Top 7 FAFSA Tips

  1. Fill out the FAFSA! – Regardless of parental income, every single college student should fill out a FAFSA. You need to fill out a FAFSA in order to be eligible to take out federal student loans. In addition, the FAFSA is used to determine how much "free money" like grants and scholarships you qualify for from the government as well as the colleges of your choice. . Schools use FAFSA information to award federal work study as well as institutional aid and scholarships.

  2. Check (and double check) your Social Security Number – Believe it or not, entering the wrong social security number is one of the most common mistakes people make on the FAFSA. If you enter the wrong social security number, you will end up having to redo the entire FAFSA. So it makes sense to spend some time up front double-checking that you’ve entered the right SSN’s – otherwise you will lose time because the  Social Security Administration will run the SSN you entered, reject the number, alert your school, and then finally alert you. If you find yourself guessing and hoping that those numbers are right, take the time to find your social security card - it'll be less time than resubmitting an entire FAFSA.

  3. Read the directions  – The FAFSA can seem like an overwhelming task, but there are some great tools and written directions to answer questions that come up as you go. Read the small print if you don't understand what it's asking, use this Financial Aid Resource if you have a specific question, and don't leave fields blank! If the online application is asking you for a number and it is zero or doesn't apply to you, enter 0.

  4. Fill out the FAFSA online – Fill out he FAFSA onlineDifferent schools package and award aid in different ways. If your school is first-come first-served with their aid, don't submit a paper FAFSA unless you absolutely need to. A paper FAFSA can take weeks to process, and being among the first to submit a FAFSA could potentially earn you more aid. If you can submit electronically, do!

  5. Know if your family qualified for a 1040A or 1040EZe – When you get to the question about which tax form your family filed this year, be sure to read closely. If you submitted the 1040 because you were required to, mark no and move on. But, if you submitted the 1040 but could have submitted a 1040A or 1040EZ, make sure you mark "yes." Some families who qualify for those tax forms also qualify for a Zero EFC (Expected Family Contribution) or a Simplified Version (that would not include parental assets). If you don't know if you qualified for those, ask!

  6. Make corrections ASAP (if needed)​​​​​​​ – Both the paper and online FAFSA allow you to make corrections. If you realize that you've submitted incorrect information or your information changes (e.g., dependency status), log back in and change your information.

  7. Mark the Correct Dependency Status​​​​​​​ – Unless you qualify as an independent student, you need to fill out both the parent and student section of the FAFSA. You are only considered Independent if you say "yes" to any of these requirements:

  • I was born before January 1, 1994;
  • I am married;
  • I will be working on a master's or doctorate program;
  • I am serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • I am a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • I have children and I provide more than half of their support;
  • Since I turned age 13, both of my parents were deceased;
  • I was in foster care since turning age 13;
  • I have dependents (other than children or my spouse) who live with me and I provide more than half of their support;
  • I was a dependent or ward of the court since turning age 13;
  • I am currently or I was an emancipated minor;
  • I am currently or I was in legal guardianship; or
  • I am homeless or I am at risk of being homeless..

We know that filling out the FAFSA can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. As you and your family learn more about the process and which mistakes to avoid, filling out the FAFSA can start to seem like a minor event. We're glad you are now aware of the top 7 FAFSA tips - and you will use them as your family fills out the FAFSA. If you're looking for a guide on how to complete the FAFSA, check out this article. Happy FAFSA filing!

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