As the parent of a high school senior, you know your child will soon learn what it means to lead an independent life. However, when it comes to completing the FAFSA, unless they answer “yes” to any of the questions regarding student dependency, they’re probably considered “dependent” on your finances (though special circumstances may apply).
We understand the reservations you may have about providing sensitive information on the FAFSA; especially when submitting it electronically. However, refusing to complete your part of the FAFSA for your dependent student could prevent your senior from getting financial aid to help pay for college.
Keep in mind that electronic completion of the FAFSA can save you time and help prevent errors. And, FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to secure your information. But, if you are uncomfortable with submitting your personal information online, you do have the option to mail a paper copy of the form. However you choose to submit the FAFSA, be sure to do so as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to help maximize your child’s potential sources of financial aid.
We get it. You may not think of fun when you think about the FAFSA. Few folks enjoy paperwork, and the FAFSA requires time, personal information and answers to tricky questions. But, like so many other aspects of adult life, there’s no reward without effort. If you need money to help pay for college, the FAFSA is the place to start. You must complete the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for federal (and some state) financial aid.
If you don’t complete the FAFSA, here’s what you could miss out on:
Low-interest student loans
If you’re planning to go to college this fall, submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to help maximize your financial aid offers. Save yourself some time by completing the form online at FAFSA.gov.
True or False? Nearly everyone who submits a FAFSA qualifies for some type of financial aid. (Answer: True!)
True or False? When it comes to financial aid, it’s best to keep all savings accounts under the student’s name. (Answer: False. The FAFSA uses a larger percentage of student income and assets when determining Expected Family Contribution (EFC), so it’s best to keep all savings accounts in your parents’ names, if possible.)
True or False? Males age 18-25 must be registered with Selective Service to receive federal financial aid. (Answer: True. Registration is available on the FAFSA.)
These and many other key facts about the FAFSA are listed on our FAFSA Facts flyer. Visit the resources section to find this flyer and other helpful resources.
How many people live in your house? The question seems easy enough at first, but when you’re completing the FAFSA, the answer may not be that simple. First you’ll need to know if you’re a dependent or independent student. Check out our Dependency Questionnaire for help with this.
If you’re a dependent student, a parent will determine the household size, which can include:
You, even if you don’t live with your parent(s)
Other dependent children
Other people who are now living with your parents and rely on them for more than half of their support
If you’re an independent student, you can include:
Your spouse (if applicable)
Your children, if you will be providing more than half of their support
Other people who are now living with you and rely on you for more than half of their support
Remember, the online version of the FAFSA has ‘Helpful Hint’ boxes attached to every question. Be sure to refer to the box attached to the Household Size question if you need any clarification. You can also find more detailed directions about determining your household size at FinAid.org.
Planning for college can sometimes feel overwhelming. With so much to do and prepare, you may find that breaking the process into steps can make it much more manageable. With that approach in mind, we’re pleased to introduce you toFinish the FAFSA in Five Steps. Download this helpful brochure for a list of materials you’ll need to gather to complete the FAFSA, to learn what you can expect from the FAFSA process, and to find additional tools and resources along the way.
We also offer video tutorials in English and Spanish that show students and their parents how to finish the FAFSA in five steps. Remember, in most cases the FAFSA is required to receive financial aid for college, so the sooner you get started, the better. Good luck!
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
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.
What you need to know about submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid