Show Me The Money. The income and expense information you report on the FAFSA must be accurate for the year before you start school, not for the coming year. This is because studies have shown that for predicting your family’s financial ability to pay for higher education, income tax information from the most recently completed tax year, verifiable from your income tax return, is more accurate than an estimate projected into the year ahead.

We’re So Sorry. Once your FAFSA has been processed, you can’t make changes to the income or asset figures you provided. If your financial situation changes after your FAFSA has been filed, perhaps due to job loss or divorce, you should talk to the financial aid administrator at your school as soon as possible.

We Are Family, Pt 1: If you live with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, you don’t need to report their income on your FAFSA. In general, you only need to report your parents’ income (birth parents or adoptive parents). If the relative you are living with has adopted you, however, and is now your adoptive parent, then you will need to include that person’s information on your FAFSA.

We Are Family, Pt 2: If you live with a girlfriend or boyfriend, you do not have to include any financial information for that person unless the two of you are actually married or are considered to have a common-law marriage under state law. However, you do have to report any rent or bills your housemate pays that you would otherwise be obligated to pay yourself. In this case, rent and expenses paid on your behalf are considered “cash support,” a form of income.

Is This Your Final Answer? You can submit corrections to your 2008-2009 FAFSA up to September 21, 2009. Why might you need to make corrections to last year’s FAFSA, after the money has been disbursed? Most of the time, changes are at the request of your school’s financial aid office, which may ask you to correct information pertaining specifically to that institution. In other cases, students have misunderstood FAFSA rules about marital status, the definition of (in)dependent student status, or how to account for children, parents, or significant others in nontraditional families. Sometimes, even misspellings or incorrect numbers go undetected until the final crunch.

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned. Even if you think you won’t qualify for need-based federal grants, you should complete a FAFSA to get access to low-cost federal student loans.

You can find more FAFSA FAQ, explanations and definitions, and a downloadable section by section instruction booklet at the federal student aid website, Completing the FAFSA.