Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an essential first step when you’re planning for college. It’s what the federal government and colleges use to determine how much aid you’re eligible to receive, including grants and student loans.
The FAFSA asks a lot of questions about your finances and family situation. However, entering that information isn’t always enough to satisfy the government. In some cases, the U.S. Department of Education will select your FAFSA for verification. If you fail to complete the FAFSA verification process, you could be ineligible for aid.
If you’ve been selected for FAFSA verification, it’s important that you don’t panic. You can get through it and receive the financial aid you need. Here’s everything you need to know to complete the process.
What is FAFSA verification?
The Office of Federal Student Aid requires schools to verify the FAFSA forms of at least 30% of the total number of financial aid applicants. If you’re flagged for FAFSA verification, you’ll be asked to provide documentation that proves the information you submitted is accurate.
If you need to verify your information, a notice will appear on your Student Aid Report, which is a summary of your FAFSA submission. Alternatively, the school you plan to attend might send you a letter in the mail notifying you of the verification process.
What to do if you’re selected for FAFSA verification
It’s easy to feel scared or overwhelmed when you receive a notification that you’ve been selected for verification. But it doesn’t mean you’re in trouble or that you did something wrong. In many cases, students are selected at random. It’s important to take the verification process seriously, however, or you might not qualify for financial aid.
Here are five steps you should take if you receive a verification notice.
1. Gather your documentation
There are five areas the government typically flags for verification. To prove the information you provided on your FAFSA is accurate, you’ll be asked to submit documentation or signed statements for each point.
Household size: In most cases, you can submit a signed statement listing your family size and number of dependents.
Number of family members in college: If you have family members who are also in college, contact the registrar for a signed statement affirming that each member is a current student.
Adjusted gross income (AGI): Your tax return should show your AGI, or you can use a W-2 form from your parents’ employers.
Taxes paid: You can submit your parents’ tax return from the previous tax year.
Untaxed income and benefits: If you receive other forms of income, such as Social Security benefits, child support, or the earned income tax credit, ask the agency that issues those benefits for official documentation or a signed statement.
2. Fill out the necessary forms
Your school will send you FAFSA verification worksheets to complete as part of the process. You need to complete each worksheet and submit it along with any necessary documentation. Double-check each worksheet to ensure you completed it accurately and completely.
3. Correct any mistakes
Sometimes, innocent mistakes happen. You might find out during the verification process that you made an error, such as writing down the wrong number. If that’s the case, you’ll need to fix that mistake before you submit your worksheets and documentation.
The quickest and easiest way to fix your FAFSA is to do so online at FAFSA.gov. However, it’s a good idea to inform your financial aid office the error as well. The representative can advise you on what else you might have to do.
4. Submit your documents on time
When you receive the FAFSA verification notice, the letter will state when you need to submit your documentation and worksheets. It’s essential that you meet the deadline. If you’re late, you risk losing out on your federal financial aid eligibility.
5. Contact your financial aid office
In many cases, going through the verification process will not affect how much aid you receive. However, there’s a chance your financial aid package could change. If there was a problem with your FAFSA, you could end up receiving less financial aid than you expected.
If that happens, contact your school’s financial aid office to talk about your options and what alternatives are available to you.
What you can do if your financial aid package changes
If you complete the FAFSA verification process and find out you’re going to receive less aid than you expected, you might be left scrambling to come up with the money you need to go to school. However, there are other options available to help you fill the gap. If you need help paying for school, consider taking out private student loans so you can complete your education.
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