The Department of Ed lists common FAFSA errors in a recent blog post. Here’s a cheat sheet on the ones that seem to generate the most confusion:

  • Parent vs student info. When the FAFSA says “you” or “your” it is referring to the student. If it says “your parents” then it means parents.
  • What counts as an investment. Here are the nitty gritty details for determining the net worth of your investments. Hint: all your 529s count, not just the one for the student whose FAFSA you’re completing.
  • Income tax. The FAFSA is asking for the amount of income tax liability on your tax return, not your withholding.
  • Additional income items. Just because you use the IRS DRT doesn’t mean you’re done on the income section. You still need to report income items that don’t show on your tax return such as retirement plan contributions, Roth IRA distributions or child support payments.
  • Income year vs asset date. All income items in the current FAFSA refer to 2017 income, regardless of what’s happened since then. Assets are as of the filing date. Your income status may have changed since 2017. If it’s improved, congratulations. If it’s taken a turn for the worse, you will likely be requesting professional judgment (PJ) from your schools. In this process, you will request to have your financial aid application reviewed based on new information, i.e. changes to your financial situation that are not reflected in the data captured by the FAFSA or Profile.
  • Deadlines. The FAFSA has multiple deadlines: each school sets its own deadline, states have deadlines, scholarships have deadlines, and the Department of Ed has a deadline. Make sure you know which ones apply to you and that you meet them.

Good luck!