The Most Common College Financial Aid Mistakes People Make
February 16, 2015 governmentgrants.info Staff
The American government provides quite a bit of funding through grants and scholarships for those wanting to return to college. And, although it’s not the same as some of the amazing packages foreign countries offer, it’s still a good chunk of change.
However, not everyone knows how to find it and they make mistakes along the way. With that said, here are some common mistakes people make when applying for financial aid.
They Fail To Use FAFSA When Applying for Financial Aid
Just like applying for scholarships, you can’t get any money if you don’t apply. Students need to apply for financial aid through the government FAFSA website by the deadline, which is different for each student.
It should be noted that during the 2011-2012 school year, 2 million students that would have qualified for aid never applied. And, of those 2 million, 1.3 million would have received the maximum grant.
Filing the Wrong FAFSA
The FAFSA site usually includes two types of forms on its site — the previous academic year’s application and the upcoming academic year’s application. Most applicants fall into the category of needing to apply for the upcoming academic year. Don’t file for the previous year and miss out on free grant money.
It’s almost like high school all over again. FAFSA uses federal income tax data to help determine how much money funding it dishes out, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until your taxes have been filed or you have received your returns.
Students who file within the first three months of the calendar year (January, February, and March) usually receive twice the amount in grants as those who file afterward. Some states even award on a first-come, first-served basis.
Adding Cents to Their Dollar Amounts
Just as you don’t include cents when you file your income taxes, you leave them out when applying for financial aid. The online FAFSA form only takes into consideration how many whole dollars you earned. Adding a few extra digits can change $700 into $70,000, leaving you without any financial aid support.
Using Incorrect Social Security Numbers
When you fill out legal forms, you need to make sure all the information is correct and matches. If your full name is Matthew, but you go by Mickey (for some odd reason), make sure you use your legal name. Also, double check your Social Security Numbers (SSNs), birth dates, and anything else. One wrong digit will send red flags up during your application and made void it completely.
Mixing Up Parents’ Marital Statuses and Financial Information
When you file your FAFSA, include your parents’ marital status as they are currently. It doesn’t matter if they’re planning to tie the knot in the next two days or two years — and likewise for divorces. This is because of the tax documents that they’ll file with the IRS.
Similarly, if your parents are divorced, you only need one parent to file out their information for your FAFSA. Generally speaking, this parent it the one that you lived with the most within the last 12 months as deemed by the FAFSA’s application date. If you split time equally between them, it’s the one that provided the most financial support to you.
If you live on your own, but are still deemed dependent based on your age (usually any student under 24), list the parent who earns the least amount of money.
Forgetting All the Others
Do you have stepparents who have income and assets? Do you have any stepsiblings that are in college? Retirement accounts? They need to be included, too.
If you live with a parent who remarried, all of their income and assets need to be reported on the FAFSA. It may lead to less financial aid for you in the short-term, but it will keep you from being deemed ineligible because you forgot to list them.
Conversely, if you have stepbrothers and stepsisters because of your parent remarrying, they can actually increase your financial aid support, especially if they’re also attending college. That’s because the U.S. Government assumes your family needs more helping paying for all the expenses.
Additionally, if you have any odd circumstances that you can report on your FAFSA (such as having recently received an inheritance that you’re not allowed to touch, but counts as an asset), you’ll need to talk to the people in charge of financial aid at your college. Since they’re the ones communicating with federal aid officers, they can work on those details behind the scenes.