• FAFSA Common Errors
  • Avoid These FAFSA Errors

    Ensure a Smooth Application Process

    Mistakes happen. But to ensure the best possible financial aid awards, it’s important for you (or your parents) to avoid these common errors when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Follow these simple instructions to avoid delays in the processing of your financial aid awards.

    Also be sure to watch our financial aid videos. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail CIA Student Financial and Registration Services or call us at 845-451-1500. We’re here to help!

  • Error: One of the most common errors is use of the incorrect website when completing the FAFSA.
    Tip: Be sure to use the federal website studentaid.gov. The FAFSA website is free and looks like this:

    FAFSA website

    Error: Completing the FAFSA only one time at the beginning of your program and never again.
    Tip: A FAFSA should be completed for every award year you will be attending school. FAFSA award years run from July 1 to June 30 of every year.

    Error: You try to start a FAFSA without a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID).
    Tip: You must create a FSA ID in order to start or log into your FAFSA. To create a FSA ID, go to: studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.

    Error: Your Social Security Number is inaccurate when you create your FSA ID.
    Tip: Make sure your SSN is accurate when completing the FSA ID. Double-check the SSN on the first page of the FAFSA, as well. It will cause a delay in processing if it is incorrect.

    Error: A parent enters his/her own information in the student section.
    Tip: The words “you” and “your” on the FAFSA always refer to the student.

    Error: The full name you enter into the FAFSA does not match your Social Security card.
    Tip: It is important to match your name exactly as it appears on your Social Security card.

    Error: You choose the incorrect grade level for the school year.
    Tip: You should select the grade level of the year you are attending the CIA. If you are a freshman student, you should select “1st year undergraduate and has never attended college.” If you are a transfer student and unsure of the year you are in, contact an SFRS advisor at 845-451-1500.

    Error: The “degree or certificate” question is answered incorrectly.
    Tip: Be sure to select the correct degree you plan to obtain in the current year. If you are enrolled to start the Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts program, select “Associate degree (occupational or technical program).” You should select “1st bachelor’s degree” only if you are enrolled or already in the BPS (bachelor’s) program level.

    Contact a SFRS advisor at 845-451-1500 if you are unsure of what to select.

    Error: You don’t include the Culinary Institute of America on the school list!
    Tip: If you want our SFRS advisors to receive your FAFSA, be sure to add CIA to the school list. Our Federal School code is 007304.

    Error: You select “Yes” to the question if you will be working on a master’s or doctorate program.
    Tip: If you are pursuing an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or enrolling in a certificate program at CIA, you should answer “No” to this question.

    Error: You indicate you have a child but do not actually provide financial support for that child.
    Tip: If you have a child and that child is fully or mostly supported (51% or more) by your parent(s) or someone else, then you do not have a “dependent” and should answer “No” to this question.

    Error: You answer “Yes” to the question asking if you are a ward of the court, but that does not actually apply to you.
    Tip: If you answer “Yes” to this question, you will be asked by SFRS to provide court documents to support your answer. Be prepared with any necessary supporting documents.

    Error: You answer “Yes” to the question asking if you are in legal guardianship, but that does not actually apply to you.
    Tip: This does not apply to students who are dependents of their biological or adoptive parents. You will be asked by SFRS to provide supporting documents if you answer “Yes” to this question.

    Error: You answer “Yes” to the question asking if you are homeless or at risk of being homeless when you have not actually been in that condition.
    Tip: You can only be considered homeless if you have had absolutely no shelter and no financial support within the time frame given in this question.

    Error: You skip the Parent section. (Dependent students only)
    Tip: If you are a dependent student, do not skip the parental information section. Your eligibility for aid will not be calculated if you do not fill this section in.

    Error: Household size information is entered incorrectly. (Independent students only)
    Tip: As an independent student, be sure to include any dependents that you financially support (51% or more). Be sure to include your spouse if you are married. Please contact SFRS at 845-451-1500 if you are unsure of the correct household size to enter.

    Error: You complete the parent section but are an independent student.
    Tip: If the FAFSA says you are an independent student, do not complete the parent section.

    Error: You indicate your parent is divorced but is actually re-married.
    Tip: If your parent has re-married, and is currently still married, you must select “Married” as the answer and include the information of the step-parent as well.

    Error: Household size information is entered incorrectly. (Dependent students only)
    Tip: As a dependent student, be sure to include your parent(s) and any siblings that your parent(s) financially supports within the time frame given in the question. Please contact SFRS at 845-451-1500 if you are unsure of the correct household size to enter.

    Error: You leave answers blank in the financial information section.
    Tip: Do not leave any questions blank and do not skip any sections of the financial information section. If a question does not apply to you, enter “0.”

    Error: Your parents are divorced or separated but you enter the parent that has not lived with you within the past year.
    Tip: You must provide information about the parent you have lived with the most within the previous 12 months. If that is not a clear answer, please contact SFRS at 845-451-1500.

    Error: You are not sure what the financial questions mean and fabricate numbers.
    Tip: Avoid doing this at all costs. If you are unsure what a question means, follow these steps:

    1. See if you can use the “IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).” More info on the DRT is below.
    2. If the DRT option is not available, you will have to enter everything in manually. Make sure you are referring to the 1040 (or 1040A, or 1040EZ) form in your taxes.
    3. Refer to the “Help and Hints” section on the right-hand side of the FAFSA for each field. This should explain where to find the answer on the 1040 form.
    4. Ask your tax preparer or accountant for help in understanding what the items mean.
    5. Contact SFRS at 845-451-1500 for assistance.

    Error: You do not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) even though it is available.
    Tip: If you answer “No” to all of the questions displayed below, you will see a button “Link to the IRS.” Select this button before moving to the next page on the FAFSA. This tool is very helpful in providing quick and accurate figures on the FAFSA.

    IRS Data Retrieval Tool

    • If you answer “Yes” to any of those questions, you cannot use the DRT option.
    • An “amended” tax return is when you make a change to an already filed tax return.
    • If you filed taxes as Married but Filing Separate, the DRT option is unavailable. In this case, you will be required to combine financial information for both spouses.

    Error: You do not have your parent sign the FAFSA. (Dependent students only)
    Tip: The FAFSA cannot be processed completely without your parent’s signature. Be sure to have your parent sign the FAFSA—the original FAFSA and any corrected FAFSAs submitted at a later date. In order for both the student and parent to sign the FAFSA, they must each create a FSA ID.

    Error: You select that you are the “Preparer” for the application.
    Tip: Do not select “Yes” for this if you are a student or parent completing the FAFSA. A “preparer” would be a third party who completes the FAFSA for you.