FAFSA Do's & Don'ts

 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid - FAFSA - is the first step to applying for financial aid.  The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal student financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant, work study, and federal student loans. FAFSA is also used for determining eligibility for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other state and college-based financial aid programs.

When filing the FAFSA, keep in mind these “dos and don’ts":

DO:

  • Create a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)before starting the FAFSA at fsaid.ed.gov. You and a parent must each have your own FSA ID to electronically sign your FAFSA and use features such as the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
  • Keep your FSA ID and other passwords in a safe place. Your FSA ID is as important as your social security number. Don’t share it with anyone.
  • Complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov
  • Read every question carefully and complete every field according to the instructions.
  • Remember, when the FAFSA refers to “you,” and “your,” it means, you, the student, NOT your parents or family. 
  • Use your legal name, as shown on your Social Security card.
  • Enter your Social Security Number (SSN) carefully. An incorrect SSN may delay your FAFSA and you may miss important college financial aid deadlines.
  • Answer “yes” to the questions about your interest in different types of federal aid, such as work-study. You won’t be obligated to accept offers you don’t want and answering “no” will not afford additional grant money.
  • Count yourself, the student, as one of the people in your family who will be college students during the award year.
  • Consider including more than one college your FAFSA - there's space for 10 colleges - so you can compare financial aid.
  • Have your most recent federal income tax return on hand to complete the FAFSA's financial questions. If available, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to have federal income tax return information automatically transferred to your FAFSA.
  • Look for the blue "Start your state application" link on the FAFSA confirmation page. If you are a New York State resident be sure to include at least one college located in New York State on your FAFSA in order to see the application link on the confirmation page.
  • Carefully review the Student Aid Report (SAR) available on fafsa.gov after the FAFSA has been processed. Verify that all information is correct. If needed, you can make online corrections to your FAFSA.
  • File a renewal FAFSA each year you attend college to renew your financial aid. The online FAFSA will store information from your previous application, so you will only need to provide updated information to some parts of the renewal form. 

DON’T:

  • Procrastinate – complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st of your senior year of high school. Many colleges have early deadlines for consideration of scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid.
  • Assume you don’t qualify for financial aid! At least 1.7 million students nationwide don’t complete a FAFSA because they think they are ineligible, including many who would have qualified for a federal Pell Grant.
  • Decide you don't need to complete the FAFSA. Many scholarships and grants are based on merit and other factors but still require a FAFSA for consideration.
  • Forget to sign the FAFSA using the correct FSA IDs for you and your parent.
  • Forget that the first word in FAFSA is “Free.” Beware of anyone charging a fee to file the FAFSA for you. There is no “secret” method of qualifying for more aid, nor do you have to pay to file the application.

The FAFSA is your key to federal student financial aid, so file as soon as possible and take advantage of the maximum federal funding for which you qualify.