Student Aid Report: What It Is and How to Read It

 March 22, 2021
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Student Aid Report

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The Student Aid Report (SAR) is an important document you’ll receive after submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While your Student Aid Report won’t reveal exactly how much financial aid you’ll get, it does share useful information about your financial aid eligibility.

To help you decipher your Student Aid Report, let’s answer the following questions:

What’s on the Student Aid Report?

After submitting your FAFSA, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report with a summary of your information. Note that your SAR will not show the details for your tax or income information if you used the IRS data retrieval tool while filling out the FAFSA.

Either way, make sure to look over your SAR so that you’re certain everything is accurate and up to date. Along with a summary of the details you wrote down on the FAFSA, your SAR will show the following:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This measures how much the Department of Education has decided your family can afford to pay for college, based on its formula. Your financial need is the difference between your EFC and your school’s cost of attendance. Note that the EFC will be renamed Student Aid Index (SAI) starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
  • Data Release Number (DRN): This is a four-digit number that you may need to share with the schools you applied to if you want to make changes to your FAFSA.
  • Verification notice. This will usually show up as an asterisk next to your EFC, and it means that your report has been flagged for verification. You’ll also get a notice along with your EFC. If you need to verify any of your information, the Department of Education will tell you what documents you must provide. Don’t worry if you’ve been selected for verification — some people are selected at random.
  • Federal loan summary. If you have any outstanding federal loans, they will be listed on your SAR.

While your Student Aid Report reveals your EFC, it can’t tell you how much financial aid you’ll get. Instead, your financial aid package is determined by the schools, usually after you’ve been accepted.

But your SAR can give you insight into how much you and your family will be expected to contribute. You can also use the FAFSA4Caster tool to estimate how much financial aid you might receive.

When do you receive your SAR?

If you submit your FAFSA online and provide your email address, your Student Aid Report should become available within three to five days.

You’ll get an email notification when it’s available and can sign into your account at to access your SAR. If you didn’t provide an email address, your SAR will be mailed to you in seven to 10 days.

Students who submit the FAFSA via snail mail will probably have to wait a little longer. If you submitted a paper FAFSA form, you’ll get an email link to your SAR within two weeks or a paper SAR acknowledgement within three weeks.

So if you want the process to go as quickly as possible, be sure to submit your FAFSA online and provide your current email address.

How do you make changes to your FAFSA?

Once you’ve received your Student Aid Report, read over your information to make certain everything is accurate. If it is (and you haven’t been asked to verify anything), you can simply save the document for your own records.

But if you do find an error, you can correct your FAFSA. You’re expected to make corrections if…

  • Your dependency status has changed
  • The number of family members in your household has changed
  • The number of family members in your household attending college has changed

Before you edit your FAFSA, however, speak with your school’s financial aid office about the best steps to take. The office might advise you to sign in to your FAFSA account and update your information via the “Make FAFSA Corrections” tab.

If you discover you made a mistake with your Social Security number, the best course of action is often to file a completely new FAFSA.

It’s crucial that all the information on your Student Aid Report is correct, since schools will be using this data to put together your financial aid offer. If your SAR reveals an error, speak with your financial aid office as soon as possible to fix the situation.