For people looking to attend college, the US government offers a variety of funding with grants and scholarships. Though it won’t necessarily completely cover your education, it does cover quite a bit. Unfortunately, not everyone understands how to find government funding or how to properly apply for it. That being said, here are the most common blunders potential students make when seeking financial aid.
Don’t Fill Out FAFSA
You can’t take advantage of the numerous scholarships available if you don’t actually apply to said scholarships. All government funded financial aid is done through the FAFSA website. Deadlines differ from school to school, so check with your potential schools to make sure you turn in your FAFSA on time.
Qualified applicants simply not applying is a huge mistake seen across the US. In the 2011-2012 school year alone, over 2 million eligible students couldn’t collect their aid because they didn’t fill out their FAFSA in time. Of the 2 million students, 1.3 million were able to accept the maximum grant available. That’ s a lot of unclaimed funds.
Incorrect FAFSA filing
When you access the FAFSA site, there are usually just two forms available to you- the form for the previous year and the form for the upcoming school session. The big mistake made here is students accidentally filling out the application for the previous year when they need to fill out the upcoming year’s application. If you fail to fill out the upcoming year application, you won’t be applicable to collect on upcoming grants.
Failing to Meet Deadlines
People often mistake the fact that FAFSA uses federal tax information to mean you have to wait on your taxes to fill out your FAFSA. This confusion means people are waiting until the last minute to turn in their FAFSA, often times missing the filing cut off period.
But, people who file within the first quarter of the calendar year, between January and March, actually enjoy twice as many grants as those who file afterward. Filing with your best guess of your tax information allows you to collect more and you have the opportunity to adjust your guestimates after your taxes are filed.
Not Using Round Dollar Amounts
FAFSA works similar to taxes. When you fill out your taxes, you don’t include cent amounts, so why would you include them on your FAFSA? The online form only cares about how many whole dollars your made that year. Accidentally including cents can quickly turn $400 into $40,000, dramatically changing the financial aid for which you’re eligible.
Mistyping Your Social Security Number
Filling out documentation with the correct information is vital to your financial aid process. Don’t use nicknames when filing. Be sure the name you file with will match up to your social security number. Before submitting your form, double check your name, birth date, social security number and all other information. Any mistyping could void your entire application.
Confusing Your Parents’ Financial Information or Marital Status
As you start to file your FAFSA, be sure your parents marital status reflects their current status. Even if they’re about to get married or divorced, your FAFSA should reflect the status that applies to them the day you file. It needs to match their IRS documents. If your parents are divorced, the parent you live with the most should fill out your FAFSA information. If you share equal time with your parents, the responsibility then falls on whoever financially supports you more. For students that live independently from their parents but they still fund you, file as a dependent, using the information of whichever parent funds you more. For those living alone who do not rely on their parents, file as an independent.
Not Including Others Information
If you have step-parents or siblings in college, their assets also need to be reported. All re-married parents should have their information as well as their partners’ information reported. Having step-parents may decrease your financial aid, but it saves you from being denied financial aid for improperly filing.
If you have step-siblings, you can actually get more money, especially if your step-siblings are also in college. The double weight of paying multiple tuitions will allow you to get more help from the government. It’s always best to call your colleges’ financial aid offices with any questions you have as your fill out your FAFSA so that you can be certain you’re filling it our properly.