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15 Financial Aid Mistakes to Avoid

Updated February 6, 2023

Let’s face it, college is expensive. Financial aid can be a lifesaver for many students who wish to pursue higher education but cannot afford the high tuition fees. However, applying for financial aid is not always a straightforward process, and for many college bound high school seniors, it’s hard to know where to begin.  We compiled the tips and resources below so you can do research, educate yourself and be mindful to avoid any common financial aid mistakes.


When applying for financial aid, avoid these common 15 mistakes:


  1. Not filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – FAFSA is the first step in the financial aid process, and not filling it out could mean missing out on crucial aid. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)
  2. Waiting too long to apply – FAFSA and other financial aid applications have deadlines, so make sure to apply as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting aid. (Source: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA))
  3. Incorrectly filling out the FAFSA – Double-check your answers and make sure all the information is accurate to avoid delays in processing. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)
  4. Neglecting to reapply every year – Financial aid is not a one-time deal, so make sure to reapply every year to keep receiving aid. Read more about appealing for more financial aid. (Source: CollegeBoard)
  5. Not understanding the types of aid available – There are various types of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. Make sure you understand each type and what it entails. (Source: Saving for College)
  6. Not meeting eligibility criteria – Different types of financial aid have different eligibility criteria, so make sure you meet them before applying. (Source: scholarships.com)
  7. Not applying for scholarships – Scholarships are a great way to get money for college without having to repay it. Sure, it is one more thing to apply for during your senior year, but it helps you avoid taking out loans with interest. Make sure to search and apply for as many scholarships as possible. Find out more in our article about scholarships. (Source: Federal Student Aid)
  8. Not considering private loans – Federal loans may not cover all the costs, so consider private loans as a backup option. (Source: The Institute for College Access and Success)
  9. Not budgeting effectively – Financial aid is meant to help you pay for college, not pay for everything. Make sure to budget effectively and not overspend. (Source: American Student Assistance)
  10. Not paying attention to interest rates – Interest rates can cause borrowing costs to add up over time, so make sure to pay attention to them when taking out loans. (Source: College Affordability and Transparency Center)
  11. Not checking for loan forgiveness programs – Loan forgiveness programs can help you reduce the amount you have to repay. Make sure to check if you qualify for any. (Source: FinAid)
  12. Not considering online education – Online education can be cheaper than traditional college, and it may offer more financial aid options. (Source: American Student Assistance)
  13. Not talking to a financial aid advisor – A financial aid advisor can help you understand the process and make sure you avoid mistakes. (Source: CollegeBoard)
  14. Not being honest about income – FAFSA and other financial aid applications ask for information about your family’s income. Make sure to be honest and accurate, as lying could result in losing your financial aid. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)
  15. Not paying attention to deadlines – Deadlines for financial aid applications and payments are crucial, so make sure to pay attention and not miss them. (Source: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA))