Many people take a trust-but-verify approach to life. They believe in others, and want to trust them, but also take the time to check their information, so they can make better decisions. The same can be said of the college financial aid verification process. After you have submitted your FAFSA or CSS Profile, you might be asked to supply additional documentation to support the information that was submitted. You might see a note on your Student Aid Report saying you’ve been selected for verification, or your school might contact you to inform you that your application been selected.
This does not mean there is anything wrong; the Department of Education verifies some forms, while some colleges choose to verify all or a certain percentage of their applications. Sometimes there is insufficient information available for them to make a decision, so they will request more from you. Here is what to do if you actually receive a request for verification:
- Stay alert: Review your Student Aid Report, check your email, and visit college portals regularly to find out if your application has been selected for verification.
- Don’t get upset: This is a normal part of the financial aid process. It does not indicate that anything is wrong.
- Understand what information is needed: Look closely at the request to be sure you understand exactly what type of documentation is required. If you do not understand, contact the financial aid office immediately for further clarification. Items which might need verification include gross income, taxes paid, household size, or change in family financial status. Look for indictors as to what documents are acceptable to verify the particular area in question. If you need to provide a tax transcript you can use the IRS’s Get Transcript service at gov/transcript.
- Respond quickly: Don’t let this set you off your financial aid timeline. Gather the information and submit it promptly. Some colleges might ask you to provide the information by a certain deadline. You can check to be sure it has been received.
- FAFSA corrections: If you do realize that you made errors on your FAFSA, fix them before you send in your documentation. You can’t change everything, but correct the mistakes you can. If, and only if, you have been selected for verification, you must update certain household information.
CSS Profile Documentation Requests
Students who complete the CSS Profile may be asked to submit information through the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC). IDOC allows you to submit your financial aid documents online, and the College Board then provides them to all of your IDOC schools automatically.
Forms that might be required for IDOC include specific year tax returns, W-2 forms, and other financial aid documents for yourself and all of your parents. Parent documents are uploaded following the same process as the student. In some cases you’ll be required to print and sign a financial aid form. You may need access to a printer. You can also sign some forms electronically. View the instructions provided by College Board for more information on electronic signatures.
Until you are notified, you cannot sign in to IDOC. After you’ve been notified, you can sign in to IDOC and:
- View your financial aid deadlines.
- Upload required financial aid documents.
- Track submitted documents.
Trust-but-verify is the name of the game in financial aid. Verification is not meant to be a punitive process, but it can negatively affect your financial aid package if not completed promptly and properly. Don’t let a lack of attention to detail at the last minute foil your efforts to quality for financial aid. Follow the process through to completion, and try to qualify for the maximum amount of financial aid possible.
CFAA is here to help with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to working through the verification process. Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.