Filing Tips for the PROFILE and FAFSA

Always use your legal name and correct Social Security Number.

Be certain to file the PROFILE and FAFSA using your legal name and correct Social Security number as they appear on your Social Security card. Do not use your parents’ Social Security number or your Boston University ID number. Do not use nicknames or other diminutive forms of your name.

Wait until January 1 to complete your PROFILE and FAFSA at the same time.

If you are applying for Admission through the Early Decision program, file your PROFILE by November 1. All other students should wait and not file the PROFILE and FAFSA until January 1, so that both forms are completed at the same time. By doing so, you only have to collect all your information once and you can make sure you report information consistently between the two applications.

Remember to sign your FAFSA!

To complete your FAFSA, you and your parent must sign the application. The easiest and fastest way to do so is by signing it electronically using a PIN. To apply for a PIN, go to the Federal Student Aid PIN website and follow the directions. Submitting a FAFSA without the necessary signatures will delay processing of your financial aid because an unsigned FAFSA is incomplete.

Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when filing the FAFSA.

If you or your parents filed a federal tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import IRS income and tax data directly into your FAFSA. The option will streamline the application process and help you avoid errors that cause processing delays. We strongly recommend that parents and students select this option during the initial FAFSA filing or when subsequent corrections are made to the FAFSA. As a federal income tax filer, you will be redirected to a secure IRS website, where you will give the IRS your permission to transfer income and tax data to the FAFSA. 

Report education tax credits.

Reported education tax credits are excluded from income in the need analysis formula. The amount of education tax credits (also called the American Opportunity Credit or Lifetime Learning Credits) that you or your parents claimed on a federal tax return should be reported as “Additional Financial Information” on the FAFSA and as “Income and Benefit Information” on the PROFILE.

Report Federal Work-Study earnings.

Reported Federal Work-Study (FWS) earnings are excluded from income in the need analysis formula. The amount of FWS earned in the prior calendar year should be reported as “Additional Financial Information” on the FAFSA and as “Income and Benefit Information” on the PROFILE. In addition, to be considered for FWS, be certain to answer “Yes” to the FAFSA question “Are you interested in being considered for Work-Study?”

Report tax-deferred contributions to your pension and retirement savings.

Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans (paid directly or withheld from earnings) include amounts reported on your W-2 form in box 12a through 12d (codes D, E, F, G, H, and S). The amounts must be reported on your FAFSA and PROFILE as untaxed income. If you overlook reporting this information and are offered financial aid on the basis of that incomplete FAFSA data, we may have to reduce your award later.

Do not forget to answer the FAFSA gender question.

If you leave this blank, we may not be able to verify if you have fulfilled your Selective Service requirement, which may delay the processing of your financial aid application.

Have you already received a bachelor's degree?

You will be asked this question on the FAFSA. Read this question carefully. If you did not complete your first bachelor’s degree before the upcoming academic year, you should answer “No” to this question.

It is important to indicate the number of family members enrolled in college.

Do not include parents in college or any siblings in high school who are taking college classes. When calculating your financial aid eligibility, consideration is given to each sibling enrolled at least half time in a college program leading to a degree or certificate.

Do not update your FAFSA unnecessarily.

Once you have submitted your FAFSA and you have received your Student Aid Report (SAR), please do not make any changes to it unless the SAR instructs you to do so. The information reported on the FAFSA is supposed to be a snapshot in time, so please do not update data elements that changed after you initially filed the FAFSA (e.g., the amount in your savings account, your phone number, etc.). Making unnecessary changes may result in the delay of processing your financial aid application.

How to report business and/or investment farm value on the PROFILE vs. FAFSA.

The value of any family-owned business should always be reported on the PROFILE. However, on the FAFSA, do not report the value of a family-owned business if your family owns more than 50% AND the business has 100 or fewer full-time employees. If the business is a pass-through entity (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, S-corporation, or LLC), the business income attributable to the taxpayer (e.g., through IRS Schedule C or IRS Schedule K-1) must still be reported on both the PROFILE and the FAFSA. Business and/or investment farm value includes the market value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment, inventory, etc., less business and/or investment farm debt, which means only those debts for which the business and/or investment farm was used as collateral.