Complete the FAFSA (Parents'/Caregivers')

Complete the FAFSA (Parents'/Caregivers')

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is necessary to qualify for nearly all student loans and college scholarships. Making mistakes on or leaving information out of the FAFSA could delay your child’s application and possibly make him or her lose out on some financial aid for school.

The directions for the FAFSA are written from the perspective of the student. “You” refers to your child, not to the parents.  Remembering this can help you avoid many mistakes when completing the form.

  • Gather the materials I need to help my kid complete the FAFSA.
    Having these documents on hand from the start will make the process move along more smoothly.

    • Your child's and your social security numbers (can be found on social security card)

    • Your child's and your driver's license (if any)

    • Your child's W-2 forms for the previous year and other records of money earned

    • Your child's most recent federal income tax return-IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040Telefile, foreign tax return, or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia

    • Your (the parents') federal income tax return for the previous year (if your student is a dependent student as defined by federal criteria)

    • Your child's untaxed income records for the previous year -Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), welfare, or veterans benefits records

    • Your child's current bank statements

    • Your child's current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records

    • Documentation that your child is a U.S. permanent resident or other eligible noncitizen.

  • Apply online.
    Your child's application will be processed faster and will likely be more accurate because it will be processed on the website to catch errors. The online application also provides worksheets that will calculate amounts and enter them into the field for you. You can save and continue the FAFSA at any time online and then sign your application electronically using a personal identification number (PIN) which you can get from the Federal Student Aid PIN website.
  • Check to make sure I avoided these common mistakes.
    The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NAFSAA) has compiled a list of the most common errors people make on the FAFSA. As you and your child complete the FAFSA, try to avoid these mistakes:

    • Leaving blank fields-enter a "0 or "not applicable" instead of leaving a blank. Too many blanks may cause miscalculations and an application rejection.

    • Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields; always round to the nearest dollar.

    • Listing incorrect social security number or driver's license number; check these entries and have someone else check them too. Triple check to be sure.

    • Entering the wrong federal income tax paid amount; obtain your and your child's federal income paid amount from your income tax return forms not your W-2 form(s).

    • Listing adjusted gross income as equal to total income; these are not the same figure. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income. This mistake is particularly common.

    • Listing marital status incorrectly; only write yes if your child is currently married. If they are separated, they are considered married. Enter your child's marital status on the day they sign the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA.

    • Listing parent marital status incorrectly; the custodial parent's marital status is needed; if you have remarried, you'll need the stepparent's information too.

    • Leaving the question about drug-related offenses blank; If you're unsure about something, find out before you submit your FAFSA instead of leaving a blank. A conviction doesn't necessarily disqualify you from getting aid.

    • Forgetting to list the college; obtain the federal school code for the college you plan on attending and list it, along with any other schools to which you've applied.

    • Forgetting to sign and date; if you're filling out the paper FAFSA, be sure to sign it. If you're filing electronically, be sure to obtain your PIN from Your PIN is your electronic signature and will always be assigned to you only.

    • Entering the wrong address; this is the student's permanent address, not a campus or summer address.

  • Get help when I get stuck.
    There are resources available if you decide you need assistance filling out the FAFSA. Check the FAQ section on the FAFSA Web site, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED AID (1-800-433-3243).
  • Attend College Goal Sunday.
    For personal assistance with completing the FAFSA, participate in College Goal Sunday in your state. College Goal Sunday is held every February at a college campus near you. In addition to help completing the form, you and your students can attend workshops on paying for college and maximizing financial aid.