Avoid the most common mistakes:
- The most frequent mistake made on the printed form is leaving a field blank. If the answer is zero or the question does not apply to you, write in a zero. If you leave a question blank, the processor will assume that you forgot to answer.
- Use the 1040 federal tax return for income reporting and reporting taxes paid. If you use your W-2 and 1099 forms, compare them with the previous year's income tax return to make sure you did not overlook any source of income, such as interest and dividends.
- Don't forget to report all the required sources of untaxed income. These include veterans' noneducation benefits, child support and workers compensation/disability income.
- Report your correct marital status. If you plan to file as a married student, you must be married on or before the date that you sign your FAFSA.
- If your parents are divorced, your stepparent's financial information must be reported in addition to the financial information for your custodial parent.
- Include yourself in the household size. Even if you didn't live there during the previous year, you should always include yourself as part of your parent's household.
- Don't forget to sign the application. If you're filing as a dependent, both you and your parents must sign. If you file online, you and your parents can sign the form electronically using your FSA ID.
- Remember to file on time. Priority for programs with limited funds is often given to students who file the FAFSA as soon as possible once the form is released. The form will be made available on October 1. This newer release date allows families to use actual figures from their 2016 tax returns, rather than having to guess at their 2017 figures. Despite the new system, you will still want to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible -- financial aid will still be disbursed on a first come, first serve basis.
- As with all forms and applications, make sure you read the instructions and questions carefully. If you're unclear about a question or are having trouble filling out the FAFSA, check the FAQ section on the FAFSA website, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
- On the paper form, follow instructions with regard to using a pen or pencil.
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