02 Feb What Does Your Student Aid Report Tell You?
As you and your high school student complete college applications and submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the next step in the college financial aid process is the Student Aid Report, or SAR. Your SAR is sent out shortly after the FAFSA is filed, either electronically or by mail.
Take a good look at your SAR when it arrives because it reveals two important points: what Federal Student Aid thinks you reported on your FAFSA and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). These two pieces of information will be used by colleges to determine your student’s eligibility for various financial aid programs. If you don’t see an EFC, you need to go back to the FAFSA to resolve any issues that have been found. Here are some other points you need to know about the SAR:
• Mistakes Happen: It is possible that you input some incorrect information or that something is reported inaccurately, so the SAR represents your opportunity to correct any mistakes. Review it carefully to determine that it accurately represents your financial position as of the date you filed your FAFSA. You cannot revise your answers, however, if something happened after that date which affects your overall financial position.
• You Can’t Change Everything: If you used estimated income information, you can update that after filing your federal income tax form. You cannot change the Social Security number that was listed, but you can change contact information to make sure you receive all relevant correspondence. If the student’s dependency status changed, that must also be updated. If you are selected for verification by any college, then you must update the FAFSA regarding certain changes.
• Keep Track of School Codes: Use the correct school codes so they will have access to your information. You can include up to ten schools on your original FAFSA. If you want to apply to another school or schools, you can delete some of your original codes and add new ones. Keep track of all the codes, though, because you will have to add them in again if you make any revisions.
• Don’t Get Overwrought Over the EFC: The EFC is based on a formula that is regulated by law which determines what your family might be expected to contribute, but it is not necessarily the amount you will be paying. Each college’s financial aid office looks at this information and then takes other criteria into consideration, including merit-based aid and student loan eligibility. You will not know the exact amount that is expected for each school until you receive their individual financial aid award letters.
There are still some areas over which you have control even if your EFC is higher than expected. You can continue to apply for scholarships, try to earn additional money before the semester begins, search for private student loans, or see if there is any room for negotiation with the colleges once the financial aid awards have been received.