You Filed Your FAFSA. What’s Next?

Hopefully by now you used your FSA ID to complete your 2016-17 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or before your FAFSA priority deadline. Now what happens?

Your FAFSA data go to the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) Central Processing System (CPS), which uses those data to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) according to formulae set in law by Congress. CPS then electronically shares your EFC, and the rest of your FAFSA data, with every postsecondary institution listed on your FAFSA. Your son or daughter will also receive an ED email with a secure link to his or her Student Aid Report (SAR) bearing same facts and figures.

If, like more than 90% of all families, you filed the FAFSA electronically via ED’s FAFSA-on-the-Web, and if your student included an email address on the FAFSA, ED’s email should arrive 3 to 5 days after your FAFSA was filed. If your student omitted the email address from the FAFSA, a paper SAR will arrive by U.S. mail in 10 days or so.

Review the SAR as soon as possible to make sure all the FAFSA data you filed is accurate. If so, you need do nothing else. If not, go to FAFSA-on-the-Web and replace incorrect data with accurate numbers. Remember, you should only correct data that were wrong on the date your FAFSA was filed. If, for example, you sold some stocks or bonds since that date, don’t use FAFSA-on-the-Web to “correct” your asset data.

You’ll most likely be shocked at the size of your EFC. Many parents and students complain it is much too large. But you need to remember three things about the EFC:

  • It’s based on the assumption that you and your student will harvest every penny available to you for his or her college expenses before the government uses your friends and neighbors’ tax dollars to subsidize him or her while in college;
  • Once a school to which your student was accepted receives your EFC, it will subtract that amount from what it’s determined to be reasonable and necessary costs related to attending that school. This will determine your student’s “financial need.” More than eight out of every $10 in U.S financial aid is awarded on the basis of financial need, which is why it’s so important for your FAFSA data to be correct;
  • Hopefully each institution will offer your student grants, scholarship, and work-study sufficient to fully cover financial need. If not, you and your student may need to consider borrowing federal student loans.

Most colleges and universities begin sending financial aid offers to prospective freshmen in mid to late March. You’ll want to carefully evaluate these offers before you pay an enrollment deposit to any institution. The deadline for doing this is May 1, so you have some time. More about how to assess financial aid offers in the next post.

College Affordability Solutions brings almost 40 years of financial aid experience to helping families complete the FAFSA and evaluate financial aid offers. Call (512) 366-5354 or email to learn more.

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