How to Fill Out the FAFSA and Check Your Status Quickly and Easily

 April 17, 2020
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When applying for federal student aid, including loans and grants, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once you’re finished filling out and sending in the form, you will want to keep track of your FAFSA status, so you can know what’s happening every step of the way toward getting your aid package from your school.

So how can you do that? Here are three topics worth a quick review:

Filling out your FAFSA

First you should know that, if you filled out your FAFSA by hand and mailed in the completed form, your status won’t be available until seven to 10 days. On the other hand, you can check the status of electronic FAFSA submissions immediately. You can submit electronically by filling out the form online or by using the myStudentAid mobile app.

Remember to include your email address on your FAFSA submission, because, if you do, you’ll receive an email with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of all the data you submitted with your FAFSA. You’ll get your SAR via regular mail if you don’t include your email address. In general, you should expect to get your SAR within three days to three weeks after submitting your FAFSA form.

Your SAR is handy because it can help you to double-check that you did not make any errors on your FAFSA form. If you did make any mistakes, you’ll have to make corrections to your form in order to ensure you receive the proper aid package. You can do this by clicking on “Make FAFSA Corrections” once you land on the “My FAFSA” page.

Check your FAFSA status online

After you fill out your FAFSA form online or via myStudentAid, your FAFSA status can be found immediately on or through the app. (As previously noted, your FAFSA status will take a bit longer if you sent in the form by traditional mail.)

You should log with your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID username and password. After logging in, you should find your FAFSA status. Your status may be:

  • Processing: This means your application is still processing. Once you see this status, it should generally take three to five days, plus one business day, for the application to be made available to any school you listed on the FAFSA.
  • Processed successfully: The FAFSA went through and you don’t need to do anything else.
  • Missing Signatures: You need to add more required signatures to your FAFSA.
  • Action required: There is more action you need to take in order to process your FAFSA. You’ll have to contact your school (or schools if you have more than one listed on your FAFSA) if you see this status message.

Keep in mind that you can work on your FAFSA application for up to 45 days, saving your progress online, but your application will expire after that. At that point, you’d need to start over. Working on your application a little bit at a time is fine, but make sure you submit it before the FAFSA deadlines.

If you are, for whatever reason, unable to review your FAFSA status, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center for help. It offers email, chat and phone support.

Check your FAFSA status via your school

When you submit your FAFSA, you should land on a confirmation page that spells out your estimated financial aid award. If you want an estimate before submitting your application, you can use the FAFSA4caster, a free tool that predicts your aid.

If you’re wondering about your actual financial aid award after submission, ask your campus financial aid office. The colleges listed on your FAFSA (you may list up to 10 schools) will receive your SAR as soon as one day after it’s processed by the Federal Student Aid Office. But it could take them more time to download your SAR and use it to determine how much financial aid you can receive toward your cost of attendance. Once they do, you should receive an electronic or paper aid offer, which is sometimes referred to as an award letter.

Colleges typically send out a financial aid award letter not long after your acceptance letter has arrived. But you’re not guaranteed to receive an award letter from every college you listed on your FAFSA. If you have questions about the aid you might receive from a particular college, reach out directly to the school’s financial aid office.

You might get a notification from a school that you’ve been selected for a verification process. That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong on your aid application. In fact, some schools verify the FAFSA of every accepted student. During the verification process, you might be asked to provide family financial information, such as a recent tax return. Fulfill these requests as quickly as you can to give yourself the best possible shot at need-based aid awarded on a rolling basis.

Keep track of your status

It can take less than an hour for most students and their families to complete the FAFSA. But it can take just a split-second to make a mistake. A busy schedule of schoolwork, exams and other preparation for college admissions could mean forgetting to follow up on your FAFSA status. However, it is important to stay on top of your application for federal aid. It could mean a world of difference if you’re planning to rely on grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities and loans that require having a FAFSA on file.

Now that you know how to check your FAFSA status, address your other burning questions about federal student aid with these FAFSA FAQs.

Also remember that the FAFSA is only for federal student aid. If you are interested in other options that include private student loans, check our roundup on the 5 best private student loans available.

Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report

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