Experts Dispense Advice About Avoiding Costly FAFSA Errors

February 17, 2010

financial aidFinancial aid advisers are urging students and their families to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and to be sure not to make any costly errors.

The Wall Street Journal lists a number of common errors, including waiting too long to file and not entering one's correct legal name. Other frequent and costly mistakes include factoring in the value of retirement accounts and home equity--neither of which need to be included on the form.

Then there are other mistakes: Some families incorrectly list a sibling's social security number, or they leave fields blank instead of entering a zero.

But by far the most costly error is not filing the FAFSA at all. "A lot of families feel that their income is too high and they won't receive any financial aid from filling out the FAFSA, so they just don't do it," noted David Reseigh, outreach coordinator for the division of financial aid at Purdue University, who was quoted by WLFI in West Lafayette, Indiana. "It's really used for the student to see if the student is eligible for federal, state, or institutional aid. The individual college looks at the total information. Really, all families should fill out the FAFSA form."

Mark Kantrowitz, founder of, who answered questions about the FAFSA in The New York Times blog, The Choice, noted that families should make sure to submit the form even if they didn't qualify for financial aid the year before.

"The rules are complicated enough and change enough every year that it is not possible to predict aid eligibility without applying," he said in the Times. "For example, financial aid eligibility depends on the number of children in college. A family that might not qualify for aid when only one child is in college might qualify for some aid the next year when they have two children in college."

Kantrowitz also urged families to submit the FAFSA even if they are certain that they will not qualify for need-based aid. He pointed out that Stafford and Grad PLUS loans require filing of the FAFSA, and neither depend on financial need.

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman

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