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Avoiding Common Mistakes Made In Filing The 2007-08 FAFSA
by Surajit Sen Sharma

Making a mistake while filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can delay processing and affect your chances of adequate or appropriate funding. Though help for completing the FAFSA can be found online at U.S. Government and other non-governmental websites, a substantial number of FAFSA applications each year are delayed because of simple errors. In this article, we have listed some points that will help avoid the most common mistakes in FAFSA applications.

The two golden rules:
  1. Do not leave any field blank where numbers should be put. Fill in these blanks with zeros, if needed.
  2. Information input on the FAFSA that can be supported with tax returns and social security cards should match the information provided on these forms.
Avoiding common mistakes in providing personal information:
  • Spell all the names exactly the same as they appear on the person's Social Security card.

  • Any address should ideally be the address on the applicant's most recent tax return.

  • The Permanent address should be the permanent mailing address. In case of an incarcerated student, the schools administrative address may be used with the consent and knowledge of the concerned school authorities.

  • Accurately fill in the Social Security Number.

  • Fill in the correct date of birth.

  • Fill in your correct and permanent telephone number.

  • Correctly fill in your driver's license number and state. If you do not have a driver's license, do not complete Questions 11 and 12.

  • Fill in the correct e-mail address.

  • Mark the actual legal marital status as of the date of completing the application:

    • Engagement or living together does not constitute legal marriage unless the applicant's state recognizes living together as common-law-marriage.
    • Separation does not mean divorce.

  • The date of marital status indicates the beginning of the current marital status as of the date of submission of the FAFSA form.

  • Correctly fill in citizenship status.

  • Decide the applicant's dependency status properly and fill the form:

    • An independent student does not have to fill in the parental data in the prescribed portion of the form.
    • A dependent student needs to fill in the parental data in the prescribed portions of the form, and needs the relevant parent to co-sign the form.

  • In the case of an independent applicant, accurately fill in the required information about spouse, children, dependents, and household. In the case of pregnancy of the applicant or the applicant's spouse, the unborn child also counts as a dependent if the applicant is to extend support to the child now and through June 30, 2008. Remember that any dependent for whom more than 50% of financial support is at present recorded in the current tax returns of any other person than the applicant will not count as a dependent of the applicant for FAFSA purposes. Do not forget to count the applicant as a member of the household.

  • Give correct parental information in the case of a dependent applicant. Remember that all data should match tax and social security records of the applicant. Fill in accurate data about dates of birth, and education. In the parental information section, only the last name and first name initial of a relevant parent is required.

  • Decide upon the relevant parent who will co-sign the FAFSA:

    • In the case of parental divorce or separation, the parent with whom the dependent applicant lived most of the past calendar year is the parent responsible for co-signing and filing the FAFSA, though some other parent or person may be the legal custodian.
    • If the dependent applicant had not lived with either parent for the past 12 months, then the parent who made more financial contribution towards the applicant's upkeep would be the one to figure in on the FAFSA.
    • If the parent of the dependent applicant filing the FAFSA has remarried on or before the date of completing the FAFSA, then the step-parent has to report his or her income and assets on the application.
    • Remember that foster parents, legal guardians, and grandparents do not figure into the FAFSA application.
    • If the parent or parents of the dependent applicant do not possess a social security number, then fill the fields with zeros, but do not leave the fields blank.

  • Give correct information of the number in the household in the case of a dependent student. Do not forget to include the applicant in that number. Include only the number of people that the applicant or his or her parents now support, and for whom the applicant's parents will continue to provide more than 50% support between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008 (including any unborn child, if that child will be born before or during the award year). Remember that any person, for whom more than 50% of financial support is at present recorded in the current tax returns of any other person than the applicant or his/her relevant parents, will not count for FAFSA purposes.

  • Do not forget to include other dependent children of the parents of the dependent applicant who will be attending postsecondary schools in 2007-2008.

  • For both dependent and independent applicants, while answering questions 67 to 91 include only household members who will attend college, at least six credit hours per term or twelve clock hours per week between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008. Only students working toward a degree or certificate leading to a recognized educational credential at a college eligible to participate in federal student aid programs will count. Parents attending college will not count here.

  • Correctly decide and record the state of legal residence.

  • If the applicant is a male between the ages of 18 and 26, and has not registered for Selective Service, he should register using the applicable question on the FAFSA. Failure to do so would render the student ineligible for federal financial aid.

  • Never leave Question 31 blank. A previous conviction in a drug-related offence does not automatically disentitle the applicant from federal financial aid. The worksheet that needs to be completed on this issue can be seen here.

This list is not exhaustive and it is recommended that the applicant do his or her own research on the subject using the links given to federal websites. The importance of filing an error-free FAFSA cannot be overstated. The FAFSA is your gateway to all federal financial aid, including Stafford loans, PLUS loans, Pell grants, and other financial awards. Most schools check on the FAFSA information before preparing your financial award package including local awards and scholarships.

Disclaimer: This article is only for informational purposes and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. We do not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any of the information provided in this article.


Article Title : Avoiding Common Mistakes Made In Filing The 2007-08 FAFSA
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Schools Will No Longer Receive Paper FAFSA Forms
(September 20, 2007)

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