Does it sometimes seem like the college application and financial aid process is never-ending? You and your student muddled your way through campus visits, application essays, and even managed to file the FAFSA. The Student Aid Report (SAR) looked good, so you thought the only thing remaining was for the college to send you its financial aid award letter. Instead you received a request for verification. What’s that all about?
First of all, don’t get upset or think that you have done something wrong. It is simply a request for additional information or documentation to support certain information you provided in the FAFSA. It can be related to incomplete answers, contradictory answers, missing information or may just be completely random. Often it has to do with income and financial information. At other times the college may ask for a copy of a sibling’s college registration form or further clarification on divorce and custody issues. Here is what you need to do if you do receive a request for verification:
• Look for It: If you haven’t received a financial aid award letter yet, make sure your student checks all forms of communication with the college. It might be in an online forum or sitting in an email inbox.
• Respond Promptly: The final part of the process is getting down to the wire now, and there really isn’t much time left. Read the request thoroughly to make sure you understand what is needed, and provide the requested documentation as soon as possible so as not to delay the process any further.
• Don’t Ignore It: Failure to respond to this request could result in loss of financial aid since the college will not have enough information to make a final decision. If you do not understand or do not have the necessary documentation readily available, contact the financial aid office immediately to find out what you should do.
• Keep Copies of Everything: Unfortunately, schools have been known to lose paperwork during the admissions crunch. Never send your only copy of something; always make sure you have a back-up copy at home.
Currently about one-third of FAFSA filers receive a request for verification, either from the Department of Education itself or the individual college, which does have the potential to slow down the financial aid award and college acceptance process. This may change during the next financial aid cycle. Beginning on October 1 the FAFSA will be online for each academic year. It will utilize figures from the previous tax returns, which you should be able to provide using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. In addition to bringing the financial aid timeframe more in line with the application timeframes, the hope is that it will also reduce the need for additional verification.
So, don’t be disheartened by a request for verification; take it for what it is – a request for more information. Be sure you understand what is needed and send it promptly.