How to Avoid Financial Aid Mistakes
Heading off to college is an exciting moment in every student’s life. The ability to learn a new study, meet friends, and join extracurricular clubs is worth packing up all your belongings to live in a new environment. Although many students look forward to their newfound freedom away from home, they must remember to correctly fill out their financial aid forms to avoid delaying the start of their first semester.
As a regional certified public accounting and consulting firm, seen many common financial aid mistakes made by students and their families that could have been avoided. Here are our top 5 financial aid mistakes to avoid so students can start on time and receive the amount of aid they need.
1. Forgetting to File a FAFSA
Never start college by throwing all your finances away at the first year’s tuition. Always fill out a FAFSA before the school year starts to ensure you receive the right amount of aid. You’ll be surprised by how much extra money you may qualify for, such as federal Pell Grants, state grants, and need-based scholarships, that can be used to lower your tuition bill.
2. Not Properly Filling Out a FAFSA
One of the biggest financial aid mistakes individuals make is not filling out a FASFA form correctly. It’s important to carefully read through each question and answer them to the best of your ability. When filling out a FASFA form, don’t forget to:
- Use your legal name
- Enter your permanent address
- List the correct social security or driver’s license number
- Enter the correct adjusted gross income and federal income tax paid
- Don’t leave too many fields blank and instead write “0” or “not applicable”
3. Stopping Your Financial Aid Search
Students who only file a FAFSA lose the opportunity to gain scholarships. Scholarships can be offered by local and national organizations, towns, cities, your high school, and college. It’s vital to reach out to college financial aid counselors who can assist you in finding scholarships geared for you, your talents, and your major.
4. Filing Past the Deadline
The longer you wait to file a FAFSA, the less aid you will receive. Ensure you are given the amount of aid you deserve by filing your FAFSA before the deadline.
5. Stating the Wrong Income
The amount of financial aid you receive when filing a FAFSA all comes down to how much income you write down. Many people either overstate or understate their head of household income levels. It’s important to not declare certain assets such as investments and retirement accounts as income. Also, declaring yourself as either a dependent or independent could impact how much you receive. As a rule of thumb, make sure you carefully read each step before you hit submit.
Tobin & Collins is a regional certified public accounting and consulting firm for privately held companies and high-net worth individuals in a broad range of industries including real estate, healthcare, family-owned, professional services, and not-for-profits. Contact us to begin your financial journey!