You’ve submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and you’re glad that’s over with. But then you’re selected for FAFSA verification.
If you’re asked to verify your FAFSA, don’t worry. It’s a common extra step in the student aid application process. Many students are selected for verification at random, and some colleges have a practice of verifying FAFSA data for all students. Here’s what to expect if your FAFSA is selected for verification and some tips to navigate the process.
What Is FAFSA Verification?
In short, your college does a verification to double-check the accuracy of the information you provided in your FAFSA. Once you’ve received notification that your FAFSA has been selected, you’ll be asked to provide additional documentation. Your college will review this information to complete the verification process.
Why Was My FAFSA Selected?
You’ll usually get notified that your FAFSA was selected for verification in one of two ways. Either your college will notify you, or you’ll learn from your Student Aid Report, which comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office after you submit the FAFSA.
Being selected for FAFSA verification doesn’t mean you did anything wrong or have a reason to be concerned. Still, certain factors increase the chance you’ll be selected for verification.
For one, you won’t be selected for verification unless you qualify for need-based federal aid, such as a Pell Grant or subsidized loan, so that automatically narrows the pool of potential candidates. Listing an income of $0 on the FAFSA can also get you flagged for verification since your income is an important part of how your student aid is calculated.
Students who qualify only for unsubsidized aid, like TEACH Grants or unsubsidized loans, are not required to verify.
FAFSA Verification Steps
Verifying your FAFSA information is straightforward, and you can follow these steps to do so.
Be Proactive and Organized
Don’t put off the FAFSA verification process—take action right away. Respond to all communications from your college. The financial aid office may offer additional help or resources, such as FAFSA verification workshops or guides, to walk you through the process.
Pay attention to all communications you get from your college or the FSA office, and keep records to ensure you’re properly following instructions. Your college is required to inform you about the process, including how long you have to submit documents and what might happen if you don’t meet that deadline.
Gather Requested Documentation
Next, your college will tell you what’s needed. Here are the types of information you can be asked to verify:
- Adjusted gross income
- U.S. income tax paid
- Education credits
- Untaxed IRA distributions
- Untaxed pensions
- IRA deductions and payments
- Tax-exempt interest
- Income earned from work
- Household size and number of people in college
- High school completion status
- Your identity and purpose for seeking financial aid
The documentation you’ll need will depend on your college’s procedures. Many schools will have you complete and submit their own verification worksheets as part of the process. Some types of information, such as proving the number of enrolled college students in your household, require only a signed statement attesting to it.
Other items might require more official proof. If you’re asked to verify your income or tax information, for example, you might provide a tax return. Or, to prove you graduated high school, you might need to provide your diploma or transcript.
The FAFSA provides an option to import income and tax information with its IRS Data Retrieval Tool rather than entering it manually. It’s faster and can reduce the chance of errors on your FAFSA when you’re completing or verifying the application.
Submit by the Deadline
The final step is to submit everything on time, first making sure the documentation is error-free. You (or your parents, if they provided the documents) will also need to sign each piece of documentation to certify it.
How Verification Can Affect Your Student Aid
When erroneous or outdated information is found in the verification process, it is corrected. If the errors are in FAFSA data that determined your financial need, your college will recalculate and adjust your student aid package accordingly.
If student aid was already paid out to you and it’s determined that you no longer qualify, your future disbursement might be smaller to compensate. In some cases, you might even need to repay the money that you got from federal aid.
While it’s less common, some students might actually benefit from the FAFSA verification process. A correction could increase the amount of student aid for which they qualify.
Whatever your situation, it’s important to review any changes to your student aid eligibility. Your financial aid office can walk through your updated financial aid package to help you fully understand what’s different and what options and obligations you have moving forward.