What to Do After the FAFSA

You’ve completed one of the most important parts of the application process… so now what do you do?  Here’s what to expect as you wait to hear back.

For many families, the most stressful part of applying for college is figuring out just exactly how to pay for it all.

That’s why filing the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is one the key points of the college application process.

But after the FAFSA form has been sent in, what happens next?

When you submit the FAFSA you will immediately receive a confirmation page that you can print out.  You will receive an email from the Department of Education in 3-5 days letting you know that your FAFSA has been processed.  In that email you’ll find instructions on how to print out a copy of the Student Aid Report ( SAR). Your SAR is very important because it hold a critical piece of information you’ll need in your quest to afford college.

Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be listed on your SAR.  You may get worried when you see this number… but remember, this is NOT the amount of money you will have to pay for college next year.  It’s also NOT the amount of financial aid you’ll definitely receive either.

Rather, it’s the number used by colleges to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are ELIGIBLE to receive.

Also, remember that private colleges offer their own separate aid packages provided through their endowments.  So depending on where your child is applying, the potential for more financial aid is definitely there.

No while you’re looking over the SAR and crunching the numbers, the colleges your student applied to are doing the same thing.  That’s because the schools you listed on your FAFSA form also receive a copy of the report.

Schools will receive and review your FAFSA form.  They may also contact you for additional information. This info can often include federal tax returns and the Verification Form, which you’ll need to submit if you’re selected for verification by the Federal Processor or school. Verification is simply the process of confirming all information on your FAFSA form is correct.

Once they have everything they need, the financial aid officers at these schools will craft up an aid package for you and send it off.  This is now the moment of truth — the point where you’ll find out how much money you’re being offered.

Here’s a few quick things you should know about that financial aid award…

  • Your aid package will most likely not address some “hidden” costs like textbooks, travel costs, or the cost of living for the area in which the school is located.
  • Your financial aid is not written in stone.   A minimum GPA may be required to keep the award.  It may diminish from year to year.   Plus you’ll have to reapply for aid every January for the following school year.  So what you receive from a school is not locked in for 4 years.
  • Your award may come with a work-study requirement.   If this is the case, make sure your student has the time and ability to juggle a job and studies at the college level.  If not, and a work study is required, your aid could be revoked.

The bottom line however is to examine all sides of the coin when choosing your school.  Don’t just choose a school because it’ll cost you the smallest amount to attend, especially if that school isn’t going to help your student achieve their future goals.

Along those same lines, take the time to check and see if other schools might offer your child the same kinds of opportunities and courses of study that a higher priced, more “name” school does.  You’ll be surprised at what you find.

Cost doesn’t always HAVE to be the determining factor in where you send your child to college.  But it is one of the largest.  However make sure you’re taking all aspects into account before making your decision.

If you do, I bet you’ll find a school that meets your price range and your child’s hopes and goals all at the same time.

In the meantime, follow this link for more tips, strategies and information on the FAFSA.

To your successful college search,

Jodi Polster,
Education Director, CollegeMadeSimple.com


Related Articles:

How to Pick a College or University That’ll Give You the Best Financial Aid Package

When to Apply for the FAFSA

7 Strategies to Help You Get the Maximum Amount of Money for Your Child’s College Education


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1 Comment

Frank AnastasioApril 2nd, 2011 at 8:03 am

This is a great article.

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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.