What Happens After You File the FAFSA?

Are There Other Changes to the Financial Aid Process?

Have you filed your FAFSA for 2017-18 yet? The FAFSA has been online since October 1, and many families are already rushing to finish it. Technically, of course, you do have until June 30 to complete it, but that procrastination may cost you money in lost financial aid. Plus you want to make sure you adhere to all of your individual school and state financial aid deadlines.

It may sound a little confusing, but you’ll be glad to cross this off your to-do list so you can move on to other parts of your senior year, like finalizing your college choices and searching for scholarships. While you’re doing that, here are some things to keep in mind about what happens after you file your FAFSA:

  • Don’t Jump to Conclusions, Part One: Once you submit your FAFSA, you will receive an electronic confirmation page on the website and also in your email. It will tell you that you may be eligible for a certain amount of Pell Grant or Direct Student Loan assistance, but these are not the final decision. Each of your selected schools is responsible for determining its own financial aid award package based on the information you provide and other factors, such as cost of tuition.
  • Don’t Jump to Conclusions, Part Two: Once your FAFSA is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which will show your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Once again, this is an estimate that does not take into consideration the school and state financial aid, or other scholarships that might be available to you. Your schools will look at their costs and your EFC, and will try to put together an award package based on your financial need. It is possible that you might receive entirely different award amounts from each of your application choices.
  • We’re Still Working on the Timing: Although you will probably receive your EFC information very quickly, it might still take some time to receive your financial aid award packages from each of your desired colleges. Some have adjusted their financial aid award timelines in accordance with the early FAFSA opportunity, but others have not. Check your school’s website or contact the financial aid office to find out their deadlines. If your financial circumstances change dramatically before you receive your award notification, contact each of the financial aid offices and update them on your current situation.
  • You Can Make Some Corrections: While it is always best to provide totally accurate information the first time through, there are a few things you can correct or update once your FAFSA is filed. You can update your dependency status and contact information but you cannot, however, change your Social Security Number, so make sure to double-check that information. The FAFSA relies on earnings information from your 2015 federal income tax return, and other information such as cash balances as of the date you file. Your situation may have changed dramatically in either case, but you cannot go back and revise this information on the FAFSA. You must go to each financial aid office individually.
    • You Can Add Schools: You don’t have to be set on your school list to complete the FAFSA. Use it to get an estimate of the federal financial aid you might receive so that you can narrow down your selections. If you find additional schools you want to apply to down the road, you can go back and add those school codes to your FAFSA so they will also receive your information.

    Part of the idea behind the early FAFSA is that it should reduce the need for independent verification. Because many students and parents previously utilized estimates on their initial FAFSA, they would have to go back and update their applications or provide additional documentation to the colleges, but that should not be necessary any longer.