The first step in applying for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA. Families of high school seniors have been at work since October 1, filing a FAFSA for the 2023-24 academic year. However, many were horrified to learn that the application uses data from their 2021 federal income tax return to calculate financial aid eligibility.
Offers from selected colleges will be based on this income information; however, many families have undergone a tumultuous upheaval in this difficult year of 2020. Some lost loved ones due to the COVID pandemic, others lost income or saw their earning capabilities slashed, and others may even have lost their homes or suffered personal property damage due to wildfires and other natural disasters.
They soon come to realize that there is no possible way they will be able to meet their Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. Do they have to tell their student to delay or change their college dream, look for any other possible sources of money, or refinance their home and dig into their retirement savings to come up with the necessary funds? Let’s take a look at some things that you can change on your FAFSA, and then discuss what to do if your financial situation is vastly different.
What You Can Change on the FAFSA
While most information cannot be changed on the FAFSA form, some information must be updated if it changes:
- Social Security Number: You must file the FAFSA using a valid Social Security Number. If it is incorrect, you will have to change it. Make sure your name exactly matches that associated with your SSN.
- Contact Information: You may update your mailing address, email address, and other contact information if it has changed.
- Dependency Status: You must update anything that changes your dependency status except a change in marital status.
- Number of Family Members: This may be updated only if you are selected for verification.
- Number of Household Members: This may be updated only if you are selected for verification.
- Schools: You may add or delete colleges listed on your FAFSA.
Making corrections or updates online requires the student to sign in using his or her FSA ID username and password. The parent cannot sign in and make changes to the form. You can make changes to the FAFSA online or contact your college and ask if they can make revisions for you electronically. Write in the corrections or updates on your paper SAR, sign it, and mail it to the address provided on the SAR. If you filed an amended tax return you can also contact the school’s financial aid office to determine if that information can be updated.
Changes That Could Affect Your Financial Aid Award
If your financial situation has changed already this year or changed dramatically since you filed your FAFSA, you need to contact your financial aid office directly, provide details in writing, and submit documentation to support your new circumstances. Some circumstances which might motivate a college to reconsider its calculation include:
- Job loss or income reduction due to COVID, natural disaster, or other circumstances.
- Unexpected medical or dental expenses that were not covered by the family’s health insurance.
- Serious illness, disability, or death of a household wage earner or family member.
- Mental incapacitation of a household wage-earner.
- Loss of home due to eviction or natural disaster.
- Marital strain, separation or divorce.
- Severe reduction in the family’s income or assets.
- Pregnancy or change in marital status of the student.
- Change in the number of family or household members, or a change in the number of household members attending college.
Contact your colleges as soon as possible so they can take this information into consideration when making financial aid award decisions. Another strategy is to up your search for scholarships to fill any anticipated income gaps.