How to Read a Student Aid Report

How to Read a Student Aid ReportAs high school seniors and their parents travel the college path, they come across many strange acronyms. You might have met some of these when you went to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, using the DRT, or IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Or it might have been the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile. These strange letter combinations are simply shorthand ways to define parts of the college financial aid process.

After you complete the FAFSA, you will receive the next document in the parade of acronyms – the SAR, or Student Aid Report. This information is also available to the schools listed on your FAFSA. If you provided a valid e-mail address with your FAFSA, you will receive instructions on how to access your SAR online. If you did not provide an e-mail address, or submitted a paper FAFSA, you will receive either a SAR or a SAR Acknowledgement through the regular mail.

The Student Aid Report summarizes the information provided on your FAFSA. Colleges utilize this information when making their financial aid award decisions. Here are some important points to know about the SAR:

  EFC or Expected Family Contribution: Look at the upper right-hand corner of your SAR for the Expected Family Contribution. If there is no amount shown, you will need to take additional steps to resolve any issues which have been detected. While the EFC can help your family estimate how much you might have to pay for college, it is not the final determination. A formula is used to calculate the EFC, taking into consideration such factors as your family’s income, assets, and benefits, as well as family size and the number of family members attending college. If the EFC is low, you might be able to anticipate receiving a higher amount of financial aid, but each school makes its own assessment of the information you provide and sends you an individual financial aid award package.

  Data Release Number (DRN): This four-digit number also appears in the upper right hand corner on the first page of your SAR. You will need this number if you choose to allow your college or career school to change certain information on your FAFSA form.

 Review your SAR Carefully: You are responsible for reviewing your SAR to make sure it is correct. This information can be used to determine your eligibility for several types of financial aid, including federal, state and institutional. A school may ask you to verify the accuracy of your FAFSA data, so you need to be sure the information is correct.

There are certain steps you can take to correct or revise your FAFSA if you find an error, but be aware that any information you provide must be accurate as of the day you file the FAFSA. If your financial situation has changed substantially, you must work with each college’s financial aid office to provide additional documentation.