Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can take some careful thought and consideration. Many students and parents don’t want to think about it again once they’ve got it completed, but it’s important to take the next steps. In most cases, the FAFSA is your key to federal, state and college financial aid programs. Unlock those doors and you’ll increase your likelihood of being able to afford attendance at your selected college. So, strap those thinking caps back on and be sure to take these three crucial actions after you’ve finished the FAFSA:
1. Check Your Work! Mistakes can delay your application and limit the amount of aid you are eligible to receive. Homeroom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education, lists seven common FAFSA mistakes. Although it’s easy to understand mistakes in income and dependency status, the most surprising mistakes have to do with entering the wrong name and Social Security number. You must enter your full name as it appears on official government documents. An unnecessary mistake is completing the FAFSA, but then failing to sign it using a Federal Student Aid PIN.
2. Review the SAR and EFC: If the FAFSA is completed properly you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education within three days to three weeks. This is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted, and offers another chance to be sure you didn’t make a mistake on your FAFSA. It is still possible to correct certain errors on your FAFSA at this point, but be aware that it will further delay the financial aid process. If your application is complete, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will display in the upper right-hand corner of your SAR. The EFC is the number that is used to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid. If your application is incomplete, your SAR will not include an EFC, but will instead tell you what you need to do to resolve any issues.
3. Ask Questions if Necessary: If you think you made a mistake, are not sure about something on your Student Aid Report, or need more information about your Expected Family Contribution, it is important to ask questions now. The Federal Student Aid website has many resources to help answer your questions. You can also talk to the Financial Aid Office at any of the colleges that will be receiving your information.
While some students might think a college financial aid advisor only helps through completion of the FAFSA, an impartial third party advisor can also provide advice on taking the necessary actions after you have finished the FAFSA, too. Set up an appointment now for a free financial aid strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA) to find out what other steps you can take to make sure you receive the maximum amount of college financial aid available.