Common FAFSA Mistakes

Get ready: the FAFSA is coming. The 2015-2016 FAFSA will be available in just a couple of days, on Jan. 1. Here are some common mistakes people make in completing the FAFSA:

  • Not doing it: Yes, the FAFSA takes time but no, you should not skip it, even if you don’t think you’ll be eligible for aid. Why not? Because you have to file the FAFSA in order to be eligible for federal education loans like the Stafford, Perkins or PLUS loan, which are available to all students, or parents as applicable, regardless of income.
  • Overstating assets: Retirement assets and equity in your primary residence don’t count as assets on the FAFSA so don’t include them.
  • Procrastinating: You can do the FAFSA without having filed your taxes, so don’t wait. A great deal of aid is first-come, first-served, so delaying only hurts you. Some Oregon deadlines are as follows:
    • OR Opportunity Grant: Feb. 1
    • OSAC Private scholarships: March 1
    • University of Oregon: March 1
    • Oregon State University: Feb. 28
  • Understating income: If you contributed to a tax-deferred savings plan in 2014 (401(k), traditional IRA or other plan using pre-tax dollars), you will be asked to add that contribution back to your income when filing the FAFSA.
  • Not using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool: If you use this, then once your tax return is filed you can update your FAFSA with the correct information from the IRS. You will need to provide this information, and this is the fastest, most accurate way of doing so.
  • Not having your ducks in a row before you start: Assuming your student is a dependent, you’ll need the following:
    • Parents’ and student’s SSNs
    • Student’s driver’s license number
    • Federal tax information for both parents (if married; custodial parent and stepparent if applicable if divorced) and student
    • Records of untaxed income for parents and student– child support received, nontaxable interest, etc.
    • Information on checking and savings accounts, investments including 529 Plan accounts and investment property, and business assets
  • Data entry errors: Incorrect SSNs, driver’s license numbers, blank fields, missing signatures will all delay or torpedo your application, so triple-check them.

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