What Happens After You File the FAFSA?

Is Your Financial Aid Journey Done or Is It Just Beginning?


Congratulations - you got your documentation together, sweated your way through the form, and finally submitted your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Now you just have to wait for those financial aid offers to come rolling in - right? Well, not exactly. Although you can certainly feel good about what you have accomplished, there are still a few more steps you and your student need to take in the financial aid process.

Here is what happens after you file the FAFSA:


  • Student Aid Report: If you provided an e-mail address with your application, you should receive a notification in about 3-5 days that your Student Aid Report (SAR) is ready. If you have no e-mail address, your SAR will be mailed in about 7-10 days. Your SAR summarizes the information you provided and usually contains an EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. This amount is determined by FSA based on family income, assets, household size, and number of people in college. Review the SAR carefully to make sure there are not any errors. If it does not have an EFC, you may need to supply more information. If you do not receive a SAR, go to the FAFSA website to check the status of your application.
  • Corrections: If you filed the FAFSA using income estimates you can go back and update that information once your 2015 federal tax returns are completed. Information must be accurate as of the time you submit the FAFSA. If a parent loses a job after filing the FAFSA, for example, you cannot change the income on the form but you should notify the colleges directly of this change in financial situation. Log in to the FAFSA website and click on “Make FAFSA Corrections” to supply information that was requested on the SAR.
  • College Review: The colleges you listed on the FAFSA will receive this information in about a day, but they might not access it immediately. When they do they will review your financial information and EFC, and consider it in accordance with their own financial aid protocols. You may be asked to provide verification, or additional documentation, if they have questions about some of the answers you provided. Once their review is complete, a financial aid award letter will be prepared and sent to you. This will outline the college’s offers including federal and state financial aid, as well as any work-study programs, merit aid, or federal student loans for which your family qualifies.
  • Compare Financial Aid Offers: If your student has not yet settled on a college, you can now compare all of the financial aid offers you have received. Look closely at the costs each college provides and think about other out-of-pocket expenses your family may incur. Then look closely at the financial aid offers to see exactly how much is in grants or scholarships, work study programs, or federal student loans. The difference is the amount your family will be expected to pay either through savings or private student loans. Be aware of exactly how much debt you and your student are acquiring and think about your ability to realistically repay this amount after graduation.


You will then accept a specific college’s offer of admission along with its financial aid package, and your student will be on the way to college! Now that you’re an expert in the FAFSA process , be prepared to do it all again soon, because the 2017-18 application will be online beginning October 1, 2016.