Avoiding FAFSA Errors

The FAFSA isn't always intuitive and certain errors can really slow down the process. Please review some of the most common errors and contact our office if you have additional questions about your application.

Remember, the FAFSA is the student’s application for aid. When the FAFSA mentions “you”, it is referring to the student. Well-meaning parents or spouses answering questions intended for the student can lead to processing issues which will delay the application.

Schools should receive your FAFSA data within two business days if you sign the FAFSA electronically using your FSA ID. It will take at least three weeks for your FAFSA to be processed if you print and sign a signature page or submit a paper FAFSA.

All students must have an FSA ID to sign the FAFSA. If the student is considered dependent by the FAFSA, one parent will need an FSA ID to sign the FAFSA as well before it can be processed. You can set up your FSA ID before you file or as part of the online application.

Please note: You cannot use a single email address to set up more than one FSA ID. Your email may be used to send you a secure code to verify your identity, so make sure that you provide an email that you have access to.

When reporting investment net worth on the FAFSA, do not include the value of your primary residence (your home) or the value of any protected retirement accounts (i.e. IRA, 401k, 403b, etc.). However, pre-tax contributions to such plans should be listed as untaxed income.

Parents and students must report assets on the FAFSA as of the date the application is filed. These figures should never be updated as they are intended to provide a snapshot of the household assets. Updating assets unnecessarily will lead to the application being selected for verification.

Updating assets is permitted, but updates should only be made if an error was made at time the FAFSA was initially filed.

If a student or parent uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool embedded in the FAFSA, tax data will be auto-filled in the application. However, this feature only auto-fills parent or student wages if the tax filer status is “single”. Failing to self-report student or parent wages (if necessary) will inflate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and negatively affect financial aid eligibility.

Students and parents must list their name on the FAFSA exactly as it appears on their Social Security card. Failing to do so will prevent the student and/or parent from passing the required data matches with the Social Security Administration.

The FAFSA uses tax data filed nearly two years prior to the dates of attendance during which the financial aid will be applied. There are often several changes to a family’s financial situation that occur between the tax year used to file the FAFSA and the first day of classes. If these changes are significant and affect your ability to pay educational expenses, please report your special circumstance to the Financial Aid Office.

Applying for financial aid is not easy, but it is certainly worth it. Every student who files a FAFSA will gain access to federal student loans and there is the possibility for so much more. Every year, millions of students nationwide who would otherwise qualify for federal and state grants fail to file this important application making it impossible for the Financial Aid Office at their school to assist them.