2016 is a year of huge upheavals in the college financial aid timeframe. Because the early FAFSA has been available since early October, many topics that would previously get covered in the spring are now being discussed by the end of the year. Some colleges have moved up their financial aid decision-making timeframes. As a result, parents and students who complete the FAFSA and apply for early action or early decision may soon be receiving information about their financial aid packages. Here are a few terms you need to know to make the process easier to understand:
• SAR – The Student Aid Report: Within three days to three weeks after your application is complete, the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) will send you a Student Aid Report, which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You will need to carefully review this information to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. The school or schools you listed on your FAFSA will also have access to your SAR data electronically.
• EFC – The Expected Family Contribution: If your application is complete, your SAR will also list an Expected Family Contribution, which your college or colleges will use to figure out how much financial aid you can receive. The EFC is only a guideline for the colleges to use; it does not necessarily indicate the exact amount your family will be expected to pay towards a college education. FSA does not make the final financial aid determination either. Each school is different and relies on its own criteria, available funding, and the judgment of the financial aid office to make its awards. If your application is incomplete, your SAR will not include an EFC, and you will have to take additional steps to resolve any issues.
• Verification: Although the Department of Education believes that the earlier application availability and the use of the prior-prior-year tax information will reduce some of the estimates and errors previously encountered, your FAFSA information may still be selected for verification. This is not something to be overly concerned about. It is merely a process used to confirm that the data you supplied is an accurate reflection of your financial situation. Sometimes the process is random, and sometimes they are looking for additional evidence on which to base a decision. You may be asked to provide additional documentation to support the information you reported.
If you are confused about financial aid and student loan terminology, or need more information on the early FAFSA, schedule a free strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors now!
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