Following a recent study for college financial-aid administrators, the most common mistakes that can be made when you complete the FAFSA form are:
* Leaving a blank field. If your answer to an asset or income question is zero, then put in a "0."
* Trying to match names to Social Security numbers – this is especially important if you use different or maiden names.
* Signatures. Both the parent and student must make sure they sign the FAFSA form.
* Once you complete the application form online and have received a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov before your completion of the FAFSA online, you shouldn’t worry about the signature requirement as your PIN should serve as your electronic signature. For more details you can visit the PIN Web site.
* Income. Do not make use of your W-2 in order to report income. Make use of the Adjusted Gross Income directly from your Form 1040 income tax return.
* Taxes paid. Try to report all the actual income taxes which are paid from your Form 1040 income tax return rather than those which are shown and withheld on your W-2.
* Definitions. Try to pay close attention to the definitions of dependents, marital status as well as age requests.
* Selection. If you use the online version of FAFSA, try not to check the "Early Analysis" flag. This won’t send a report to any college, but will rather be reserved for high-school students who aren’t yet going to college, but who are interested in a free evaluation of their status, so that they can better prepare for the real thing – so it’s quite a good idea for all those who are looking to better position themselves for their future.
* Inclusions. Prepaid tuition plans, pensions and cash-value life insurance policies shouldn’t be reported as assets on the FAFSA.
* Attachments. Don’t include anything along with the form when you decide to mail it. If you have any justificatory circumstances that you feel should be considered, you should ask for a professional judgment review from the school's financial administrator of aid.
* In this process, SAR and EFC are two terms that you will hear a lot. These will both result from this abovementioned application form. It refers to a Student Aid Report and Expected Family Contribution. These are both used to find out what the eligibility and financial situation of each student is. The outcome will determine the amount of aid you will get. Typically, schools tend to look at the cost and duration of your chosen study path, the kind of program you are enrolled in and these criteria of eligibility.
* If you do not qualify for federal aid, aid packages for state or school as well as awards might still be available to you as well. Making sure all your options are properly explored will be a good rule of thumb to have. Regardless of whether you think you do or do not qualify, you should consider applying for federal aid, because there is really nothing to lose in it.
* The system is put together in order to provide NOT A FREEBIE FOR EVERYONE, it is meant and streamlined in order to assist those who wouldn’t be able to afford a good education otherwise. Understanding the system well and how it works, can help you to leverage and optimize your changes.
More tips and advice on the next page: College Scholarship Reasons