Whether you’re a college student, a high school senior or you’re seeking financial aid for your college-age child, applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help you fund college expenses. We know all the rules and filling out the forms can seem confusing, but we’re here to help! Here’s all you need to know about applying for FAFSA.
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Many students don’t even consider applying for FAFSA because they think they won’t qualify. Some think only those with low income or certain situations will qualify for federal college aid. However, that’s not the case. Most Americans are eligible for FAFSA and that’s why it’s important to apply. You want to be sure you’re taking advantage of the best student loan options available to you, and the only way to do that is by applying.
According to Charlie Javice, the founder and CEO of Frank, an online FAFSA platform, “Aid is available for anyone with a household income below $250,000 a year.” Most Americans make less than $250,000 a year, so everyone who is in this category really should apply.
Who is eligible for FAFSA?
To qualify for FAFSA, you must meet the following criteria.
- Household income is below $250,000 a year.
- Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.
- Have a valid Social Security number (unless you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia or the Republic of Palau).
- Men must be registered with Selective Service.
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school.
- Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent.
There are more eligibility requirements for FAFSA. You can view the full list of criteria here.
How do I apply for FAFSA?
You can now apply for FAFSA using the free myStudentAid app. If you use the app with an Apple device, be sure to disable the “smart punctuation” feature before filling out the form to avoid errors.
If you’d rather not download an app, you can also apply for FAFSA online at FAFSA.ed.gov.
You can still send in your application via mail, but this is not recommended for several reasons. The online applications are simpler to complete and generally have fewer errors because they only ask you relevant questions and are designed to detect common errors. Your application is also likely to be processed quicker when submitted online. Finally, when applying for FAFSA online, you’ll be given the option to have your IRS data automatically retrieved and then populate the relevant fields, significantly lowering your chances of errors in your tax reporting.
It’s also important to know you can always ask for more FAFSA aid if your situation changes. For example, if you have been affected by a job loss or illness in the family. Since so much can change from year to year, it’s important to update FAFSA annually to ensure you’re getting the financial aid you qualify for.
What are some common mistakes people make on the FAFSA form?
A careless mistake on your form can delay your application and limit your eligibility for aid. To avoid errors, be sure to read every question carefully and review your application before submitting.
Here are some of the most common errors on FAFSA forms.
- Leaving blank fields. If a question does not apply to you, enter a “0” or write “Not applicable.”
- Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields. There’s no need for either of these symbols; simply round to the nearest dollar.
- Listing an incorrect Social Security number or driver’s license number. Triple-check these numbers to ensure accuracy.
- Using the wrong name. Be sure to use your full legal name as it appears on your Social Security card.
- Entering the wrong address. Use your permanent address only to avoid confusion.
- Forgetting to list your college. Be sure to obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it along with any other schools where you’ve applied for admission.
- Forgetting to sign and date. Don’t forget this crucial step.
The sooner you apply for FAFSA, the greater your chance at obtaining the limited financial aid offered by your college and state. If you’re interested in learning more about financial aid options and saving plans, register for one of our upcoming college planning webinars.