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.
Financial aid eligibility can vary depending on whether you’re considered a dependent or independent student. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires dependent students to show their parent’s information on the form. Independent students are not required to include it. What if your parents are divorced or separated? What if you live with your grandmother? Whose information should be included?
The Department of Education provides these guidelines to explain who should be counted as a parent. Unless otherwise noted, “parent” means the legal (biological and/or adoptive) parent or stepparent. The rules below apply to legal parents regardless of gender.
- If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
- If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent.
- If your parents are divorced but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Unmarried and both parents living together,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parents are separated but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Married or remarried,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
- If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.
- The following people are not your parents unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.
If you’re still unsure, contact the Federal Student Aid Center at 1.800.4.FED.AID, 1.800-433-3243.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents continue to make.
Each year, many families don’t complete the FAFSA because they think they make too much money to qualify for aid. Counting yourself out before even starting is a huge mistake! Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid, you should still submit the FAFSA.
- You could be missing out. Billions of financial aid dollars are offered every year. Those funds will be awarded to someone… and that “someone” could be you. But you’ll never know if you don’t apply!
- There’s no obligation. You’re not required to accept the aid offered to you. You’ll have the option to decline any aid offered, or you may choose to limit how much you borrow.
- Your school might use the data. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, beyond federal funding, you could take yourself out of the running for school aid by choosing not to submit the FAFSA.
- Federal student loans offer options. Even if you know you’ll only qualify for student loans and you’re unsure about borrowing money for school, federal loans could be your best option. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private or alternative loans, and they offer flexible repayment plans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.
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.
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.
If your student needs your information for the FAFSA, you’ll need to create an FSA ID separate from your student’s FSA ID. You can create an FSA ID, consisting of a username and password, at FSAID.ed.gov. As a parent, your FSA ID will allow you to electronically retrieve your tax information and sign your student’s FAFSA. If you have more than one child completing the application, you can use the same FSA ID for all applications.
After you’ve created an FSA ID, you can update your information on your student’s FAFSA by choosing the option to “Enter the student’s information” from the FAFSA login page. We recommend you create an FSA ID before accessing your student’s FAFSA to help avoid additional steps in the login process.
To learn more about the FSA ID process visit studentaid.gov/fsaid.
After you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should expect to receive correspondence from the school you plan to attend. You may receive an award letter listing all of the financial assistance your school can offer you, or you may be asked to provide additional information or documentation before your financial aid can be determined. You may even be selected for a process called verification.
Verification is the method your school uses to confirm the data provided on your FAFSA is accurate. The federal government requires colleges and universities to verify or confirm the information reported by some students and their parent(s) on this form. There are many reasons why a student is chosen for this process. You may be selected at random, your FAFSA application may be incomplete or your FAFSA may contain contradicting information.
If you’re chosen for verification, don’t fret. This is a common procedure, so be sure to address your school’s requests as soon as possible and update and/or correct your FAFSA as needed. Once the process is complete, your financial aid award should be finalized. If you have questions, contact your school’s financial aid office.
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.
Because a few types of financial aid are available year-round, there is not a specific deadline to submit the FAFSA. However, many scholarships and grants require information from your submitted FAFSA and have deadlines early in the year.
If you plan to apply for grants and scholarships that require information from your FAFSA, find out which grant or scholarship has the earliest deadline and aim to submit your FAFSA before then. Allow yourself enough time to get organized, gather materials, file your taxes, if possible, and complete the application.
Check out our previous post for more information about the benefits of applying early!
If you’re concerned about the security of your information online, you’re not alone! Identity theft is a major problem. Fortunately, when it comes to submitting your information through FAFSA.gov, your personal data is as secure as possible.
FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to protect your information from hackers. Learn more about these security measures and how FAFSA.gov uses your information.
Here are a few steps you should take to help further protect your information:
- Make sure you’re using the domestic version of your web browser. The international versions often have weaker encryption levels.
- Once you’re ready to end your session at FAFSA.gov, clear your browser’s temporary internet files.
- Close your browser entirely when you leave the computer. This eliminates the possibility that someone could take advantage of the computer memory still being used by the browser to try and access your application.
- As with any online account, safeguard your login information. Use a strong password that you are sure to remember and don’t leave passwords written or exposed where someone might be able to find them.
Remember, if you’re safe with your own information, your information is safe with FAFSA.gov!