What to Do When You’ve Made a Mistake on the FAFSA

I wasn’t sure what to do first: throw up or have a heart attack. My student’s financial aid package read “errors.” I’d made a mistake on the FAFSA.

The mistake I made is a rather rare one (and not worth sharing, because it’s just that rare), but I’m not alone in making a mistake. The Department of Education even writes about the biggest ones people make, from incorrect information to simply not reading the instructions and definitions carefully enough.

But here we were, both my student and me, freaking out, at 9 p.m. at night. So what did we do?

Making Changes to a Submitted FAFSA

Firstly, I called the 800-number to find out how best to go about putting in changes, and where, for my specific problem. Good news here? The 800-number is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET! Perfect for those late evening meltdowns. Contact information can be found on the website. There’s even a chat function.

After explaining our situation and the error report we’d received, the counselor helped us log into fafsa.gov using my FSA ID, and guided us as I selected “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and created a new save key. The counselor then navigated me to the exact place I needed to be to re-enter information, which I gathered quickly, and confirmed the saving and resubmitting of the form.

One part of the problem down.

RELATED: When the FAFSA Isn’t Enough: What Is the CSS Profile?

Informing the Schools

Secondly, as the counselor explained to me, the schools already identified to receive the FAFSA information would be getting the corrected-and-updated Student Aid Report (SAR) and Estimated Family Contribution number (EFC) automatically within 24 to 48 hours, and they would, therefore, be figuring or in some cases, refiguring my student’s financial aid packages.

We decided to be proactive with the financial aid offices of the schools my student was most interested in, just to maintain transparency. I called the financial aid offices the next morning, and in one case, I went in person to visit with copies of our SARS and other paperwork. Officially, we filed appeals to get reconsidered financial aid packages. Both of the schools worked with us and communicated what they needed to help us.

RELATED: myStudentAid: The FAFSA Mobile App and How It Can Help You

Finally, my best advice? Don’t freak out. You will, of course, but it’s a manageable process. Will your EFC change? It could. Ours did, and we’re figuring out how those changes work within our finances. Making a mistake on the FAFSA isn’t the end of the world. It’s another unwelcome stressor during a very stressful time, but like all things, you’ll get through it.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

CampusChat keeps parents, students, educators and counselors informed of college news, tips, and resources -- all delivered directly to your inbox.

Your contact info will not be shared without your permission. We don't like spam and assume you don't either.

You have Successfully Subscribed!