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Most Common and Easily Avoidable FAFSA Mistakes

The most common FAFSA mistake

Every year, the United States Department of Education awards students $150.000,000.00 (That’s  150 BILLION dollars!) for student aid—and the only way to get access to it is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (also known as the FAFSA). This total includes awards in grants, work study programs, and low-interest loans.

Although scholarships are the best way to pay for college, many grants (which are also FREE money—which means they don’t need to be paid back) are only available to students who complete the FAFSA.

Work-study programs make it easier to get a part-time job near campus. The work-study program may also make it easier to find a job that will give you experience that relates to your chosen major.

Filling out the FAFSA is the only way to access low-interest loans that have rates far lower than you can usually secure at a bank. More flexible repayment options are available and the loans don’t require collateral. For  more on the differences between low-interest federal loans and private loans, click this link.

Yet many students and parents don’t realize what they’re giving up by deciding not to complete the FAFSA. There’s virtually nothing to lose (OK maybe 15 minutes of easy data-entry), and so much to gain. That’s why NOT completing the FAFSA is the biggest mistake students and parents make regarding the FAFSA. Instead of wondering WHY you should complete the FAFSA, you should be thinking “WHY NOT?!?!”

First come, first serve…

Just like “The early bird gets the worm”, the early applicant gets the best chance of getting the highest award amount. The amount of money available for aid is set on a yearly basis. You can complete the FAFSA starting January 1st each year you plan to attend college. (For High School Seniors, that means the FAFSA should be completed January 1st in your Senior year—before you graduate from High School). Once that money has been set aside for other students who completed their applications on-time, it won’t be available for you.

Think of the FAFSA as a key

Imagine your piece of the $150.000,000.00 in free and low cost options is waiting for you behind a locked door. Your key is completing an application that most people can easily complete in less than 15 minutes. Why would you NOT want to complete the application—on-time?!?!

The EASIEST way to complete the FAFSA

Knowing what information will be required ahead of time makes completing the FAFSA quick and easy. When you have all the information and documents ready, it makes completing the FAFSA a matter of simple data entry. Instead of frequently stopping while you go scrambling for more paperwork, you’ll be done before you can even think about being frustrated by the process. It’s not uncommon for student and parents to start the process, realize they’re not prepared, get frustrated, and give up. They delay their completion of the FAFSA—which means their possible award will be lower than it could be, had they completed the application on-time.

If you’re not already in the habit of keeping important information such as identification, income and tax information in a secure place, now is the time to start!

Click this link for a list of documents and information to have ready to complete the FAFSA online.

TAKE YOUR TIME!!! Even if you think you know your Social Security Number (SSN), use your Social Security Card to check your number before you submit. Most errors can be resolved after submitting your information, but an incorrect Social Security Number can affect your funding since resolving the error takes time. This means less funding will be available by the time your error is resolved.

Although the Federal Student Aid PIN is listed last on the list, I recommend going to the Department of Educations’ PIN site first in order to set up a PIN.

The rest of the Department of Education’s list 7 Common FAFSA Mistakes is available by clicking this link.