Roughly 1 in 4 students that submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are selected for verification. If this is you, all it means is that the colleges you’ve applied to will be contacting you to double-check on some of the information you entered on your FAFSA. As long as you provide what they’re looking for before the deadline, this is no big deal! But if you don’t provide the information they need in time, you’re likely to receive way less financial aid. Here’s how to avoid that:
Complete your FAFSA verification worksheets.
If you’re selected for verification, you’ll receive a letter from your colleges asking for additional information. They’ll also send worksheets that will guide you through the process. Sometimes all you need to do is provide the info and then sign the form. Other times, you’ll need supporting documents. Either way, be sure to fill out the worksheet in its entirety. Don’t leave anything blank (0 or n/a are acceptable answers).
Gather the supporting documents.
Here are a few things you could be asked for:
- Tax return transcript, for either you or your parents. You can get this from the IRS. If you didn’t file taxes, you can also request a Verification of Non-filing Letter by following the link above. Then the school might ask for your W-2’s as well.
- Number of people in your home and the number of those people who are in college. Typically all you need is a signature, but they might ask for proof of enrollment for the other college students in your family, too. If you need proof of enrollment, contact that college’s registrar for a signed statement.
- Documentation for untaxed income. Including (but not limited to) child support, SNAP, and Social Security benefits.
Mail all materials as soon as possible.
You’ll be given a deadline for submitting all of your materials. Be sure to get them in on time—otherwise you might not be offered any financial aid. Also, if your school gives out any need-based institutional aid like scholarships or grants, those are typically limited and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Don’t let this stress you out—but let this be a reason not to dawdle!
Contact your financial aid office(s).
As you’re walking through the FAFSA verification process, know that you are not alone! Running into trouble? Have a question? Or just want to be sure you’ve gathered the correct information? You can start by checking your college’s financial aid website for FAQs, but if you don’t have any luck there reach out to a financial aid counselor by phone or email. They’re experts in this stuff, and they’re here to help students like you!
Every year, the U.S. Department of Education awards more than $120 billion a year in grants, work-study funds, and loans. For many students, higher education isn’t affordable without federal financial aid, so be sure you follow through with all the steps to see what is available to you.