One of the Biggest FAFSA Mistakes

I don’t know that stats are kept or shared, but I’d venture a guess that one of, if not the, most common FAFSA mistakes people make is putting the parents’ info into the student section. This then causes parental income and assets to be assessed at student rates, leading to grotesque distortions of the EFC.

It can help to think of going to college– including applications and the FAFSA– as a major transition to adulthood and responsibility. The FAFSA is the student’s responsibility really. All that by way of saying that when the FAFSA says “You” it means the student. If it’s talking to or about the parents, it says “parents.”

And remember that each of you needs an FSA ID. You cannot create a single shared FSA ID. The student will start the FAFSA using their FSA ID. The parents will complete the FAFSA using their FSA ID. (Only one parent needs to create an FSA ID.) The student submits the FAFSA.

When the student submits the FAFSA, they will get a confirmation screen. (Later, both the student and the parent should receive an email confirmation that the FAFSA was submitted.) There are a couple of reasons beyond the general “trust but verify” approach to kids growing up that you should sit with your student to submit the FAFSA:

  • There is some different information on the confirmation screen than on the emailed confirmation, so you may want to print or screen capture the confirmation screen.
  • If you have multiple students, the confirmation screen gives you an option to transfer your (parent) data to the other student’s FAFSA.
  • You may get a link to your state aid agency on the confirmation page. If that happens, make sure that your student submits their FAFSA there as well. (This is based on your state, not on your FAFSA data.)

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