April 22, 2011

Understanding the FAFSA Verification Process

Verification is a part of the student loan application process that can confuse borrowers. This secondary procedure confirms certain information you provided on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Not everyone’s FAFSA is verified, but being selected doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong in the application process—going through the process could actually increase your financial aid award.

Why You May Be Selected for Verification

Only about 1/3 of all FAFSA applicants will be selected for verification. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) or your school can choose to verify your FAFSA for the following reasons:

  • You were chosen at random.
  • Your FAFSA contains estimated information.
  • Your FAFSA was incomplete.
  • Inconsistencies were found in the information you provided on your FAFSA.

ED will notify you if you’ve been selected. However, contact your school’s financial aid department, not ED, to begin the process. You cannot receive your financial aid until you complete the verification process—which can take up to 45 days—so it’s important to act quickly.

Required Documentation

You will likely need to provide documentation to validate certain information on your FAFSA, but not everyone submits the same documents. Do not turn in any documentation unless your school specifically requests it.

The financial aid administrator at your college will compare what you reported on the FAFSA to the documentation you provide and adjust your aid accordingly. He or she will verify the following information for you (and your spouse and parents, when applicable):

  • Number of people in your household
  • Number of people in your household attending college
  • Income and child support amounts
  • Tax information

Remember: Do not mail your documentation to ED. Submit it to your financial aid administrator at your school.

Changes to Your Financial Aid Package

Your financial aid administrator must resolve any discrepancies found during verification. As a result, your financial aid package can increase or decrease after verification is completed.

If you used estimated tax information when you filed your FAFSA, you can update this information during the verification process. The same is true if your income or a family member’s income has changed since you submitted your FAFSA. If you made a mistake when filing your FAFSA, you can correct that information during verification. Any of these updates could lead to changes to your financial aid award.

Stay a Step Ahead of Your Loans

Filling out the FAFSA is the first official step when applying for financial aid—so use this time to learn as much as you can about your student loans. The next step will be receiving and evaluating your award letter. Before choosing an aid package, Evaluate them side-by-side (pdf, 0.15 MB) and pick the award that will work for you—right now and in the future.

By equipping yourself with information you need from the very beginning, you’ll improve your financial literacy and be better prepared to manage your loans in the future.