When FAFSAs Go Bad

By Scott Weingold

There has been a big push in government to overall haul the FAFSA form to make it easier.  And rightly so.  Like any bureaucratic run system, it has its faults.  Here is what the National Bureau of Economic Research has to say about the FAFSA:

“What are the costs of applying for aid? Costs include the time needed to read the documents, understand the rules, collect the required documents, and to fill out the form. How long does this process take? The Department of Education estimates that this entire process takes one hour, which strikes us as implausible. Reading the instructions would take twenty minutes for a typical adult reading at a speed of 300 words per minute. This would leave 40 minutes for applicants to actually answer the 127 questions on the FAFSA, requiring the peppy pace of three questions per minute.”

The length of time required to fill out the form is just one of those problems. Let’s take a closer look at a few more common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Problem
Student fails to complete the entire process (i.e. submit the FAFSA) when using FAFSA On The Web.

Solution
Make certain to go through the entire process to the end and that the FAFSA has been submitted and not just saved.  You must get to the point of the submission confirmation page and then should print and save a copy.

Problem
Students and parents leave FAFSA financial information blank because they have not completed or filed the tax return.

Solution
Estimate all financial information and then correct the FAFSA as soon as possible after taxes are filed but before the June 10 correction receipt date deadline.

Problem
Family mails the FAFSA March 9th (or whatever your states deadline is) using Overnight Mail.

Solution
The FAFSA is mailed to a P.O. Box.  Overnight mail is not guaranteed to reach a P.O. Box address the next day.  It would be better to file the FAFSA on-line at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ and then print/sign/mail the signature page if necessary (which is likely because it is doubtful the student or parent has the required PIN if working on the FAFSA so close to the deadline.)

Problem
Family fails to provide parent/student signature on initial or subsequent FAFSA submission.

Solution
Always make sure FAFSA submission is signed by everyone when it is submitted initially or for correction whether it is done electronically or by mail.  The most convenient way is to register for fafsa pin numbers (which can take several days to receive once applied on line for) and then signed electronically.

Problem
Student or parent fail to provide correct state residency information or dates on FAFSA

Solution
When completing the electronic version of the FAFSA, for the state of legal residence question, click on drop down box then click on the initials for your correct state. Please make sure to click to the next question on the FAFSA rather than the next state in the drop down list!

Problem
Student provides E-mail address on FAFSA, but claims not to have received the Student Aid Report (SAR) from the United States Department of Education.

Solution
Use a stable and easily accessible E-mail address. Moreover, check daily for any E-mails from the federal processor – even in the spam and junk mail sections of the E-mail box.

There are some welcome changes to the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education is still in the early stages of its effort to make the FAFSA less complex. It has shortened the online application for aid by up to 22 questions, using improved “skip logic” to allow students or, more likely, their parents to bypass those that don’t apply to them.

However, the most time-consuming questions remain.

Experienced FAFSA filers say that perhaps the most noticeable change is the technology that has made the site more user-friendly. It has a shorter worksheet, improved navigation, and a handy “help and hints” section.

 

Related Artices:

False Information on the FAFSA

When to Apply for the FAFSA

FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions

5 Tips on How to Fill Out the FAFSA Form

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.