Select Page

Reminder: The deadline to file your FAFSA application for the 2023-2024 academic year is 11:59 p.m. CT on June 30, 2024. Ensure your application is submitted on time to secure your financial aid. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on September 14, 2024.

The new 2024–25 FAFSA form is also now available. You can complete the form to apply for financial aid to help pay for attendance at college between July 1, 2024, and June 30, 2025. 

Higher education has become more and more expensive each year. Fortunately, financial aid has also increased, and the best way to apply for it is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA) form.

Completing the FAFSA form can open the door to over $130 billion in government student aid. The U.S. Department of Education redesigned and launched the 2024-2025 FAFSA form. The new 2024-2025 FAFSA form expands eligibility for federal student aid, including Pell Grants, and provides a streamlined experience for applicants. The Department of Education estimates that 7.3 million students will be eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants due to updates to student aid calculations. Depending on their situation, applicants will be able to skip up to 26 questions and complete the application in less than 10 minutes. 

In order to receive access to that student aid, you’ll need to fill out your application (which includes providing income tax information) accurately. Mistakes can be costly, so here are a few common ones that you should avoid.

What is FAFSA & How to Apply? (FAFSA Help Guide) 2

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for FAFSA

Not having your information when you complete your application. Make sure to have your and your parent’s income tax returns available for the most recent tax year. For 2023-2024 FAFSA form, you can automatically import this information directly from the IRS using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT). For the new 2024-2025 FAFSA form, the IRS DRT is being retired and replaced by a new direct data exchange with the IRS. If you or your parents have not filed your income tax return for the most recent tax year, you can make an estimate of how much you anticipate it will show, but you will need to update your application with the actual numbers after the tax returns are filed.

Inputting the wrong information. This is a common risk any time you’re completing an application, but mistakes can delay your student aid. For example, since it is a government application, you must enter your name exactly as it appears on your social security card.

Not including your parents’ information. Student applicants sometimes make the mistake of assuming that they only need to put their own information on the application if they are fully self-supporting, but that’s not how FAFSA works. You have to enter your and your parents’ information, so the FAFSA application can determine if you are a dependent or not. FAFSA uses different criteria than the IRS when determining dependency. The new 2024-2025 FAFSA form resolves technical issues, so students can now invite contributors without a social security number (SSN) to participate in their FAFSA form. 

Not signing the application. Even if you fully and accurately complete every question on the FAFSA application, if you fail to sign the application, it won’t be delivered. This also extends to including your PIN with your application. Your parents will also need to sign the application and include their PIN as well. Failure to do either will invalidate the application.

Not obtaining a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Akin to providing inaccurate or incomplete information, some people might not obtain a PIN under the mistaken assumption that it’s not necessary. Like your official name, social security number, and accurate income information, if your PIN – and your parents’ PIN – is not included, your application will not be processed. If you don’t have a PIN or you’ve forgotten it, you can get a new one at the federal student aid PIN website.

Filling out personal information online.
What is FAFSA & How to Apply? (FAFSA Help Guide) 3

Using Your Tax Return to Complete Your FAFSA Application

As a reminder, your application depends on your and your parents’ income information, and it needs to match what the government has on file with the IRS. Your financial information will need to come directly from your tax returns, so follow these steps to complete the FAFSA form accurately using your tax return.

You don’t need to send your tax returns. Your application requires certain information from your tax returns and your parents’ but not the tax returns themselves. However, it is possible that the school may request your tax returns so that they can verify your income information.

Use the IRS DRT whenever possible. You can use this tool as long as at least two weeks have passed since you and your parents have filed your income tax returns with the IRS. The tool can be accessed from the finance section of your application, and it will take you directly to the IRS website. There, you will provide certain information (as it appears on your tax return) that will enable you to review the tax information before it’s transferred to your application. Once you return to the FAFSA application, the financial information from your tax return will be filled in automatically. By using the IRS DRT, you eliminate the possibility of making mistakes that can cause your application to be delayed or rejected.

Use the IRS DRT if you have used estimated income. If you used income estimates on your application because you haven’t filed your income tax return or because not enough time has passed since you did, you should use IRS DRT to provide the actual numbers once they are available in the system. In order to update your financial information, go to the “Make FAFSA Corrections” tab and confirm that your taxes have been filed. You will then be directed to follow the instructions on the IRS DRT to transfer your tax information just as you would have if your returns had been filed before you applied.

Why you may not be able to use the IRS DRT. There are certain circumstances where you might not be able to use the IRS DRT tool. This can happen if you indicate that either you haven’t filed your tax return yet or you aren’t filing a tax return. You may not file your taxes if your income is under the IRS income filing requirement ($13,850 single or $27,700 married filing jointly for 2023). It can also happen if your marital status changed during the tax year or if you or your parents filed an amended tax return for the year. If any of those situations are your case, you will need to enter the financial information manually.

Keep these strategies in mind when completing the FAFSA to help the process go smoothly!

Share it on social networks