How to correct FAFSA mistakes

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(MoneyWatch) What happens if you make a mistake on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid?

It's an excellent question since many families commit errors when completing the FAFSA, the financial form that all families and students must complete to qualify for college financial assistance. Errors are common since the FAFSA includes 130 questions on dependency status, income and assets.

To fix them, head to the FAFSA website and click on the correction link. You will be directed to log in and provide your federal student aid PIN number. Once you have made the FAFSA correction and received a confirmation number, it will take three to five days to process it.

What you shouldn't change on your FAFSA

A great deal of the information on the federal financial aid form should not be updated because it is supposed to be accurate as of the day the filer originally signed the FAFSA. For instance, you should not change your marital status if it has changed since the day the original FAFSA was submitted.

You also shouldn't update your financial information if it was originally correct. For example, if you spent some of your savings after filing the FAFSA, you may not update your information to show a change in that amount. You should talk to the financial aid office of the schools where your child has applied to let them know of any significant change in income since the FAFSA was submitted.

Information that you can't change on the FAFSA

There is only one critical piece of information on the FAFSA that you can't change if you make a mistake. You can't change your Social Security number electronically. You must correct that on a paper document called the Student Aid Report (SAR). If you need a paper SAR, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center to request one.

If you made a mistake in reporting your Social Security number, you could also ask the financial aid offices at the schools on your list whether you should start over again and submit a new FAFSA.

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