Avoid these five common FAFSA mistakes


FAFSA season is in full swing – and financial aid offices across Virginia are ramping up as their priority deadlines quickly approach .

While it’s been simplified in recent years, the FAFSA is still a complex document that requires a variety of information. In short: it’s easy to see why people make these common mistakes while filing.

Here are 5 common FAFSA mistakes to avoid:

  1. Don’t leave questions blank. If your intended answer is zero, enter “0”. Leaving blanks when an answer is required is a common FAFSA mistake that can cause your aid to be miscalculated and your application could be rejected.
  2. Don’t enter the wrong income tax figure. Make sure that you provide the federal income tax you paid or will pay based on your 2014 federal tax return — not the tax withholdings on your W-2 form.
  3. Don’t list your previous marital status. The form is asking you what your marital status is on the day you sign the FAFSA, whether you are married, separated or divorced.
  4. Don’t forget to list your colleges. Federal Student Aid processors will send your FAFSA information to up to 10 colleges on your behalf. On the FAFSA form, you can list up to 10 colleges along with each college’s Federal School Code.
  5. Don’t enter an incorrect number. Sounds easy – but it’s easy for a typo to slip by on such a complex application. When entering your Social Security or driver’s license number, make sure you double and triple check that they are correct before submitting your application.

Looking for help with your financial aid paperwork? Watch some quick financial aid tutorials – or find a list of financial aid FAQs – online at Tidewater Community College’s financial aid tv.

Jennifer Harpham has worked in financial aid administration since 1991 and has served as the director of central financial aid for Tidewater Community College since 2005. Harpham holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and a master’s degree in business administration from The University of Findlay. She is a member of both the National and Virginia Associations of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

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One Comment

  1. Marian Anderfuren
    March 30, 2015 at 6:01 pm Reply

    The Dept. of Education faces an interesting problem: They could make the FAFSA easier by asking for prior-prior year income (i.e. 2013 for this year’s FAFSA instead of 2014), but it would create more need AND more applicants. Interesting two-part post on NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/03/04/389518500/the-magic-trick-that-could-shorten-the-fafsa

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