More Tips for the New 2024 FAFSA


I did a presentation with my group of senior parents and they expressed some issues with the new Better FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). I wanted to provide some more specific tips to help.

Did you know you could go to any state college and get help with the FAFSA? Call up the Financial Aid Department and they will sit with you in solidarity to work on it. Sinclair Community College in particular has some neat FAFSA workshops where you can sit as a family and fill out the FAFSA if you want. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful way to bond?

If you’re having a problem, call up a local college because the government staff running the FAFSA is currently spending their time working on the known issues and not as available to help you as I’m sure you’d like. The Financial Aid Offices at the colleges have seen lots of issues and problem-solved them. They have empathy and will help you the best that anyone can.

As I said before and as the government said, this is a “soft launch,” meaning there are known bugs in the system and sometimes you’ll do everything right but still get error messages. It’ll work itself out at some point (hopefully) but in the meantime, I always recommend keeping an open line of communication between you and your student’s college or colleges of interest. If you let them know you’re trying to meet their deadline but XYZ issue came up with the FAFSA, they will do their best to help you. I think colleges were hoping the FAFSA would run smoothly despite opening late but they understand how things are going and have contingency plans in place.

To minimize errors, follow these steps in filling out the FAFSA.

You and your student can go ahead and get an FSA ID. It takes between 2-4 business days to process the FSA ID before you can start the FAFSA without having issues in processing time. Your student and their parents (contributors) need separate FSA IDs.

  1. Your student is going to log in and start inputting demographic information. They need to input the information correctly and accurately. They’ll put in your contact info and you will get an email saying they are adding you as a contributor on the FAFSA.
  2. Once you get that email, you can log in and fill out your part. Bring tax info from 2022 just in case the IRS Retrieval Tool doesn’t work for you and you have to manually input the information.
  3. Your student will log back in and sign that this information is all correct.

Don’t be surprised if it says it’s “In Process” for over a month. That’s normal. If you get to that point, get yourself a lottery ticket because hey, you did it!

If you were a real go-getter and tried to fill out the FAFSA in early January when it opened, there are some error messages coming out just because you tried working on it when most of the system bugs were in place. One thing to try is to delete what you have and fill the information in again to see if it submits.

Make sure everything you and your student are submitting is EXACTLY as it reads on your Social Security cards and tax statements. Students and parents have to have SEPARATE email addresses and phone numbers attached to the FSA ID. Don’t use a work or school/college email address because the FSA ID is forever, basically.

Remember, it’s not you, it’s the FAFSA. This is a temporary time of transition and someday soon, the FAFSA will be better. I’m sorry to say, Class of 2024, this is not it, but shortly it’ll be fine. If you wait a bit to file it, you will have the best chances of smoothly getting through it.


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