4 Things You Should Know After Filing Your FAFSA

after-the-fafsa

Congratulations! You submitted your 2017–18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)! Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Your FAFSA confirmation page is not your financial aid award.

After you complete the FAFSA online and click “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your award package. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

2017-18 Confirmation Page Highlighted

 

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.

TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA will send you a financial aid award. Until you receive this award letter/notification from a school, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from that specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov

 


2. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is just one of many factors used to calculate your aid.

The information you report on your FAFSA is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC, in most cases, is not the exact amount of money your family will have to pay for college.  Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. The formula they use is:

   Cost of attendance
Expected family contribution
   Your financial “need”

Each school will then do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100% of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10%–it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA annually because there are many factors that can change each year you plan to be in school.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of children in your family who are attending college are just a few of the additional factors considered.


3. You won’t receive an award letter from your school right away.

Even though the 2017-18 FAFSA is available in October this year, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an award letter earlier. Some schools may send you an award letter earlier, while other schools may stick to the timeline they have used in the past.

Remember that your school disburses your aid, not the FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details about when they send out award letters. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, use the College Scorecard. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After completing your FAFSA, it’s always a good idea to double-check with the financial aid offices at the schools you applied to. You should find out if they need additional paperwork or have other deadlines.


4. You can submit a FAFSA correction later, such as adding a school.

After your FAFSA has been submitted and processed (takes about 3 days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a mistake or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Login with your FSA ID, and then click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

 

2017-18 FAFSA Correction


Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

40 Comments

  1. I recently amended my tax return after my financial aid office noticed a mistake. My w2`s did not match my DRT. I didn’t have my w2 yet and estimated my gross income. I actually made 980 less. My EFC is still 0. The problem is my college is asking me to pay cash until my transcript are available in 8 to 12 weeks. I actually made 15445. I’m low income and can not afford to pay cash. What can I do? I’m actually set to graduate in May 2017

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA requires 2015 tax information. Use your W-2s from 2015. Talk to your school’s financial aid office about your options and ask when will they create an award letter for you. Not sure what the correlation is between paying cash and waiting for a transcript. Also, don’t forget to apply for scholarships!

  2. Is there an asset limit in determining eligibility for an unsubsidized Stafford loan? We recently refinanced our home and took money out as part of the refinancing to remodel our kitchen. This money is in our savings account. It is a fairly significant amount of money which is to be used for our remodel in 2017. Will this impact eligibility for Stafford loan? What can we do about this issue? We have held off submitting the FAFSA due to this concern.

    • Most people qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans regardless of EFC. If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1 because of upcoming deadlines. Most FAFSA information cannot be updated after you file because it must be accurate as of the day you originally signed your FAFSA. For example, if you spent some of your savings after filing the FAFSA, you may not update your information to show a change in that amount. You should speak to the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend if there will be a significant change in your or your parent’s income for the present year or if your family has other circumstances that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  3. I am a little confused about the new time frames. Are we now prohibited from waiting until after January 31st, when we receive our tax information? My daughter’s school said we are supposed to just use our 2015 Income Tax Returns, but that’s what we used for the last FAFSA. Also, our income from 2016 is significantly less than in 2015.

    • You are required to use 2015 tax information. You will not have the option to input 2016 financial info on the 2017-18 FAFSA. This is a new process. Waiting to file until January will not be beneficial, especially if you have FAFSA deadlines coming up. We understand that some families’ income may have changed significantly since the 2015 tax year. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain and document the change in income. The school has the ability to assess your situation and update your FAFSA accordingly.

      Here’s one reason why using 2015 taxes on your 2017-18 FAFSA is beneficial: In the past, many people assumed that you should wait until you file taxes in the spring before completing your FAFSA. This resulted in many people missing out on possible aid they could’ve been eligible for if they did not miss a priority deadline. For instance, some state and college aid have a limited pool of funds which is distributed on a first come, first served basis. Those that filed as soon as possible after January 1 (this year, it was October 1) had the best chance of getting this aid. Those who waited until they filed taxes might’ve missed out. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information and you will NOT have to use estimates or log back in to make updates after filing taxes. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.

  4. My son has a savings account that will be depleted soon as he is buying a car. Does he put what it is now or what it will be after

    • Whatever he has now. Most of the questions on the FAFSA want to know your situation as of the day you sign the FAFSA, not days in the future.

  5. I changed my ID password like 5 times and every time I login It didn’t work also I didn’t complete my state application (NJ) and I can’t find it any more.Thank you

  6. Hello,
    My daughter has 10,000 in a savings account from an inheritance that she is not able to access until she is 18. She is currently a senior and 17 and won’t be 18 till next August. Does this need to be included even if she doesn’t have access to it yet?

  7. Hello! When I summitted my application for some reason it said I was a independent student but I am not marry, nor have kids, nor older than 25, nor going to graduate school and I still live with my parents. Why I was label independent and how can I fix it?

    • For the 2017-18 FAFSA, you’ll be considered independent if you were born before January 1, 1994. Does this apply to you? If you included your parent’s info last year, you won’t have to this year if you’re independent.

      • I filled out the application for my son who has the birthday 10-25-94. Our financial situation has changed and he is basically on his own financially now. It didn’t give us a choice about putting in parents information. We need help.

        • For the 2017-18 FAFSA, you’ll be considered independent if you were born before January 1, 1994. Independent students do not have to report parent information (unless the school requires it, which some do). You can talk to the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and explain your situation. They are usually able to help if there are significant changes that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  8. Is there an age limit for eligibility? Is there a limit to already having a degree? Can it be used for certifications such as PMP, CPA, etc.?

  9. Thank you for providing this great resource for adults returning to school! The process for financial aid can really be jarring, and it’s nice to know that our students have a wonderful resource to keep them updated. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I think I forgot to click the “start your stae application” link before I submitted my FAFSA? I live in PA. What should I do now?

    • Visit your state’s website for their program and complete their instructions. We do not administer state programs.

  11. Does filing a FASFA For the fall 2016 mirror the spring 2017 application? When i applied it was denied and said we do not meet the income requirements as the parents. I applied this past spring (2016) for the fall semester.

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA is for students going to school between July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018. You have to actively file a renewal FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year if you want to continue receiving financial aid. Your aid award could be different this year. 
If you filed a 2016–17 FAFSA and received an award letter from your school before, don’t assume that next year’s financial aid award will be the same. We ask you to complete the FAFSA annually because the factors used to calculate your aid change each year: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

      Things like your year in school, family income, and cost of attendance at your school are just a few factors used to determine your aid. You never know what aid you may get if you don’t complete the FAFSA, so don’t let last year’s award deter you from potential aid you may receive this year.


  12. Don’t claim your student on your taxes and they will get a lot more financial aide from there school they plan to attend

  13. I work in a Financial Aid office. You do not get an award letter right away from us. We need to have at the very least a prospective student’s high school transcript and transcripts from any other colleges the student may have attended. There is also a basic data form to be filled out to verify the address and if the student has or has not attended any other collleges. Also 1 in 3 FAFSAs are selected for verification. This requires other documentation, the number of which varies.

  14. What if we submit the FAFSA before our son applies to his schools, what happens to the fafsa??
    Also our income is very different this year then it was last year, hoe do we go about informing the colleges

    • It’s OK to complete your FAFSA before turning in college applications. On the FAFSA, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. If you’re on the fence about a particular school, add it anyway. Doing so will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for that school. You can also add or remove schools to your FAFSA later: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update#change-schools

      If your son gets accepted into a school, they will look for his FAFSA information in order to create a financial aid award package for him. Without his FAFSA, they won’t be able to do this. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

      If there are financial or family circumstances that cannot be reflected on your FAFSA, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review.

  15. How can I apply on my own my parents have been filling out my fafsa ? I want to do it on my own income taxes is that pissible

    • If you answer “no” to all of these questions: https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out/dependency#dependent-or-independent, then you’re considered a dependent student and must provide parent info. You shouldn’t exclude your parent’s financial information just because you feel like it will benefit you in some way. You can still complete the FAFSA if your parents are unwilling to provide their information. Answer “no” to being able to provide parent information and also “no” to the special circumstance question. The downside is you may only qualify for unsubsidized loans. If you were able to provide parent info, that gives you a chance at getting subsidized loans (which are better) or even a Pell Grant (which doesn’t have to be repaid).

  16. So our son was not awarded any financial aid from his school but was told he’d have to get student loans. Where do we find info on loans and grants?

    • Did your son complete his 2017-18 FAFSA? He will get another financial aid award from his school for the 2017-18 school year after he submits his FAFSA. Federal student loans is a type of financial aid. If you’re saying you “didn’t get any aid” you probably mean you were ineligible for the Federal Pell Grant which is free money. Many of the grants we offer, including the Federal Pell Grant, are “need-based”, meaning you must have certain level of financial need to qualify. Your school will use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for these grants, and if you do, you’ll get them. If you still have a gap between what your school costs and the amount of grants, scholarships, and out-of-pocket funds you can afford to pay, federal student loans can be a good option. Federal student loans offer several advantages over private student loans and most people qualify. Just make sure to borrow only what you need! If you want more free money, make sure you apply for scholarships.

      More: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types

  17. I am helping my nice apply for colleges. She has lived with her grandmother permanently for over two years. Does she have to use her father’s income on her FAFSA, since he technically has legal custody, but has not provided financial support in over 2 years?

  18. I this only for new students or all students? An what do we use to file with I have a sophomore in college so what are we to do thanks

    • The FAFSA is for all students who are seeking financial aid for college or career school. The FAFSA is just a form, not a type of aid/money. It’s short for the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” After you complete your FAFSA on fafsa.gov, you will find out how much financial aid you may receive for college. Types of federal student aid include grants, loans, and work-study. Your school calculates your aid, so any questions about your aid details should be directed to your school.

      Get your FSA IDs: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid
      Begin the FAFSA here: http://fafsa.gov

  19. I just used the IRS DRT to populate the 2017/2018 FAFSA – in the parent section, a message popped up asking me to correct the income (from 1040 line 37), when the amount was accurate in the first place. So, I just typed in the same amount, and it processed. Same thing happened for the student income reporting – a message said to correct the income, and again, I just typed in the same figure. Why would it ask me to correct the incomes when they were correct in the first place? I’m wondering if I did something wrong…thank you!

      • Except now she won’t have the 02 unchanged data code that eliminates the need to submit a tax return transcript if the record is selected for verification.

    • You can check in with your financial aid office & see if they can have a worker check your usage of the DRT. Sometimes, after using the DRT, it will as you to put in the income made even though all of the other information has transfered over.

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