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Every year at least 30% of all Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicants are selected for verification. If you were one of those students, don’t stress. Being selected for verification doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. Verification is simply an audit process that the Department of Education and other institutions use to make sure students are filling out the FAFSA correctly.
After you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) to the email address listed in your FAFSA. In the top right-hand corner of the SAR you will see your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If there is an asterisk beside your EFC, you have been selected for verification.
If you were selected for verification, you must complete the verification process for each school that you listed on your FAFSA. Some schools will present you with an estimated award letter even if you are selected for verification, but some will not. The key is that any need-based aid award you receive prior to completing the verification process is an estimate, and you will not be eligible to actually receive the aid if you do not complete verification. You can elect not to complete verification, but you will forfeit any need-based aid for which you may be eligible, as well as access to the federal direct loan program.
The verification process requires you to fill out a form called a verification worksheet with pieces of information that you provided on your FAFSA. You may also be required to present a copy of your tax transcript, tax return, W2’s or other information. You will receive specific instructions from each school on what is needed. If you used the Data Retrieval Tool when completing your FAFSA then typically you won't need copies of tax information. Each school will take the information you provide and compare it to the information on your FAFSA.
The most common verification mistake is when students correct the number of members in the household. Students often mistake the number of dependent(s) on their parent’s tax return for the number in the household. Certain corrections to the FAFSA can be made by a university's financial aid office while you may be requested to make others. Once any corrections have been updated, your FAFSA will be reprocessed and an updated award letter may be issued.
It is also important to read any comments that may be included on your Student Aid Report. The comments will highlight potential mistakes or missing information, like a parent’s signature. You may also be asked to review and confirm certain information. Financial aid offices may not be able to provide a financial aid award until you have addressed the items contained in the comments.
I know this can all seem overwhelming, but it is definitely worth it to go through the process. The amount of financial aid you receive can be significantly impacted by not completing verification or resolving other comments. If you get stuck, or don’t understand what you need to do, call the financial aid office of the school(s) you hope to attend. They should be able to help you.