount of grants, scholarships, and out-of-pocket funds she can afford to pay, federal student loans can be a good option. Federal student loans offer several advantages over private student loans and most people qualify. Just make sure to borrow only what you need! If you want more free money, make sure she applies for scholarships. There are tons out there!

  20. What if you have a current college student and one that will be an incoming freshman in Fall 2017 but as the parent, you use the same email address for both children. The system seems to have problems with that. Is there a phone number to call with questions??

    • So each student needs to file their own FAFSA, and each FAFSA has to be signed with an FSA ID. The FSA ID is unique to the individual and cannot be shared. That means your other child needs to create their own FSA ID, using their own email address, their own username, etc. The FSA ID is matched with your Social Security number so it cannot be shared. That’s how we verify your identity. However, as the parent, you can use the same FSA ID to sign both children’s FAFSAs. In total you will need 3 FSA IDs: one for each child, and one for yourself.

      • I have three children in college – two entering the same year. I’m unclear how my ID is linked to theirs. I tried using the info that I did for my older son but it’s not allowing it. Where is the ID matching/connecting to my social?

        • Each person needs their own FSA ID. Your FSA ID is not linked to anyone’s FSA ID. Each FSA ID is matched with a person’s Social Security number which is how we verify your identity. Your FSA ID (as the parent) is used to sign your child’s FAFSA. You can use the same FSA ID to sign each child’s FAFSA. You do not use your FSA ID to login, begin, or make corrections to a child’s FAFSA. Your FSA ID is matched with your SSN on the FSA ID page: http://fsaid.ed.gov which you can check by clicking “Edit my FSA ID.” You should not create an FSA ID for your child because that could cause delays in receiving financial aid. You should avoid mixing up your FSA ID with a child’s while you’re helping them complete the FAFSA.

          Total number of FSA IDs needed in your family:
          1. Child 1
          2. Child 2
          3. Child 3
          4. One Parent (you)

  21. After we filed our 2015 tax return, we had to file a 1040X amended tax return. How do we get the correct amount for the question 37.

    • You’ll have to enter your information manually since you’re not eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Do you have your transcript of the original tax return and the 1040X? Use the original return for reference, but correct the numbers on your FAFSA if there was a change.

  22. FAFSA is a joke! Filled out as instructed last years and never heard back from anyone. Its just the governments way of sucking your personal info.

    • You were supposed to get an award letter from the school(s) you got accepted to. They use your FAFSA info to calculate your eligibility. If you’re enrolled in a school and did not receive a letter, ask their financial aid office. Also make sure your contact information is up to date.

    • Homeless students are considered independent for FAFSA purposes and do not need to provide parent information. Here is the official guideline: At any time on or after July 1, 2016, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison, (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or (c) the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program?
      https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/dependency

  23. I have a student living with me who has left an abusive home. He is 18. He lived with his sister for 10 years. I don’t know if she claimed him. I don’t have access to her tax information. Technically he is homeless living with me until he can become independent. I don’t know what To do about the tax information.

    • It doesn’t matter who claims the student on taxes, that is not related to their FAFSA. We answered your question about the definition of homelessness below.

  24. So I entered all the 2015 tax info into last year’s FAFSA. Do I have to enter it all again? Can the FAFSA just self populate? There won’t be any changes since it’s the SAME tax information.

    • You still have to renew your FAFSA, you cannot duplicate your 2016-17 form. The only thing that will transfer (if you’re eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool) is the income and taxes from 2015. You still have to answer all of the other 2017-18 FAFSA questions applicable to the day you’re filling it out. For instance, a few things may have changed since the last time you completed your FAFSA such as your household size or marital status of you or your parent(s).

  25. My husband’s social security number has been stolen THROUGH the IRS and used by a scammer 2 years in a row. Due to that, my daughter’s financial aid package has not been finalized until mid July the past 2 years, literally a week before tuition was due! Is there anything we need to do up front before I start the FAFSA application to make this year’s application less of a night mare? I am hoping that since all of the information has now been verified and submitted for last year, this way of filing using last year’s returns will make this so much better for us!

    • Sorry to hear that, but unfortunately we cannot say if your chances of being selected for verification will decrease this year. Some people are selected at random; and some schools verify all students’ FAFSAs: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps#verification

      Try to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing the FAFSA, but if you’re unable to then you may have to enter tax information manually. Talking to the school is also recommended, especially if you’ve been selected for verification in the past and are a victim of identity theft.

  26. I live with my legal guardian, and my actual parent lives in another state. Will that affect my eligibility for anything?

    • Your legal guardian is not your parent unless they have legally adopted you. That means you’ll still have to report your parent’s information on your FAFSA, regardless if they live in another state. Living in a different state does not change how your aid is calculated. There are many factors that go into determining the types and amount of aid you get: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated. Your eligibility depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending. The financial aid office at your college will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.

  27. I am a single parent and did some estate planning that includes a revocable trust. I am beneficiary of the trust while I am alive. Do I need to include trust assets in application of my daughter? Thank you. Sue

  28. I thought I was on the FAFSA website and filled out all the information on the site you mention in #2. I thought it was odd I had to pay a fee. What do I do now? I want to file the info on the official site. What do you suggest we do?

    • fafsa.gov is a government website and there are no fees. If you were asked to submit any credit card info you were on a third-party website that is not affiliated with the government.

  29. This says not to include your parent in the number of college students. My daughter will be starting college next year and I will be working on my Master’s. Why wouldn’t she indicate that?

    • If you are the student completing the FAFSA, your parent is not included in your “household size.” The person going to college is you, the student, which is 1.

      FAFSA’s definition of “household” includes you, your spouse, your children, and anyone else that will receive more than half of their support from you during the academic year. As the student, if you aren’t married and don’t have children, the number of people going to college is just you. The FAFSA assumes students do not financially support their parents which is why their parent is not included in this number.

      https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1718/help/snumInHousehold.htm

    • Laura, my situation is the same. It doesn’t seem quite fair that the amount of money we will spend for our own college isn’t counted. They say it’s the student’s application in #8, but are quick to penalize on award amount/type of loan based on the parent’s income, and then not even consider the parent tuition for school in the equation. Typical government.

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask about your income and tax information from 2015, so even though you had a higher income in 2015 you still must report that. After filing, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. Explain your situation and provide any documentation you feel is necessary. The school is usually able to help if there are significant changes (like your job status in 2016) that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  30. We set up FSA IDs early, started the FAFSA as soon as it was available. We all got IRS validation emails back, but when I tried to use the Retrieval tool it said my username / password was wrong. I went and reset my password – same problem, so I manually entered everything. Then, when it came to my son’s info, it worked without a problem. Still has some kinks in it. Frustrated that there was no link to support.

    • Make sure you’re typing in the correct information when trying to connect using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. For instance, if your tax return uses “Street” you have to type “Street,” not “ST.” The system will not make a proper match if there’s a minor typo. There are also scenarios where you could be ineligible to use the IRS DRT: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/irshlp13.htm

  31. I have a question – I’m a divorced single mom. My 2015 taxes only had two of my children claimed as dependants (because I have to alternate it with my ex). This year I can claim all 3 children. I want that to show for financial aid this year. How do I do this? having 3 dependant children and 2 in college will help with financial aid amounts. Will simply filling out questions on the FAFSA take care of this?

    • So who you claim on taxes is not relevant on the FAFSA. Dependency is different on the FAFSA compared to the IRS. Having two children in college is factored in when your aid is calculated, as well as your household size. There will be a FAFSA question that asks “Who is included in the parents’ household size?” and that’s where you can include all 3 children: https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1718/help/fotw06e.htm

    • If there are financial or family circumstances that cannot be reflected on your FAFSA, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review.

  32. My 2016 income lower than 2015. Why can’t I use this years income? It will affect how much I am entitled to.

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask about your income and tax information from 2015, so even though you had a higher income in 2015 you still must report that. After filing, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. Explain your situation and provide any documentation you feel is necessary. The school is usually able to help if there are significant changes that cannot be reported on the FAFSA. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.

  33. When hitting the retrieve data tool button and it takes me to IRS.gov, I have filled out form and press submit, it says ” the info I entered does not match the IRS records..” , and I have tried and double checked numerous times. How can I fix this? It’s so confusing looking on my tax return for the correct answers!

    • Make sure you’re typing in the correct information when trying to connect using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. For instance, if your tax return uses “Street” you have to type “Street,” not “ST.” The system will not make a proper match if there’s a minor typo. Also, there are some scenarios where you’re ineligible to use it. Check the list here: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/irshlp13.htm

  34. We cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to input our tax information due to the Target data breach. I just wanted to warn anyone that was affected by that. We have to take a tax transcript to the college and they will enter the information.

  35. We filed for fasfa in April 2016 and just started 1st yr of college have not even finished first semester yet do we need to file for fasfa now or wait till April?

    • The FAFSA is an annual application, so if you’ll be enrolled during the 2017-18 school year you should renew your FAFSA if you want to continue receiving financial aid. If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1. States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! https://blog.ed.gov/2016/09/3-types-fafsa-deadlines/

  36. The college gave my daughter a Pell Grant and then took it away. I didn’t know that I would inherit rental property and that she would be penalized for it.

    • Sorry to hear that. Can you contact the school’s financial aid office about more details why your aid was adjusted? Also, has your daughter applied for any scholarships?

  37. If the student will be grafuating undergrad in May 2017 and will attending graduate school in the summer of 2017…..Do you list the schools they wish to attend and do we still complete the FAFSA?

    • Confirm with the graduate school about summer, it’s possible you’ll have to include the grad school on your 2016-17 FAFSA: https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1718/help/statGrad.htm

      Regardless, you will have to complete a 2017-18 FAFSA if you wish to receive financial aid during the 2017-18 academic year. Here are the types of financial aid we offer to grad students: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/graduate-professional-funding-info.pdf. You 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.)

  38. Should I wait for my SAT results before I file FAFSA? I should have my results by the end of October.

  39. What if you made less money this year 2016 than last year 2015? Since they want you to use your 2015 taxes, and you can’t go back and amend FSFA when you finally get your W2 form in January, aren’t we at risk of getting less money than we could have?

    • Your FAFSA is based in 2015 taxes, not on your income in 2016. The FAFSA you are filling out now is the taxes you filed in April 2016. You will not file your 2016 income until after Jan 1 2017.
      You can amend the FAFSA but appears you are forgetting we file taxes for the PREVIOUS year, not the current year.

    • No you can’t go back to amend the form with 2016 information; it must be 2015 information. But what you should do is contact the college(s) that your student is admitted to prior to getting their financial aid package and ask them the procedure for providing them the information that shows your income is lower.

    • We are in the same boat. My husband and I made considerably less this year than last year. Should we wait until January to file with the correct financials? Will it hurt the amount our son could possibly get?

      • Waiting until January will not benefit you. If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1. States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! After filing, if you (or your child) want to add another school to receive your information, you can submit a correction.

        The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask about your income and tax information from 2015, so even though you had a higher income in 2015 you still must report that. After filing, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. Explain your situation and provide any documentation you feel is necessary. The school is usually able to help if there are significant changes (like your job status in 2016) that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

    • I have the same issue. We made considerable less money this year, and they are essentially double counting 2015.

      • This is the only year we’ll be “double counting” 2015 tax info. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info. If there are financial or family circumstances that cannot be reflected on your FAFSA, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review.

    • We were told at a financial aid seminar at our child’s high school that if you have a financial change that you should contact the financial aid department at the school the student will be attending. They will then ask you for an update and they will review it and you could be eligible for more aid.

    • Hi Laura I called Fafsa the other day and asked the same question. My income will be going down this year. I was told to call financial aid at my daughters school. So I did . they told me to fill it using my 2015 return and then in march or april call them back to let them know my financial status. They May? Be able to change it. This so messed up. Fafsa told me that the percentage of people who income changes a whole lot in one year is low. Ya if you work for the federal Gov.Lol. I have a feeling this us going to be a problem.

      • Sorry, using older tax info is a new process for us moving forward. If you’re wondering why we made this change, here’s one reason:

        In the past, many people assumed that you should wait until you file taxes in the spring before completing your FAFSA. This resulted in many people missing out on possible aid they could’ve been eligible for if they did not miss a priority deadline. For instance, some state and college aid have a limited pool of funds which is distributed on a first come, first served basis. Those that filed as soon as possible after January 1 (this year, it was October 1) had the best chance of getting this aid. Those who waited until they filed taxes might’ve missed out. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information and you will NOT have to use estimates or log back in to make updates after filing taxes. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info. Hope that clears things up!

    • I’m in the same boat. All you need to do is complete the FAFSA and whenever your school processes the FAFSA, probably after March deadline, you speak to Financial Aid about your situation and they well help you accordingly.

    • You need to contact each school’s financial aid office directly to ask them for a special circumstances form to fill out and ask them to recalculate.

    • Get in contact with your school’s Financial Aid office, and ask for the Expected Family Contribution representative. Explain the situation to him or her and ask for an appeal on your EFC if you are deemed to have made less on your 2016 taxes. Hope this helps.

    • Waiting for 2016 tax info will not benefit you. The FAFSA will ask for 2015 tax info and 2015 info only. You won’t have the option to go back and update it like you did in the past. After filing, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. Explain your situation and provide any documentation you feel is necessary. The school is usually able to help if there are significant changes that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

    • Tou can file an addendum with the school later on the process to explain drastically financial shift.

    • We were told at a financial aid seminar at our child’s high school that if you have a financial change that you should contact the financial aid department at the school the student will be attending. They will then ask you for an update and they will review it and you could be eligible for more aid.

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask about your income and tax information from 2015, so even though you had a higher income in 2015 you still must report that. After filing, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. Explain your situation and provide any documentation you feel is necessary. The school is usually able to help if there are significant changes (like your job status in 2016) that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  40. Good information and since access to state processing is provided in the FAFSA it is very important to emphasize completion of any state processing.

    Far too many students complete their FAFSA and do not access the state processing and for New Jersey thats TAG and EOF at max at the county college equivalent to a loss of about $4000 in funding .

    This is a problem that cuts across not only new to college students but even returning students.

  41. My family income dropped from 70,000. in 2015 .Now I applied for disablity ssi did not here anything in 1 year on my ssd appeal yet .So when my daughter applies for med school to attend for next year 2017 the 2015 family income will be hurting her 70,000] When in 2016 the family income is 30,000. at most .What should we do for help? Thank You…

    • From personal experience. Contact your individual college. Ours calls it a professional judgment they are done at school level and each has there own policy. Resulted in major difference when ours was processed. Simply contact financial aid department. Hope this helps

    • Same question…from 60k as a family of 4 to 30k in 2016…the new system is hurtful to educated working people who lost jobs to no fault of their own and certainly not the student’s! The only advice i hear is to work with the financial aid office of the school of acceptance and choice later…which means most grants are already tagged and distributed. Any other advice? Does the new system at least help us if next year we report our very low incomes for 2016?!

      • Sorry, that advice is correct. We understand that some families’ income may have changed significantly since the 2015 tax year. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain and document the change in income. The school has the ability to assess your situation and update your FAFSA accordingly.

    • Call the school’s financial aid office to get a special circumstances form to fill out and ask them to recalculate.

    • Go to the finance office of the school she will be attending and ask them what the steps are for this situation. They have forms to fill out to get your application reconsidered due to your lower income.

    • Your daughter will not need to report your information if she’s going to graduate school.

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