Common Application Errors
Many mistakes made during the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) occur because students and/or parents do not fully understand the application instructions. While few errors will require you to start all over, most errors can delay the processing of your FAFSA at the federal level, your award at the university level, or both. If you complete the FAFSA online, automatic error checks are run that are not available on the paper form. Therefore, we highly recommend that you complete your FAFSA on-line at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
We have compiled a list of common errors made on the FAFSA to help you through the process. Select the section of the FAFSA that you are reviewing to see what can cause common problems:
Info About the Student
- Although other people (besides the student who is applying for aid) may help fill out this form, it is about the student. On this form, the words "you" and "your" always mean the student. The word "college" means a college, university, graduate or professional school, community college, vocational or technical school, or any other school beyond high school.
- It is important that you use your proper name as it appears on your Social Security card.
- Be sure your Social Security Number is accurate when entering it online. The processing center and U.Va. use this number as a key in the application process. An error here can cause a substantial delay.
- If you are applying for financial aid at more than one school, answer enrollment questions according to your plans for your first-choice college.
- Make sure the question regarding the possession or selling of illegal drugs is answered honestly. FAFSA on the Web will not let you continue with the application process until this question is answered. Having a conviction may or may not hamper your ability to receive federal aid. Visit the Drug Question Worksheet website and http://studentaid.ed.gov/eligibility/criminal-convictions for more information. If you have questions, contact the federal processing center 1-800-433-3243.
- If you answered "No" to all questions in the Dependency Determination section, FAFSA on the Web will direct you to complete both student and parent information. You will be considered "Dependent" for Financial Aid purposes.
- A dependent is a person for whom you (the student) provide and will continue to provide more than half of his/her total support. If a student has a child and that child is being supported by the student’s parents or someone else, then the student does not have a "dependent."
- You are a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces only if you have engaged in active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard) or as a member of the National Guard or Reserves who was called to active duty for purposes other than training, or were a cadet or midshipman at one of service academies AND were released under a condition other than dishonorable.
Student and Parent Income
- We recommend that you complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1, 2015. If you have not yet completed your 2014 tax return you can use estimated tax information and then you must correct that information on you FAFSA after you file your return.
- If you or your parents have not yet filed your 2014 federal income tax returns, but feel that your income is similar to 2013, you can use values from your 2013 tax return as estimates. If your 2014 income is not similar or you do not want to use last year’s tax return for estimates, you may use the Income Estimator Tool available in the FAFSA.
- Please note that if the student and parent both file a tax return, the student cannot be claimed as an exemption on both returns.
- After you have completed your tax return, we recommend you wait 10 days before you update your FAFSA. When you update your tax status in the FAFSA to “Already Completed” you will be prompted with several questions to see if you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This will allow you to transfer your tax information directly from the IRS website to your FAFSA. If you do this and do not alter any of the information, this can be used to verify your tax information if you have been selected for verification by the U.S. Department of Education.
- If your legal parents are married to each other, or are not married to each other and live together, answer the questions for both parents.If your parents have divorced or separated and do not live together, provide information about the parent you lived with most during the past 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, answer in terms of the parent who provided the most financial support during the last 12 months or during the most recent year that you were actually supported by the parent.
- Do not leave the questions about parent name, Social Security Number, and date of birth blank! If this information is blank or incorrect, your FAFSA will be rejected and cannot be processed.
- Marital status of parent refers to the status of the parent with whom you live. This means if your biological parents are divorced and you live with your mother who has remarried, then her status is "married." Given this scenario, both the mother's income and her husband's must be listed on the application.
- If you or your parents contributed to tax-deferred pensions and savings plans (paid directly or withheld from earnings), contributions should be reported in the Untaxed Income section of the FAFSA. Such contributions arefound on the W-2 form, Box 12a through 12d, codes D,E,F,G,H and S only (do not include code DD). Housing, food, and other living allowances paid to members of the military, clergy, and others are also considered untaxed income.
Household Size and Number in College
- If you are considered "dependent" for the 2015-2016 academic year according to financial aid regulations, include in your parent(s)’ household: yourself, your parents, your parents’ other children (if your parents will provide more than half of their support between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, or if the other children could answer “no” to every dependency status question) and other people if they now live with your parent(s), and your parent(s) provide more than half of their support and will continue to provide more than half of their support between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016.
- List the number of people in your parent(s)' household including yourself who will attend college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. Do not include your parents. Count only the members who will attend at least half-time in a degree or certificate program that leads to a recognized education credential at a college that is eligible to participate in Federal Student Aid programs.
- Independent students, include in your household: yourself, your spouse if you have one, your children if you provide more than half of their support, and other people if they now live with you, and you provide more than half of their support and will continue to provide more than half of their support from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.
- Also if independent, list the number of people in your household who will attend college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. Count only the members who will attend at least half-time in a degree or certificate program that leads to a recognized education credential at a college that is eligible to participate in Federal Student aid programs.
Releases and Signatures
- The University of Virginia’s Title IV Code is 003745. For the processing center this is as important as your social security number. Regardless of how you list our name, we will receive your information if the code is correct. If the code is incorrect, the information will then go to another school and NOT to U.Va. If you do not list our code, we cannot process any financial aid for you.
- It is imperative that the student and, if the student is dependent, one of the student's parents sign the FAFSA on the Web electronically using a PIN, which can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Education through their website. Both student and parent must obtain a PIN. If you do not have a PIN, you may print and mail the Signature Page from the website. If the PIN is not entered, or the Signature Page is not mailed, this can cause a rejection of your application and it cannot be processed until the signature is received. This can cause serious delays in the receipt of your aid. DO NOT close your browser until you reach the page with your confirmation number. Otherwise your application will not be transmitted and processed. We recommend that you print your Confirmation Page for your records.