You’ve submitted your FAFSA, and now what?
After your student’s FAFSA is processed, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR).
If you put an email address on the FAFSA, you’ll receive the SAR via email.
Otherwise, it will come through the mail and may take several extra days.
What does the Student Aid Report look like…what does it mean, and what does it tell you?
Information on the FAFSA Student Aid Report
The SAR contains the financial information the government received on the FAFSA.
You will need to look it over to ensure that it’s correct.
There will be a data release number (DRN) that you can use to release your FAFSA to additional schools you didn’t originally list on the form.
You’ll also see a summary of any existing federal student loans.
Finally, at the bottom, you’ll see whether your student is eligible for Pell Grants.
Remember that most students do not qualify, as these are reserved for low-income families.
What Is the Data Release Number (DRN)?
The DRN enables students to ask FAFSA customer service representatives to change personal information in your FAFSA after you have submitted document online.
By providing the DRN, you can change contact information such as your phone number, housing plan, email address, and home address.
You can also add a list of possible schools where your data can be given.
Having your DRN on hand is important especially if you have already submitted your application and happened to move to a different city and would need to change your mailing address.
It’s important to remember that your DRN is not the same as your FSA ID.
Protect your FSA ID because it gives access to your personal financial details.
With data security a major issue, it’s important to keep your FSA ID safe.
Where is My Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Listed?
Knowing your EFC (expected family contribution), and how it is calculated is an important part of the process.
The number is listed on the upper right-hand corner of Page 1 of the SAR.
It is listed as a number, with leading zeros and no dollar sign, so many people don’t recognize it as their EFC.
Here’s an example of how the EFC is listed on a SAR: 018770.
This should be read as an EFC of $18,770, meaning this is the minimum the government and schools will expect your family to contribute to college on an annual basis.
If you notice an asterisk next to your EFC, your SAR has been flagged for verification.
This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong – it just means that you will have to provide additional documentation.
Verification affects about 30% of FAFSA applications.
Keep in mind, just because you don’t see an asterisk next to you EFC, it doesn’t mean that you won’t still be selected for verification, later on, from the colleges your student applies to.
It may be listed on the award letter your student receives or it could be sent by email.
You’ll want to complete the verification worksheet quickly, because a lot of financial aid is distributed on a first come, first served basis.
What Happens Once You Receive the SAR?
The SAR shows the information that schools and the government will use to determine eligibility for financial aid.
Whatever schools you listed on the FAFSA will receive a copy of it.
If you find any mistakes on the form, you’ll need to correct or update your FAFSA.
Once you do, a new SAR will be sent to you.
If there are no errors, simply keep the SAR for your records.
How Soon After Submitting The FAFSA Will The SAR Arrive?
If you provide your email (which most people do), you can expect to receive your SAR within a few days of electronically filing.
If you supply a mail address, you can expect a copy of your SAR within a few weeks (usually up to 3 weeks).
Don’t forget, the SAR will be sent to your student’s email address, not the parents.
So make sure they are on the lookout for it!
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By Debbie Schwartz, founder of Road2College, the go-to site offering families unbiased and transparent information to help parents and students become educated consumers of higher ed.