FAFSA 2020-21: common errors to avoid
Errors can delay processing of your financial aid package. To avoid errors, carefully read all of the questions on the FAFSA. Some of the most common errors are:
- Using tax information from the wrong year: 2019 tax information should be used to complete the 2021-22 FAFSA. Do NOT update your FAFSA with 2020 tax information once 2020 taxes are complete.
- Listing an incorrect social security number or name: Either of these can cause significant delays. Make sure to use your legal name on the FAFSA exactly as it appears on your social security card.
- Failure to report stepparent’s information if custodial parent is remarried: Stepparent information is required on the FAFSA.
- Incorrect reporting of grant and scholarship aid: Do not report the value of grant and scholarship aid unless it was included as adjusted gross income on your federal tax return.
- Failure to enter untaxed income information:
- Report 2019 contributions to tax-deferred pension and savings plans (found on W-2 forms in Boxes 12a-12d, codes D, E, F, G, H and S).
- Report 2019 child support received for all children in the household, not just the aid applicant.
- Failure to report net worth of qualified educational benefits or education savings accounts: Examples include, but are not limited to, Coverdell savings accounts, 529 college savings plans and the refund value of 529 prepaid tuition plans.
- Incorrect reporting of certain assets: Do NOT report:
- The value of the home you live in
- The value of tax-sheltered retirement plans (i.e. 401(k), 403(b), pension funds, IRA’s, Keogh plans)
- The value of a small business if your family owns and controls more than 50% of the business and the business has 100 or fewer full-time employees
- The value of a family farm you live on and operate
- Changing the value of assets after the FAFSA is signed: The FAFSA is considered a “snapshot” of your family’s financial situation as of the date the FAFSA is signed. Correct the value of assets ONLY if the value was originally reported in error.
- Failure to report accurate household size: Be sure to read the FAFSA instructions for this item. Do NOT include parents in the number of people who will be college students.