Filling out the FAFSA isn’t the easiest process in the world – we get it. It requires a ton of information, a lot of documentation, and time to fill it all out. Because of this, 83% of college bound families fail to submit the FAFSA or do so incorrectly. We don’t want you to be a statistic!  We want you to be in the 17% instead! To make sure you’re in the 17%, we’ve outlined some of the common FAFSA mistakes and how to avoid them. We also encourage you to invest time and educate yourself before beginning the FAFSA process or work with someone who does this all the time in order to maximize your financial aid potential.

Here are some of our best practices for filling out the FAFSA worry-free!

1. Incorrect Basic Info

As crazy as it sounds, many people fill out their social security number, birth date or other basic information incorrectly. It’s not that they don’t know this information, but with so much data to enter, it’s easy to mistype something or enter it incorrectly. Numbers are transposed or put in the wrong blank, things are forgotten, mispelled or entered completely wrong all together. How can you avoid this?

– Focus is the main problem here. Applicants who aren’t present in the moment and focused on what they’re doing end up making small but costly mistakes on their applications. Find a quiet, uninterrupted placed to do this. Interruptions cause mistakes. Make sure you’re ready to go when you sit down to complete everything, somewhere where you won’t be interrupted or distracted.

– Understand the definition of specific phrases or words on the form and don’t assume you know what they mean already. An example would be assets. You may think you know what this would include, but make sure you know how it specifically relates to the FAFSA and what is considered an asset. Make sure not to ignore the help bubbles through the application.

2. Applying Late

You’ve heard us say it before if you’ve checked out any of our FAFSA blog series, and you’ll hear us say it again.. Apply early! It really is crucial in obtaining first come, first serve money as well as increasing your priority consideration chances.

3. Use the Data Retrieval Tool At Your Own Risk

Even though this seems like the easier solution, there can be a lot of mistakes by using this computer-generated tool. It is actually better to submit the information you have on record (like, tax information for instance) yourself to make sure it’s totally accurate.

4. Forgetting to Sign at the End

According to the Department of Education, one of the largest common mistakes is not signing at the end of the FAFSA form. If it’s not signed, it’s not complete and can’t be submitted. How does this even happen? Many people forget because they don’t have an FSA idea prior to starting the FAFSA or they use a different email address than the one that is associated with their FSA ID.

– Make sure to create your FSA ID before starting the application and that the email address associated with it is correct and lines up with everything else you’re using.

5. Not Double Checking Your Work

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this and how many mistakes could be avoided if they did. Make sure you check behind yourself at least twice before submitting to make sure you’re able to leverage the FAFSA to the maximum.

– We also highly recommend getting a second pair of eyes before submitting the application. Someone else may be able to see something you missed that could go a long way in maximizing financial aid potential.

Those are 5 of the best practices for filling out this extremely important document. As always, reach out with any questions and we’ll be happy to help you through it!