You filled out your FAFSA® and submitted it. What happens next?
No, you won’t get a check in the mail from the government. There’s more to it than that.
Where does my FAFSA information go once I submit it?
How can I check to see whether my FAFSA has been processed?
Who will I hear from, and when?
What do I do if I’m told I’ve been selected for verification?
What if I made a mistake on my FAFSA? How do I correct it?
Can I update information on my FAFSA if my situation has changed since I filed it?
How do I decide what aid to accept, and how do I accept it?
How do I get my money?
"After the FAFSA: What Happens Next?" Video
Your FAFSA information is shared with the colleges and/or career schools you list on the application. The financial aid office at a school uses your information to figure out how much federal student aid you may receive at that school. If the school has its own funds to use for financial aid, it might use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for that aid as well. (The school might also have other forms it wants you to fill out to get school aid, so check with the financial aid office to be sure.)
Your information also goes to your state higher education agency, as well as to agencies of the states where your chosen schools are located. Many states have financial aid funds that they give out based on FAFSA information.
So, your FAFSA helps you apply for federal, state, and school financial aid. Not bad for a form that takes students an average of less than 25 minutes to complete!
You can check the status of your FAFSA immediately after submitting it online. You can check the status of a paper FAFSA after it has been processed (roughly 7–10 days from the date mailed). Here’s how:
- Option 1: Go to www.fafsa.gov and log in.
- Option 2: Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
If your FAFSA is still being processed, we recommend that you wait a few days before checking the status again.
First, we (the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education) will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You’ll get your SAR within three days to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA. Be sure to look over your SAR to make sure you didn’t make a mistake on your FAFSA. Find out more about the Student Aid Report, its purpose, how the type of FAFSA you file determines when you’ll get the SAR, and what you should do with it.
The SAR won’t tell you how much financial aid you’ll get. Instead, if you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper aid offer, sometimes called an award letter, telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school. The timing of the aid offer varies from school to school and could be as early as springtime (awarding for the fall) or as late as immediately before you start school. It depends on when you apply and how the school prefers to schedule awarding of aid.
You might see a note on your Student Aid Report saying you’ve been selected for verification; or your school might contact you to inform you that you’ve been selected. Verification is the process your school uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is accurate. Your school has the authority to contact you for documentation that supports the information you reported.
If you’re selected for verification, don’t assume you’re being accused of doing anything wrong. Some people are selected at random; and some schools verify all students' FAFSAs. All you need to do is provide the documentation your school asks for—and be sure to do so by the school’s deadline, or you won’t be able to get financial aid.
If you used the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) when filling out your FAFSA, and you have not changed any of the information retrieved, you will not have to verify that information. If not, your school may require you to submit a tax transcript as part of the verification process. You can find your tax transcript through the IRS’s Get Transcript service at www.irs.gov/transcript.
Once your application has been processed, you can correct your FAFSA online or on paper. (Making corrections online is the easiest and fastest option.)
There is some information that must be updated if it changes, while most information cannot be updated. Find out the difference and how to update FAFSA information.
You’ll need to understand the aid that’s being offered (for instance, is it free money such as a grant, or is it a loan that you’ll have to pay back?), decide what aid you really need, and then respond to the school’s award letter within the deadline set by the school. Get details about accepting aid.
The financial aid staff at your college or career school will explain exactly how and when your aid will be paid out. They also will tell you whether you need to fill out any more paperwork or meet other requirements. For instance, if you’re receiving a federal student loan for the first time, you should expect to be required to sign a promissory note and go through entrance counseling. Be sure to keep in touch with your school’s financial aid office so that you understand the whole process of receiving your aid.