If you are a senior in high school (rising college freshman), or the parent of one, and you just submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA), congratulations! You took a major step in paying for college. Aside from waiting, you are probably wondering what comes next.
Check your email to see if your application was submitted successfully. You’ll find confirmation that the Student Aid Office of the Department of Education received your application. If you’d like to check the status of your FAFSA, you can find more information about how to do that here.
You received your Student Aid Report
The Student Aid Division of the Department of Education will process your electronic application over the next three to five days, and you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) via email. (If you mailed the form or didn’t provide an email address, it’ll take a little longer to get your Student Aid Report response via the USPS.)
Should you need to resolve any issues in your submission, it will be highlighted in your Student Aid Report along with detailed instructions about how to remediate them. Additionally, it will highlight whether you need to provide any further information, like additional income documentation.
Review it thoroughly
It’s always good practice to review your submission with fresh eyes. You should verify that all the information is correct.
If you find any missing or incorrect information, update it on the Federal Student Aid website by logging into your account on FAFSA.gov and selecting the ‘Make FAFSA Corrections’ option on the ‘My FAFSA’ page.”
Understanding Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
While your SAR won’t include your Federal, State or School Aid, it will include your expected family contribution. An EFC number is a six-digit number that may include leading zeros.1 This is the amount you pay to cover your college costs, including tuition, books, supplies, accommodations, transport, and other study expenses. It may or may not be what you expect your family’s paying for college contribution. A higher EFC means that your family has more substantial income and assets and therefore can afford to pay more for college. A lower EFC represents that your family cannot afford to pay as much, and therefore you have a greater need for financial aid.
What does it mean when my SAR says my family contribution is 000000?
This means a family has no ability to contribute financially to paying for college. Additionally, 010000 means a family can afford to pay $10,000 of college costs. The rest can be covered by Federal, State or school aid, or loans. It’s important to note that your EFC is not the exact amount that you’ll need to pay for college. It’s a baseline used to work out your financial need, but you may end up paying significantly more (or less) than this figure.
Is there anything I need to do for the colleges or universities I listed in my FAFSA?
Once the Department of Education processes your FAFSA form, an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) is sent to the colleges and universities listed on your FAFSA form. The colleges and universities are responsible for creating an award package for you.
However, just listing a college or university on your FAFSA form is not enough to receive aid from them. Most colleges and universities don’t create aid packages for every applicant who lists their institution on a FAFSA form. Reach out to the financial aid office to confirm they received the ISIR and see if additional information is needed for them. Also, let them know that you would really like to go there, and your financial aid package is a part of your decision process.
Additionally, if you submitted corrections or additional information, which may change your financial profile, it’s important for you to check in with colleges on your list You want to ensure that they don’t need additional information to reassess their financial aid decision and your relative award package.
If you accidentally left a college off your list or want to add a new one to your FASFA, it’s super easy! Just refer to these instructions on the Federal Student Aid website.
Remember, if you didn’t get the Financial Aid Package you wanted from your preferred institution, follow-up with them and let them know more. You can find out more about that here.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
It’s your senior year, and there’s a lot on your plate. Just remember that the road to paying for college is a marathon, not a sprint. Submitting your FASFA is just the first step. It’s an important component of getting aid so you can attend your preferred college and reduce the amount you may need to borrow.