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Before submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), double-check the information for accuracy. In particular, be sure that the income estimates are as accurate as possible. Although the income information will be corrected later, after the family files its federal income tax returns, a significant difference in income or assets may cause a significant revision in the financial aid package.
The student and parents (if the student is a dependent student) should sign the FAFSA electronically, using FSA IDs obtained from FSAID.ed.gov. Otherwise, they will need to print, sign and mail a signature page, which can delay FAFSA processing by several weeks. If the student or parents do not have access to a printer, the student will be sent a paper Student Aid Report (SAR) which must be signed and returned for FAFSA processing to continue.
By signing the FAFSA, the student and parents certify that all of the information on the form is correct and that they are willing to provide documentation during the verification process to prove that the information is correct. The student also certifies that the financial aid funds will be used only to pay for the cost of attending an institution of higher education, that he or she is not in default on a federal student loan (or has made satisfactory arrangements to repay the loan), and that he or she does not owe money back on a federal student grant (or has made satisfactory arrangements to repay the grant overpayment). The student also agrees to notify the school if he or she defaults on a federal student loan and that he will not receive a Federal Pell Grant for attendance at more than one college or university for the same period of time. Signing the FAFSA also gives permission to release FAFSA data to the student’s state of legal residence, to the schools listed on the form and to the states in which those colleges are located.
After the student and custodial parent sign the online FAFSA, the web site will display a Confirmation Page. Print a copy of the Confirmation Page, as it represents proof of the date the FAFSA was filed. The confirmation page will also show the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), estimated Federal Pell Grant and Federal Stafford Loan eligibility, as well as the list of schools scheduled to receive FAFSA data.
The Confirmation Page may also be used to transfer the FAFSA information into a state’s financial aid application form. Currently, nine states allow such a transfer: California, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
The Confirmation Page may also be used to transfer the parent’s information into the FAFSA of the student’s siblings, saving the parent some time.
Each time a student makes FAFSA on the Web corrections, a new Confirmation Page will be available which will reflect the changes.
Students should keep a copy of all forms they submit and copies of all documentation used to complete those forms.
Students should review the electronic SAR Acknowledgment or paper Student Aid Report (SAR), which will arrive within a week or two after the FAFSA has been filed. If the SAR does not arrive within three weeks, call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or log in to www.fafsa.ed.gov to inquire about the status of the student’s FAFSA. The SAR summarizes the information the family provided on the FAFSA. Each school listed on the SAR will receive an electronic copy of the information on the SAR. Make any necessary corrections using the student’s FSA ID.
After students have been admitted to one or more colleges, they should watch for financial aid award notifications. These notifications are sometimes called financial aid award letters or packages and will list the grant, scholarship, work-study and loan amounts the student might be eligible to receive. The award letter may arrive by email or postal mail.
If the family’s financial circumstances have changed after the student completes the FAFSA and other required financial aid documents, the student or parents should contact the financial aid office at each school as soon as possible, to request a professional judgment review, sometimes called a financial aid appeal.
Remember, students must reapply for financial aid each year. Eligibility for financial aid may vary from one year to the next based on changes in the student’s financial circumstances, changes in the number in college, changes in federal laws and regulations and annual updates to the need analysis formula’s tables. Applying for financial aid by all published deadlines assures that the student is considered for the maximum amount of financial aid.
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