There is no doubt that filling out government forms can be a challenge.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is no exception.

The number one reason to fill out the FAFSA form! MONEY

Last year there was 183 billion dollars in financial aid given out to college students. More than 50% of that money was given out because of information supplied on the FAFSA form. This form is the gatekeeper for all that money. If you do not fill it out or fill it out incorrectly, you may lose your opportunity for your family’s share of the $183 billion-dollar financial aid pie.

Avoid the 3 costly mistakes when completing the form:

#1 Missing priority filing dates. Financial aid is given out on a first come first serve basis. Those who submit the FAFSA form on time and correctly are placed in the front of the line for any eligible aid. Priority filing dates vary by state but typically fall around February 15th of the year your student will be filing for aid.

#2 Overstating assets. The FAFSA form will ask for several things that your family owns. But not everything. In fact, you can legally exclude any “qualified retirement assets.” This includes your 401k and any IRA’s you own. On top of this you are also able to leave off equity you have in your home. Those are typically the two biggest assets that families own. Do not include them on your FAFSA. They are not required.

(Note: This is NOT true for private colleges and universities that require the Profile Form. If your child is applying to one of these schools, be prepared to provide information on your home value, and other assets that are not required on the FAFSA form).

#3 Waiting to get your taxes done. The FAFSA form and website clearly state that you can estimate your income and tax information from the previous year. But thousands of unknowing parents wait until their taxes are done to fill out the FAFSA form. This can cause you to miss priority filing dates. We advise our clients to provide estimated tax and income information in the base year and then update the information later with the Student Aid Report (SAR) once the taxes are completed. Do not wait, you may miss a priority filing date, you lose aid.