5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

Congratulations! You submitted your 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®) form! Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

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

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form 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 form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC, in most cases, is not the 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 your financial need. The formula they use is:

    Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
    Your financial “need”

Each school will 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 form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

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

3. Apply For as Many Scholarships as You Can

As I mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

4. Be On the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2018–19 FAFSA form was made available on Oct. 1, 2017. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aidnot the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. 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 your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines.

5. Make FAFSA® Corrections If You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about 3 days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in 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.

NOTE: Parents of dependent students cannot initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID, clicking “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

The article 5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form originally appeared on blog.ed.gov.

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

Photo by Andrew Jones, Department of Education.

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10 Common Tweets @FAFSA Gets on Twitter

We’ve been answering a lot of your back-to-school comments and questions on Twitter! Here are some of the most popular tweets we get, with our answers:

1. We get this question so many times a day! Your school will disburse (pay out) your financial aid, not the federal government. Since each school has a different timeline for awarding aid, you’ll have to call your school’s financial aid office to find out the specific date.

2. College can be expensive, we know! We provide as much aid as we can based on the information you provided on your FAFSA. There are many factors we take into account, like your year in school and how much it costs to attend your school. If you need more financial aid, here are 7 options you should consider. Make sure you look into applying for local scholarships or talk to your school’s financial aid office for personalized advice.

3. During this time of year, we understand a lot of students get disappointed when they see their financial aid offer and don’t receive the amount or type of aid they were hoping for. Your school calculates the amount of federal student aid you qualify for using a formula established by law and that amount can change every year, depending on a number of factors. Additionally, some states and schools offer financial aid of their own. Some of that aid is need-based, other types are merit-based, and some of that aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend you talk to your school to find out how you can increase your chances of getting the most aid possible. One simple way is to make sure you fill out the FAFSA and any other financial aid applications required by your school ASAP each year, even before your state or school FAFSA deadline. If you need more aid to fill the gap, look into scholarships, part-time work or one of these options.

4. We definitely understand that free money, like grants and scholarships, are the preferred type of financial aid because they don’t have to be paid back. 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. There are tons out there!

5. You’ll see an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number after completing your FAFSA, but don’t think it’s the amount your family has to pay! It’s not. It’s a measure of your family’s financial strength and a number used by your school to calculate how much aid you can receive. If you need more financial aid, read this.

6. Sorry, living on your own doesn’t make you an independent student for purposes of the FAFSA.  FAFSA dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. This is why even if your parent’s don’t claim you on their taxes, you still won’t be considered independent unless you can answer “yes” to one or more questions on this list.

7. First, know that your FSA ID information and what you typed in your FAFSA demographic page must match 100% in order for you to sign successfully. You should double check both places for any minor typos. For parents, make sure you’re selecting the correct “Parent 1” or “Parent 2” option in the drop-down menu on the signature page. We have detailed instructions in the fourth bullet on the FAFSA trending questions page.

8. The FAFSA asks a lot of questions, but we promise we use each answer to calculate your aid in a fair manner! Even though some questions may sound difficult to answer, we provide help along the way in the sidebar. If you’re really stuck, we have a phone number and live chat options available to help you out. If you want a line-by-line demo, we have an hour-long webinar recording that walks you through the entire application.

9. The upcoming 2017-18 FAFSA (available October 1, 2016) will ask for 2015 income and taxes only. This is beneficial because you’ve already finished those taxes, so you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool right away to transfer your 2015 info! You will not be asked to log in again to update your info after you file 2016 taxes.


@FAFSA what if our 2015 taxes are completely different than our 2016 earnings?”

— Jazmin (@jazminR14) August 12, 2016

10. We understand that financial circumstances change. If your income has dramatically decreased since the 2015 tax year, you still need to report 2015 information on your FAFSA. However, after filing your FAFSA, you can contact your school’s financial aid office to explain and document your situation. The school has the ability to assess your situation and may make adjustments to your FAFSA.



The article “10 Common Tweets @FAFSA Gets on Twitter” orignally appeared on blog.ed.gov.

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

7 Myths About the 2017-18 FAFSA Debunked

You might have heard that the next FAFSA® will be available on October 1, 2016 as opposed to January 1, 2017. Well, it’s not a myth! If you (or your child) are planning to go to college during the 2017–18 academic year, you’ll want to make sure you have your facts straight. Check out the 7 myths about the FAFSA below.

I used 2015 tax information last year and didn’t get any aid, so it’s pointless to fill out the FAFSA again.

FACT: Not pointless! Your aid award could be different this year.
If you filed a 2016–17 FAFSA and received an award letter from your school, 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 could change each year. 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. Even if you did not get the Federal Pell Grant last year, you could still be eligible for other types of aid this year. This includes work-study and low-interest loans. Also, many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA to be considered for their aid as well.

I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with 2016 data after I file taxes.

FACT: Nope! You won’t need to update your FAFSA since you will be using your 2015 tax information.
Unlike the FAFSA in the past, you won’t have to use estimates or make updates after filing taxes. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 income and tax information which you should already have. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.

I can choose which year’s tax information I provide on the FAFSA.

FACT: No, you won’t be able to choose.
The FAFSA has always asked for one specific tax year to be reported. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 tax information, and that’s what you have to provide. You can’t choose to provide 2016 information if you feel it’ll benefit you in some way. If your income was lower in 2016 than in 2015, you still need to provide 2015 tax information, and then you can contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and let them know your situation has changed. They have the ability to review your situation and consider making adjustments to your FAFSA.

I will get an award letter from my school earlier.

FACT: That’s really up to the school.
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 FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details.

I can re-use my 2016–17 FAFSA since my 2015 income and tax information will be the same.

FACT: No, you still need to submit a renewal or a new 2017–18 FAFSA.
But, there’s a bonus this year! You will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to electronically import your 2015 taxes right away. If you’re eligible to use the IRS DRT, this will speed up your FAFSA completion process.

Doesn’t matter to me that the FAFSA is available in October, I still have plenty of time to file.

FACT:  States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines.
While the 2017–18 FAFSA deadline for federal aid is June 30, 2018, your state and school probably have earlier deadlines to receive their aid. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1.

I can’t file my FAFSA in October because I haven’t applied to any schools.

FACT: You can still file as long as you list at least one school on your FAFSA.
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.

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

This article was originally found on blog.ed.gov.

Top 5 Questions About Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

So you filed your FAFSA and got accepted to a college. Congrats! Your school will send you an award letter that lists different types and amounts of financial aid you’re eligible for. These types of aid could include grants, scholarships, work-study funds, or student loans. You might see two types of federal student loans in your letter: Direct Unsubsidized Loan and Direct Subsidized Loan. Some people refer to these loans as Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans or just subsidized and unsubsidized loans. It’s important you know the basics about these two types of loans before you sign to accept either of them.

1. How are they similar?

Both are federal student loans offered by the U.S. Department of Education. To be eligible to receive either of them, you must be enrolled at least half-time at your school. Both loans offer a six-month grace period before you’re required to begin repaying them.

2. How are they different?

The major differences are interest and how much you can borrow. For subsidized loans, you won’t be charged interest while you’re enrolled in school and during your grace period (about six months). For unsubsidized loans, interest starts accruing (accumulating) from the date of your first loan disbursement. For both types of loans, the amount you can borrow is determined by your school, and they use several pieces of information to calculate your aid.

Quick Overview of Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan Table
Quick Tip: “Unsubsidized” starts with a “U” – think of it like “You” pay the interest on your unsubsidized loan.

3. Which loan should I accept?

If you need to accept loans to help cover the cost of college or career school, remember to borrow only what you need. You should accept the subsidized loan first because it has more benefits. If you have to accept an unsubsidized loan, remember that you’re responsible for all the interest that accrues on that loan.

4. What if I don’t need the entire loan amount?

You don’t have to accept all the student loans offered to you! It’s OK to accept a lower amount than what you see in your award letter, just talk to the financial aid office at your school. If you need more money later in the year, your school can give you more loan money.

5. What should I do if I have unsubsidized loans?

Consider making interest payments right away if you can—it will save you money in the long run. This is because when you graduate or leave college, interest accrued during your time in school gets added to your principal loan amount. So, unless you paid your interest while in school, when you’re ready to repay your unsubsidized loan, interest will accrue on a new, higher principal loan amount.

Do you have more questions on Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans? Go to the FAQs on our website.

This article originally appeared on blog.ed.gov.