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Common FAFSA Errors

Errors in filling out the FAFSA form can result in processing delays, an inaccurate EFC or even an erroneous denial of aid, so double-check the information you submit, and avoid these eleven common errors:

  • LEAVING A FIELD BLANK: The number one mistake students make is leaving a field blank. All questions must be completed. If the answer is zero or the question does not apply to you, write in a 0.  Click on each question and read the instructions given.
  • NAME/SOCIAL# MISMATCH: Use your legal name as it appears on your Social Security card. Be careful to write your Social Security number (SSN) and date of birth accurately and clearly.
  • READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY: The words “you” and “your” on the FAFSA always refer to the student, not the parents.
  • QUESTIONS RELATED TO DRUG CONVICTIONS:  Be sure to not skip this question.
  • EDUCATION LEVEL YOUR PARENTS COMPLETED: Do not skip the questions about the educational attainment of your parents. The purpose of these questions is to qualify you for state scholarships for first-generation college students.
  • INTERESTS IN OTHER AID: In the question that asks about your interest in different types of aid (e.g., work-study and student loans), if you are interested in any of the aid listed, click on that aid or choose “yes”. Note that answering “yes” does not obligate you to accept any of the aid if it is offered or approved. Answering “no” will not get you more grant aid.

Errors involving Marital Status

  • For question "As of today, are you married?", enter the correct marital status as of the day you are filing the application. Likewise for the parents.
  • Use the most recent calendar year for determining when and which parent’s information should be on the application. If the parent you enter on the FAFSA has remarried, your step-parent must report his or her income and assets on the FAFSA, even if they weren't married during the previous year. Prenuptial agreements have no bearing on this requirement.
  • The FAFSA cannot be updated for mid-year changes in an applicant's marital status. If the student expects to be married in the near future, they should carefully consider whether to submit the FAFSA before or after they are married. The FAFSA will use the information entered the date it was submitted. (The signatures on the FAFSA or signature sheet attests to the accuracy of the information on the FAFSA as of the date the form was completed, not the date the form was signed.)
  • If your parents are divorced or separated, the parent whom is providing support to the student  is the parent whom information should be entered on the application. This is not necessarily the same as the parent who has legal custody.

Errors involving (In)Dependent Student Status

  • Make sure you read all questions regarding your dependent status. After completing the dependency questions, the program will inform you if you need to provide parent’s information.
  • To be considered a veteran, you must have served on active duty and must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. If your service was only for training purposes (e.g., National Guard or Reserves, or a ROTC student), you are not considered a veteran for federal financial aid purposes.
  • A legal dependent is a person for whom you provide and will continue to provide more than half of their support. Support includes money, gifts, loans, housing, food, clothing, automobile, medical and dental care, and payment of college costs. If you have a child and your child is supported by your parents or someone else, you should answer "no" to the question which asks if you have any legal dependents other than a spouse.
  • If you have an unborn child, and that child will be born before or during the award year (July 1 through June 30), and that child will receive more than half of his or her support from you, then that child should be counted as a member of your household.
  • The head of household filing status is prone to error and abuse. Many cases where a person files as head of household are incorrect. If there is an error in the filing status on the income tax returns, the school will require the family to file an amended income tax return to resolve the conflicting information. If the family refuses to file an amended income tax return, the school is prohibited from disbursing aid. Furthermore, if you think the filing status on the tax forms is incorrect, you should make sure with your tax preparer before filing a FAFSA application.

Income information

  • ELIGIBLE TO FILE A 1040A/EZ FORM QUESTION: The question concerning if you were eligible to file or will file—a 1040A or 1040EZ form —should be completed based on the type of return you were eligible to file, not the return actually filed. Many tax preparers routinely complete the 1040, even when the taxpayer was eligible to file a 1040A or 1040EZ. (Note that if you opt to itemize deductions, you are considered as being required to complete the 1040.) The type of income tax return you were eligible to file can have a big impact on aid eligibility.
  • INCOME NOT ENTERED: Enter all household income whether or not a tax form was filed. This information may be found on the W-2 forms and on yearly statements such as unemployment, disability; etc.
  • UNTAXED INCOME: Retirement plan contributions, combat pay (not included in taxes), and military food and housing allowances are considered “untaxed income” on the FAFSA.

Entering incorrect amounts involving tax information

  • Another common error is to confuse questions regarding “Wages, Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), total income tax, taxes withheld or taxes due. Be sure you read and follow instructions on the application describing where to find the amounts.
  • A common error is to report total income tax equal to the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Generally speaking, total income tax should be less than the AGI. This happens most often when you report the amount of taxable income (AGI) in the answer to the question about tax liability. This is such a common error that there are standard rejects for such FAFSAs (rejects 3 and 12).
  • Another common error is to report taxes withheld or tax due instead of total income tax. The total of your withholdings can be higher or lower than the total income tax. If you got a refund, it was higher. If you owed additional tax, it was lower. Be sure you follow instructions on what line on your taxes you can find this information.
  • HOUSEHOLD INFORMATION: Remember that a household member is someone you are providing more than 50% of support to. If the parent is the person whom is providing support, the household members are included in the parent’s section not the student.  Remember to enter the amount of household members that will be college students including yourself in the following question which asks about household members that will be in college.
  • SEPARATION OF STUDENT, SPOUSE, MOTHER, & FATHER’S INCOME:  There is a section of the FAFSA application that asks for individual’s income separately. To find out individual incomes, you may use each person’s W-2 forms. For those tax payers who are self employed, you can find their income in the form titled “schedule C” on the tax forms.

Missing school code

  • A school cannot receive any payments from any aid unless the school code is entered on the application.
  • Hostos School Codes:
    1. Federal (FAFSA): 008611
    2. State (TAP): 1401

Missing signatures

Make sure you sign the application whether electronically with your PIN# or by signing and mailing a signature page. Make sure everybody who is supposed to sign the form signs it. An unsigned form will not be processed. Even though the rest of the form should be completed in black ink, you should sign the form in blue ink (this will distinguish the original copy from most photocopies).

Related sites:
www.fafsa.ed.gov
www.hesc.com
http://studentaid.ed.gov

Frequently used phone numbers:
FAFSA on the Web —–———————  1-800-433-3243
TAP (NYSHESC) ——————————— 1-888-697-4372
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) —— 1-800-829-1040

Selective Service System —————- 1-847-688-6888

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