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Tips when filing the FAFSA

1) Apply Early: Do not wait for your taxes to be filed. File now using income estimates from the prior tax year.

2) Use correct student & parent information: Check your name, date of birth and social security number.

3) Remember, the applicant on the FAFSA is always the Student.

4) Carefully follow instructions for dependency questions (46-58):

  • These questions determine whether parent data is necessary, and whether the student is considered “independent” for the purposes of financial aid. Answering these questions incorrectly may cause FAFSA on the web to skip questions about parent income and delay processing of your application by your financial aid professional.
  • Use information for the parent you live with, and step-parent, if that parent is remarried. Refer to the FAFSA instructions for more information. Your biological parents are not necessarily considered your legal guardians.
  • If your biological parents are divorced, but your custodial parent has remarried, their current marital status is ‘remarried’, and you should report your Step-Parent’s information and income on the FAFSA.

5) Review the federal benefits questions 75-79: If your family receives any of these benefits and reports them correctly on the FAFSA, the benefit(s) will be taken into account when determining family need.

6) Use the correct tax filing status: If you file your tax return with an incorrect status, such as using “Head of Household” when you are married, you will need to file an amended tax form using the correct status and processing of your financial aid will be delayed. Click here to be sure you used the correct status.

7) Click here for questions involving 1040, 1040A, and 1040A/EZ eligibility. This is helpful in answering questions 35 (student) and 82(parent)

8) When reporting the correct number in your household and attending college, do not include your parent as another family member attending college. For more instructions on who to include in both your household size and as attending college, refer to the FAFSA instructions. Remember to count yourself as a member in the household and in the number attending college.

9) Be sure to update your FAFSA once your taxes are filed.

  • We encourage you (if eligible) to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically populate the FAFSA with your tax information.
  • The IRS Data Retrieval Tool simplifies the application process and helps reduce errors. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool does not, however, automatically update reported income earned from work. You will need to update this information manually.
  • If you are unable or choose not to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, please remember to update the following items:
    • Update the question regarding completion of your tax return from “Will File” to “Filed”.
    • Update earned income from wages as reported on your W2 forms.
    • Update Income tax PAID! (Question 37 (student) or Question 86 (parent)).
    • From IRS Form:
      • 1040 - line 56 minus line 46 or 1040A - line 28 minus line 36 1040EZ - line 10
    • Update untaxed income reported on both your tax return and your W-2 form. (Question 45 (student) or Question 94 (parent)). Pay close attention to the following items:
      • Payments to tax-deferred pensions are reported in Boxes 12a through 12d of your W-2 form, codes D, E, F, G, H and S. Don’t include amounts reported in code DD (employer contributions toward employee health benefits). You do not report the total value--only the yearly contribution!
      • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions from IRS Form 1040—lines (15a minus 15b) or 1040A—lines (11a minus 11b). Exclude rollovers. If negative, enter a zero.
      • Untaxed portions of pensions from IRS Form 1040—lines (16a minus 16b) or 1040A—lines (12a minus 12b). Exclude rollovers. If negative, enter a zero.
  • Remember to report any income exclusions! (Question 44 (student) or Question 93 (parents))! Pay close attention to the following items:
    • Report Federal Work-Study earnings from your 2014 W-2.
    • Combat pay or special combat pay. Only enter the amount that was taxable and included in your adjusted gross income. Don’t include untaxed combat pay.
    • Parents, be sure to report Education Credits that may appear on the tax return (1040: Line 50) & (1040A: line 33).

 10) If you have any issues, you can always call the FAFSA helpline at 800-433-3243.