The Free Application for Federal Student Aid – also known as the FAFSA – rolls out Oct. 1 for students who plan on attending college in fall 2020. While college application deadlines may be months away, experts stress that students and their families should file their FAFSAs as soon after Oct. 1 as possible.
FAFSA deadline: When is it?
The FAFSA federal deadline for students enrolling in the 2020-21 academic year doesn’t close until June 30, 2021. But, as noted earlier, many states and colleges apportion financial aid to those who apply first, which is why experts urge students and their families to apply as soon as possible. Students can find a list of state deadlines here.
Below are three pitfalls to watch out for with the FAFSA, according to experts.
1. Skipping the FAFSA
About one-quarter of families never complete the FAFSA, according to research from student loan company Sallie Mae. The most common reason? Families say they believe they won’t qualify for aid, says Sallie Mae spokeswoman Ashley Boucher.
“That’s painful to hear because almost every family qualifies for financial aid,” Boucher says. “It’s not all need-based. There are a lot of scholarships and merit-based scholarships a school might grant you, but you have to fill out a FAFSA for a school to qualify for them.”
On top of that, federal loans are available only to students who complete a FAFSA, which means you’ll need to submit the form if your child intends to borrow through a Stafford loan or other types of loans offered by the government.
2. Waiting to file the FAFSA
Because the FAFSA requires students to list at least one college they plan on applying to in order to complete the application, some families hold off, Kantrowitz notes. But that delay could result in lost aid, given the first-come, first-served approach used by some states and colleges.
“All you have to have on the FAFSA is one college listed,” Kantrowitz says. “It should be an in-state public college because some of the states will only consider you for a state grant if an in-state public college is listed on the FAFSA.”
Families can add colleges as their students hone in on their list of dream schools, he adds.
Other families say they delayed because they weren’t aware of the deadline or didn’t have all the data they needed, Sallie Mae found in its survey. To apply, both you and your student will need to register for your own Federal Student Aid ID, which can be done here.
It helps to gather the information you’ll need before sitting down to fill out the form. The Department of Education says you’ll need your Social Security number; driver’s license; 2018 tax returns and your bank statements.
3. Inputting the wrong data
This year could prove trickier for some families completing the FAFSA, says Charlie Javice, the founder and CEO of Frank, a company that helps students fill out the FAFSA. Because the IRS simplified the 1040 tax form for 2018, there may be some compatibility issues between the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which automatically grabs your tax return data for the aid form, and the FAFSA, she says.
That could increase the risk of errors on FAFSAs, which could get those forms flagged for review – called “verification” – from either colleges or the Department of Education, Javice says. Getting pulled for verification can slow down your FAFSA, allowing others to skip ahead of you in the line, she adds.
“Double-check your math,” Javice advises. “Make sure the right lines actually mean the right things, and keep a copy of your tax forms” on hand in case your FAFSA application is flagged.
Still, don’t let that hold you back from finishing the FAFSA, the experts say.
Says Kantrowitz: “If you don’t file, it prevents your student from getting financial aid to which they are eligible.”
For the original article click here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/10/01/fafsa-2020-2021-here-tips-deadline-financial-aid-application/3823670002/