Submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) puts you one step closer to receiving financial aid for college. But with your FAFSA filed, what’s next? You’ll need to check the status of your application to make sure there aren’t any errors and review your financial aid offers.
How to Check Your FAFSA Status
Checking your FAFSA status online is simple using the federal student aid account you created to file your FAFSA. Follow these steps to verify your FAFSA status.
Step 1: Log in
Use your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to log in at Studentaid.gov/fsa-id/sign-in, or through the login portal on the official myStudentAid mobile app (available in the Apple and Google Play app stores). Your FSA ID is the username and password that you use to access federal student aid tools, including the FAFSA form and status, your FSA account and aid info, and the National Student Loan Data System.
When you log in, you’ll see your FAFSA status listed under “My FAFSA.” Within three to five days of filing your FAFSA online, you’ll get an email about your next step: reviewing your Student Aid Report (SAR).
Step 2: Review your FAFSA Student Aid Report
The Department of Education will email you a link to your SAR, and you can also log in online or through the myStudentAid app to view it. If you don’t have a valid email address on file, you’ll receive your SAR through the mail in seven to 10 days.
The SAR provides information about your eligibility for different financial aid, your 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. Review the SAR carefully to ensure it has no mistakes or omissions. You can download and print your SAR if you want to retain a copy for your records.
It can take as few as three days to as many as two weeks for your report to become available, depending on how you signed your FAFSA. Using your FSA ID to sign your FAFSA will expedite the process.
Step 3: If Necessary, Correct Your FAFSA
One of the benefits of checking your FAFSA status is that you can correct any errors and make 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 the form before mailing it to the address on the SAR.
Step 4: Check Additional Student Portals for Specific Colleges
You can check your financial status at different schools you’re planning to attend using their online portals, or by contacting their financial aid office. 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 financial aid department as soon as possible so you can make changes to erroneous information and take advantage of any early opportunities they might offer.
Understanding Your Student Aid Report and Offers
The colleges you listed in your FAFSA will use your SAR to gauge your financial situation, then tell you the cost of attendance as well as any financial aid you can get. They’ll send this information in a financial aid award letter. Schools typically start sending the letters around the same time they mail college admission offers.
The FAFSA isn’t the only application for student aid out there. This is also a good time to find and apply for college scholarships, state student aid, or fill out the CSS Profile if your college requires it. Your financial aid office can help you find additional student aid opportunities to apply to.
You’ll want to closely review your aid award letter. Financial aid terminology can be confusing, and different institutions use slightly different language when discussing it.
Here are some common phrases you might see while reviewing your FAFSA status, Student Aid Report, or financial aid award letters.
- Eligibility: This refers to whether you fit the eligibility guidelines for student aid based on your financial situation and family size.
- Expected family contribution (EFC): A formula the government uses to determine how much money your family can contribute toward your cost of attendance. The EFC is expressed as a number.
- Subsidized and 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.
- Early aid estimate: The federal student aid website allows you to estimate your eligibility for federal student aid using its free FAFSA4Caster tool, and some individual colleges have their own calculators, too.
- Interest rate: You will need to pay interest—a fixed percentage of the amount you owe—once you take out a federal student loan.
- Loan fee: A one-time fee charges as a percentage of the loan amount, that’s withheld from the funds disbursed (or paid out) to you.
Alternatives to Federal Student Aid
If your federal student aid amount 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.
Many grassroots organizations offer college scholarships, but you have to search and apply for them yourself. Review resources for finding scholarships online and devote time to this process.
Apply to everything that seems related to your interest or life experience, even if you don’t think you have a shot—you might be surprised!
Get Private Student Loans
Many students opt to use private student loans to supplement their federal funds. Make sure you shop around with different lenders to compare student loan rates. Private loans will not be eligible for federal repayment programs or forgiveness and, unlike federal loans, your credit scores will influence your interest rate.
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.