How to Avoid Common FAFSA Mistakes

Facebook icon Twitter icon Print icon Email icon
Mark Kantrowitz

By Mark Kantrowitz

August 31, 2020

The most serious mistakes on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can affect whether the student qualifies for financial aid. These common FAFSA mistakes can also have a big impact on the amount of financial aid. The FAFSA is the free application students need to fill out to receive any federal aid from the government, including grants, work-study and federal student loans. Learn how to avoid making these common errors when filing out the FAFSA.

The Biggest FAFSA Mistake

The biggest FAFSA error is failing to file the FAFSA. You can’t get financial aid if you don’t apply.

Each year, millions of students fail to file the FAFSA. More than 2 million of them would have received federal grants, but left the money on the table by not applying for financial aid. Filing the FAFSA also makes the student eligible for low-cost federal student loans. 

Some families don’t file the FAFSA because they worry that applying for financial aid might affect the student’s admissions chances. Need-sensitive colleges consider financial need when admitting some students. Even need-blind colleges may consider financial need when admitting students off of the waiting list. 

But, if you don’t apply for financial aid as a freshman, these colleges may refuse to consider you for the college’s own grants if you apply as an upperclassman, unless your family’s financial circumstances have changed.

Other families don’t file the FAFSA because they think they are too wealthy to qualify for financial aid. Students can qualify for financial aid even if the parents have six-figure incomes, if they have multiple children in college at the same time or their children enroll at high-cost colleges. 

Use our Financial Aid Calculator to estimate your expected family contribution (EFC) and financial need based. 

Avoid These Other FAFSA Mistakes:

See also:

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you