FAFSA Questions: Taxes, the SAR, and CSS Profile

The New Year has students and families everywhere preparing their FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.)

January 1st is the earliest one can submit a FAFSA – and, as we’ve noted many times – the earlier, the better.

If the FAFSA is still on your family’s college planning agenda, here are some of the most common questions pertaining to it… put together by one of our in-house FAFSA experts, Jodi Polster.

– Scott Weingold

FAFSA Questions and Answers

Q: Can I still submit my FAFSA even though I haven’t filed my taxes yet?

A: Yes, you can. And you absolutely should file your FAFSA before you have submitted your federal and state taxes.

As mentioned, the earlier, the better.  That means providing your best approximations of income and taxes — based on pay stubs, W-2s, etc.

Besides, you can always make changes to your FAFSA — after your taxes are finalized.  You do that by going online to the FAFSA web site and filling in the correct numbers.

Q: How Do I Go About Checking The Status Of My Submitted FAFSA?

A: There are two ways to do this. You can go to fafsa.ed.gov and click ‘Start Here’ – from there, just follow the correct links to get your answer.

The second way is to call 800.433.3243 and ask. If you don’t find out your status, it may be because your application is still being processed.  In that case, simply wait a few days and try again.

Q: What do I do if I haven’t yet received a Student Aid Report (SAR)?

A: To find out if your FAFSA has been processed – or to get a duplicate copy of your SAR – you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center toll-free at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

You will need your Social Security number and date of birth for verification purposes.


Q: How is the FAFSA different from the CSS profile?

A: While most families know about the FAFSA, slightly less well known (but no less important) is the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile.

The CSS Profile differs from the FAFSA in a few important ways. For instance, it may take other assets into account – like your home’s value.

Many families consider the CSS Profile more complex to fill out than the FAFSA. However, it may well be worth it.

That’s because the CSS Profile helps you to get private funds from some colleges. Not all participate – you should investigate in the case of individual schools.

But if a prospective school does use the CSS Profile, you could do very well by applying for private funds through this form.

It’s a good bit more work… but through the CSS Profile, schools open up an entire new avenue of grants and scholarships unknown to most.

To your college funding & admissions success,

Jodi Polster

Education Specialist, College Planning Network LLC

CollegeMadeSimple.com – The free educational resource of College Planning Network

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.