The last thing you need when applying for educational financial aid is to have your money delayed because there are mistakes on your forms. It can take up to three weeks to process a financial aid form with errors on it, so avoid these mistakes on student loan forms:
1. Using an incorrect AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) figure.
This is one of the most common errors on student loan forms. Pay careful attention when reporting income earned from work and/or other sources. Consult with your most recent tax schedule turned into the Internal Revenue Service and ask your tax advisor if you have any doubts as to your number.
2. Reporting your total income tax as equal to your AGI.
Generally, your total income tax should be less than your AGI, and usually occurs when your write in the amount of taxable income (AGI) in the field where it asks what your tax liability is. These are very often two different figures.
Also, don’t forget – do not report taxes withheld or tax due as opposed to total income tax. Ultimately, your withholdings can be higher or lower than your total income tax. Another way to think of this is to report your total income tax liability, not just what your employer held back, or just additional taxes due.
3. Writing in the wrong Social Security number!
Deadly, insofar as financial loan applications are concerned. Your Social Security number must match your other information exactly – in this era of scams and identity theft, it is more important than ever that your S.S. number jive with your name, date of birth, place of birth, etc. It’s easy to transpose a number or two – check this carefully.
Also, do not use any nicknames or anything other than your legal name as it appears on your Social Security card – this can also cause delays. Be sure to follow instructions on the forms if it requires a “placeholder” number for your parents in the event they do not have a Social Security number.
4. Not giving a complete or accurate list of assets.
Many people don’t provide a comprehensive list of their assets. Assets would not include things like pensions or the cash value of a life insurance policy, but would include businesses, owned property, and various bank accounts.
5. Not giving a complete or accurate list of dependents.
Legally, a dependent is a person for whom you provide (and will continue to provide) more than have of his or her support. Support includes gifts, money, loans, food and lodging, auto costs, medical and dental care and payment of school costs. If you have children, but another family member or someone else supports them, you should answer “no” when asked about dependents other than a spouse.
6. Not proofreading for clerical errors.
There’s so much information to fill out on student loan forms – it’s hard to make sure every word is accurate and placed in the right field, but it’s necessary to avoid delays.
Make sure you have put your name as the loan recipient in the correct places, and not confused it with any of those of your co-signors, if you have any. Triple-check to see if all required signatures are correctly in place.
Use the correct school code! Almost everything else on the application can be sorted out, but if you do not put the right code on the form, the money will be sent elsewhere and ultimately returned to the lender.
7. Skipping questions you don’t understand or for which you don’t have the answer.
Above all, don’t skip any questions whatsoever! This is not the time to be coy about your birth date! Leaving an answer blank will absolutely cause your form to be returned. Make a call to your lender or school loan coordinator; the five minutes it takes to do so is far preferable than losing three weeks to the inability to process your application!