How to Check Your FAFSA Status for College Financial Aid
This step-by-step guide can help
After submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, you may be one step closer to financial aid for your continued education. FAFSA covers a variety of loans and financial aid, from grants to work-study opportunities to scholarships from your intended university. Your FAFSA status can be accessed online through the “My FAFSA” portal on the official website for federal student aid.
Checking your FAFSA status online is simple, once you’ve set up your account.
How to Check Your FAFSA Status
After creating an account on the federal student aid website, checking and verifying your FAFSA status requires three steps.
Step 1: Log in.
Once you’ve made an account, use your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to log in. Your FSA ID is a username and password that you can use to get into different branches of the federal student aid website, including the federal student aid website, StudentLoans.gov, and the National Student Loan Data System.
The federal student aid website has a video that can help you create an FSA ID.
Once you’re able to log in, your FAFSA status will be listed under “My FAFSA.”
Step 2: Review your FAFSA Student Aid Report.
You will get access to your FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR) once you’ve completed your FAFSA account and application. The SAR provides information about your eligibility for different financial aid, including expected family contribution (EFC), and a four-digit number for data release. Colleges can use this code to add their institution to your FAFSA application. It can take up to three weeks for your report to become available, depending on the information you’ve submitted.
If you find an error in your FAFSA SAR, you can update it online at through the federal student aid website.
You can download and print your SAR if you want to retain a copy for your records.
Step 3: Check additional student portals for specific colleges.
You’ll probably have an online portal specific to the college you’re planning to attend. You can check your financial status at different schools using their online portals. The information about how to log in will likely be sent by a college via email or your acceptance letter.
It’s good to familiarize yourself with your college’s online portal and other school websites as soon as possible so you can make changes to erroneous information or take advantage of any early opportunities they might offer.
Understanding the Language in Your FAFSA Status
Financial aid terminology can be confusing, and different institutions use slightly different language when discussing it. If you’re confused as to what you’ve been awarded based on your FAFSA status, you can call the financial aid office at your college to ask them to help clarify.
Here are some common phrases you might see while checking your FAFSA status.
- Eligibility: This refers to whether you fit the guidelines for aid based on your financial situation and family size.
- Award amount: This is the total amount your school expects to pay in financial aid, after combining all possible forms of financial aid that have been awarded to you and taking into account your expected family contribution and how much it costs to attend your school.
- Expected family contribution (EFC): The information you provide on your FAFSA will help the federal government determine your financial need, based on what its formula determines your family will be able to contribute. The EFC is expressed as a number.
- Subsidized vs. unsubsidized: When referring to federal loans, the interest on a subsidized loan is usually paid by the government while you’re in school or if the loan is in deferment. With an unsubsidized loan, you’re responsible for paying all the interest.
- Deferment and forbearance: If you meet certain requirements, you might be able to reduce or completely stop loan repayment for a specified period of time. Forbearance usually requires paying accrued interest on the loans, while deferment might not.
- Early aid estimate: The federal student aid website allows you to calculate your eligibility for federal student aid using its free FAFSA4Caster tool.
- Interest rate: You will need to pay interest—a fixed percentage of the amount you owe— once you take out a federal student loan.
Correcting Your FAFSA
One of the benefits of checking your FAFSA status is that you’ll be able to correct any errors or make necessary updates. You can make corrections online from your profile under “Make FAFSA Corrections” or print a copy of your SAR and make corrections directly on it before mailing it in to the address on the SAR.
Alternatives to Federal Student Aid
If your financial aid package is less than you expected, you do have options to help you find the funds to go to school. Here’s what you can do.
1. Find Scholarships
Many grassroots organizations offer scholarships to pursue a higher education, but you have to search and apply for them yourself. Review resources for finding scholarships online and devote time to this process.
Apply for everything that seems related to your interest or life experience, even if you don’t think you have a shot—you might be surprised!
2. Get Private Student Loans
Many students opt to use private student loans to supplement their federal funds. Make sure you shop around with different private lenders to compare interest rates. Private loans will not be eligible for federal repayment programs or forgiveness.
3. Work and Save Money
If you’re still struggling to find enough money to pay for school, another option is to work and save money until you feel you have enough to start your college education. You could consider adding a side hustle on top of your job to help save money faster.