Category Archives: FAFSA Errors

How to Finish the FAFSA, Final Step: Follow-up

FAFSA Step 5So you’ve completed, signed and submitted the FAFSA, now what? It’s time to follow up!

Keep an eye on your email for something called a Student Aid Report (SAR) as well as information from the schools to which you chose to send your FAFSA results.

Your SAR will provide you with some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid. When you receive your SAR carefully review it and make sure your information is listed correctly. If you find a mistake, you will need to correct and resubmit your FAFSA.

Some schools may ask for more information, so be sure to provide any additional documentation they may require. Follow up with the school’s financial aid office if you have questions.

Common FAFSA Corrections and Modifications

Perhaps you’ve had a change in circumstances since you submitted the FAFSA, or you’ve discovered that even with the help of FAFSA.gov’s built-in fact checker your FAFSA contains an error. Here are some of the most common pieces of information to be updated or corrected:

  • Your marital status
  • Your parents’ marital status
  • The death of a parent or sibling
  • Employment status
  • Major medical expenses
  • Social Security numbers
  • Parents’/stepparents’ income
  • Untaxed income
  • Income taxes paid
  • Household size
  • Number of household members in college
  • Real estate and investment net worth

So, what happens if you’ve made a mistake? If necessary, corrections to FAFSA data may be made by:

  • Visiting FAFSA.gov and accessing your data with your FSA ID.
  • Requesting changes through the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend. (you’ll need your Data Release Number, or DRN.)
  • Submitting documentation to the college’s financial aid office.

If you used last year’s tax information as an estimate when filing the FAFSA, it is also required that you make the correction once you’ve filed 2015 taxes.

What’s a SAR and When Will I Get One?

The Student Aid Report (SAR) is a paper or electronic document that gives you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid and lists your answers to the questions on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

After you complete your FAFSA, you should receive your SAR from Federal Student Aid. This document will be sent to the email address you supplied on your FAFSA, usually within a few days after you submit the FAFSA. If you haven’t seen it in your inbox by then, be sure to check your spam or junk mail folders. The schools you list on your FAFSA will receive your SAR data electronically and begin the process of outlining your award package, which will include the types and amounts of financial aid you’re eligible to receive.

The SAR contains all data reported on your FAFSA. Read your SAR carefully to make sure all of your information is correct. Most errors can be fixed through your FAFSA online at FAFSA.gov. If there is an error in a field you can’t access, call the Federal Student Aid hotline at 1.800.4 FED AID (1.800.433.3243), or send your question to FederalStudentAidCustomerService@ed.gov.

Your SAR will also tell you if your FAFSA has been selected for verification. If it has, you’ll be given instructions about what to do next. Supplying the information required for verification is mandatory. You can’t receive federal financial aid until the verification process is complete.

Reading your SAR lets you know what’s going on with your financial aid application before you visit a financial aid office. It can help you prepare for your visit by having any necessary documents with you when you arrive. This will save time and reduce the number of visits you’ll have to make to the financial aid office. That’s a win-win situation for everyone!

What’s New With You?

As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to start thinking about status changes that could affect your eligibility for financial aid when you renew your FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year.

  • How old are you? If you were a dependent student this year but you were born before January 1, 1993, you’ll be considered an independent student on your next FAFSA. That means you’ll only need to include your own income (and your spouse’s, if you’re married) on the application. You’ll no longer have to report your parents’ income.
  • Has your marital status changed?  If you married or divorced this year, your financial aid eligibility could be affected next year. Dependent students may also be affected if their parents’ marital status changed in 2015. Be sure to discuss this with a financial aid officer at your college.
  • Do you have a dependent child on the way? If so, you may be able to include your future “mini-me” in your household size, which might increase the amount of Pell grant and other need-based aid you’re eligible to receive. In order to include a new dependent on your FAFSA next year, he or she must live with you and receive more than half of his or her support from you through June 30, 2017.

There are many factors that can change your eligibility for federal and state financial aid from year to year. For more details, talk to someone in your financial aid office, or visit studentaid.ed.gov.

My Family Situation Has Changed – Do I Need to Update My FAFSA?

The FAFSA asks you to provide information about your family and their income. What if something has happened that now makes the data you submitted incorrect? You may need to update your FAFSA if any of the following have changed:

  • You got married
  • Your parents got divorced
  • Your parent or sibling died
  • You or your parent lost a job
  • Your family incurred major medical expenses

Other changes, such as sending your FAFSA results to a different college or making revisions to your income tax paid, can be easily corrected online at FAFSA.gov. The items mentioned above, however, should be discussed with your financial aid administrator. Additional documentation may be required before certain questions on your FAFSA can be changed.

If you have questions, talk to your school’s financial aid office. They’re your best resource throughout the entire financial aid process.

FAFSA Errors and Corrections

If you complete and submit your FAFSA online each year, the system will double check your entries against your information from previous years and it will offer you helpful information along the way. However, even with the advantages of online completion, you may find that your FAFSA contains an error, or you may need to update your tax information.

To correct an error or update your FAFSA online, visit FAFSA.gov and enter your login information. Then, on the My FAFSA page, click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” After you’ve finished your corrections, don’t forget to click submit.

Once you resubmit your application and receive a confirmation number, the correction will be processed in 3-5 days. You cannot submit a second correction until the first one is processed and a Student Aid Report (SAR) is generated, so try to make all of your corrections at once to avoid a processing delay.

I Submitted the FAFSA, Now What?

You can expect several things after you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

  1. iStock_000008618700SmallIf your application is error-free, you’ll be directed to a confirmation page with a confirmation number. This page will be emailed to you, but it’s also a good idea to save or print it for your records.
  2. Your information will be made available to the schools you included on your FAFSA application. They will have access to your information about a day after your application is processed. However, it may take them longer to retrieve your information, depending on their system. Want to add more schools? See our previous post for more information.
  3. About 3-5 days after you submit the FAFSA, you’ll receive an email containing instructions for accessing your Student Aid Report (SAR). If the email address you provided is not valid, your SAR will be mailed to you within 7-10 days.
  4. Be sure to check your SAR for accuracy. It contains important information including your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which schools use to determine how much federal financial aid you qualify for, including grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans.
  5. Once the colleges you listed on your application process your information, they’ll send you a financial aid award letter detailing the aid you’re eligible to receive. The schools may request additional information and if they do, be sure to send it in promptly.

I already submitted my FAFSA. Can I add another college code?

When you add a college code to your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), that school receives important information from your FAFSA. You should add the codes for colleges you’re seriously considering attending. If you’ve already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (F AFSA) and have since discovered another college you may like to attend, it’s not too late to add the new school code to your online FAFSA application. In fact, it’s never too late to include additional schools. To add schools to your FAFSA, simply:

  1. Go to FAFSA.gov.
  2. Enter your Login information.
  3. Select the option to “Make FAFSA Corrections”.
  4. Go to the section where you’ve listed colleges and add the new school code(s). If you’ve already listed ten schools on your FAFSA, you’ll need to delete some to make room for any new school codes.
  5. Hit Submit.
  6. Follow up! Check your email and/or home mailbox to respond to any requests for materials from these additional schools.

Most Common FAFSA Errors

We all know how easily mistakes are made—and that it’s best to avoid them whenever possible. When filling out a complex form like the FAFSA, mistakes are common. To help you avoid a delay in application processing, watch out for the following frequent FAFSA errors.

  • Listing an incorrect Social Security Number (SSN) or driver’s license number
  • Failing to use your legal name
    • Your name must be shown on your FAFSA just as it appears on your Social Security card. Don’t enter nicknames or other variations.
  • Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields
    • Always round to the nearest dollar.
  • Failing to register with Selective Service
    • If you’re a male age 18 to 26, you must register with Selective Service in order to receive federal financial aid. If you’re 17, you may check ‘Register Me’ and you’ll be registered on your 18th birthday.
  • Forgetting to list at least one college
    • You may send your FAFSA results to 10 different schools. Enter each school name or school code on your form before submission.
  • Leaving blank fields
    • Too many blank fields may cause miscalculations and a possible application rejection. Enter ‘0’ or ‘not applicable’ instead of leaving a blank.
  • Entering the wrong ‘federal income tax paid’ amount
    • This amount is on your income tax return forms, not your W-2.
  • Listing Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) as equal to total income from work
    • AGI and total income from work are not necessarily the same. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income from working.
  • Incorrectly filing income taxes as head of household
    • If there is an error in the head of household filing status, the school will need an amended tax return to be filed with the Internal Revenue Service before releasing aid awards.
  • Listing marital status incorrectly
    • The Department of Education wants to know your marital status on the day you sign your FAFSA. If you are in a legally-recognized same-sex marriage, you will need to provide your spouse’s information, as well.
  • Listing parent marital status incorrectly
    • If your custodial parent has remarried, you’ll need to include the stepparent’s information on the FAFSA. If you have two parents in a legally-recognized same-sex marriage, you’ll need to list both parents, one as Parent 1 and one as Parent 2. .
  • Failure to list both parents if they live together
    • If your legal parents (defined as biological or adoptive) live in the same household, you are required to list both parents on the FAFSA even if they aren’t married.

Important: As you complete the FAFSA, remember to read the information shown in the ‘Help and Hints’ boxes on the right side of each page at FAFSA.gov. These boxes provide an explanation of each question to help you enter an accurate response. For further assistance, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). You may also contact any college financial aid office in your area with questions about the FAFSA process.