(CBS News/MoneyWatch)-- College freshmen will be heading off to school in the fall,
which means that some parents are making mistakes as they struggle to
complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
But a new guide written
by Mark Kantrowitz, a nationally recognized financial aid expert, and David Levy,
the former financial aid director at California Institute of
Technology, can help you avoid such errors and make the entire process
easier. You can download for the guide free on
the Edvisors Network website.
What are the most common types of errors:
1. Sharing the wrong names. When completing the FAFSA, students and parents
need to use the legal names that are on their Social Security cards. You can't
use a nickname or an informal name. If a Social Security card uses a maiden
name, the individual must use that name on the FAFSA. The financial aid
application will not be processed if the names don't match up correctly.
the wrong tax figure. The FAFSA asks for a federal income tax figure
from a specific line of the federal tax return. Do not report your adjusted
gross income on the FAFSA. If you do, the application will be rejected.
retirement assets. When asked about the net worth of your
investments, do not include the assets in your qualified retirement accounts
such as Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k), 403(b) and pension plans.
Parents who mistakenly include these assets on the FAFSA can jeopardize
their chances for need-based financial aid.
home equity. You should not include the equity of your primary house on the FAFSA. Rental property is normally reported at investment
assets, not business assets, unless they are part of a formally recognized
5. Filing the wrong FAFSA. Depending on the time of year, two
different FAFSAs may be available. Currently, for instance, parents can file the 2013-2014 FAFSA or the 2014-2015 FAFSA.
For students seeking aid in the fall, you want to complete the 2014-2015 FAFSA.
to report the correct household size. If a step-parent has children from a previous
marriage, those children should be counted in the household size if the
stepparent provides more than half of their support and will continue to do so
throughout the award year even if the children do not live with the stepparent.
the wrong marital status. You need to report your marital status as of the
day you file the FAFSA, not the end of the calendar year. So if you were single
on Dec. 31 but got married two months later, that's what you put on the
expressing an interest in a federal work-study job. Kantrowitz and Levy recommend that families
always answer "yes" to the question about interest in a work-study campus job. The
student can always decide later not to apply for one. At some campuses, all or
most jobs are reserved for work-study students.