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.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB) or Turnstile Capital Management, LLC (TCM), which are not affiliated entities. Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. All loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Other terms and conditions apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of TCM and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.97% – 12.97%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 10.98%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.92% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|