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FAFSA Do’s and Don’ts

Author: Financial Success | Image: Financial Success

Written by Office of Student Financial Success Peer Mentor : Kassadi Hilton

Filing the FAFSA can seem like a very complicated and daunting task. Due to this, many students often become frustrated and make mistakes within the FAFSA filing process. Here are a few tips and tricks that are helpful regarding what to do when it comes to the FAFSA filing process!


  • File Early
    • There are different deadlines for the FAFSA that are school or state specific. Make sure that you research these deadlines and file before the first one to make sure that you qualify for the most aid possible. Iowa State’s priority aid deadline is Dec. 1.
  • Read the instructions carefully
    • Slow down and take the time to complete your FAFSA correctly. Even errors regarding small details can delay FAFSA approval and impact the amount of aid that you receive.
  • Utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)
    • The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is effective as it is a much simpler way to transfer your tax information to your FAFSA. It is especially useful as it can be used quickly, and the tax information is transferred accurately. Using this tool can help to save a substantial amount of time with completing the FAFSA.
  • Understand your Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
    • Your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution, is very important to understand as it largely determines the amount of aid received. However, it is also essential to note that the EFC is not an exact amount of aid that will be received or an exact amount that needs to be paid. The EFC is computed using a formula established by law. To compute this, several factors are taken into account such as family’s taxable income, family size, number of family members in college, and assets and benefits held by the family. The EFC is very important, and in order to compute it, the FAFSA must be filled out accurately and completely.
  • Add all applicable schools
    • In order for the information from the FAFSA to be given to your school, you must add them to your FAFSA. It is required that at least one school be listed in order to receive information, but a student may add up to 10 schools.


  • Skip the FAFSA
    • Many students assume that family income is too high to be eligible for aid. However, there is not a cap on income that determines if you are eligible for aid. The FAFSA should always be submitted as you never know what aid you may qualify for! If you’re borrowing student loans, filing a FAFSA will at least gain you access to lower interest rate loans offered through the federal government.
  • Forget to double-check
    • It is very important to go back through and double-check the information that you put on your FAFSA. This can be extremely helpful toward avoiding mistakes. This can also help to speed up the process of receiving aid.
  • Procrastinate
    • It is helpful to file the FAFSA as soon as possible to guarantee that the maximum amount of aid a student is eligible for is received. It is easy to think that the deadline is far away and push off filing the FAFSA. However, filing late can have serious consequences. It is always better to get ahead when filing the FAFSA rather than procrastinate.
  • Accidentally use the wrong website
    • Make sure that when you file the FAFSA you are using the correct website. The FAFSA should be completed at ! Using an incorrect website could make your personal information vulnerable to a false source, and negatively impact aid as well. The first “F” in FAFSA stands for FREE! Be sure to never pay anyone to file your FAFSA for you.
  • Forget to sign
    • Forgetting to sign the FAFSA is one of the simplest mistakes to make when filing. It is important that you do not forget to sign your FAFSA at the end with both yours, and your parent’s FSA ID and password.