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If you’re in the midst of application season, you’ve probably heard about the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application determines your eligibility for need-based federal grants, loans, and work-study to help you pay for college. Most colleges require you to fill it out if you’re applying for aid from the particular schools as well.

 

While the final federal deadline to turn in the FAFSA is June 30th, many states and schools have earlier deadlines, so it’s a good idea to get a head start. The application officially opens in October of the year before you’re planning on matriculating, and, provided you have all the necessary information, you’ll want to start working on it as early as possible.

 

In this post, we’ll give you a rundown of what to do after you fill out the FAFSA. For guidance on understanding the terminology and completing the application, check out What Information Will I Need to Complete the FAFSA? and The Ultimate Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA.

 

After the FAFSA: Your To-Do List

 

  1. Review the FAFSA confirmation page

 

Immediately after submitting the form online, print out the page for your records. It’s a good idea to do this after submitting any official document, form, or payment. You’ll receive a confirmation email, but the confirmation page contains more information. Double-check all the information on the page. If you find you’ve made an error, correct it as soon as possible (we’ll go into more detail on how to do that below); you’ll need to wait until after your receive your Student Aid Report (SAR).

 

  1. Review Your SAR and EFC

 

Within two weeks, you’ll receive your SAR—the results of the application you submitted—and Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount your family can afford to pay for college each year according to the FAFSA formula. The SAR and EFC are used to help determine your eligibility for federal financial aid and possible government aid from your state. Colleges will also use this information to help determine your eligibility for need-based aid, such as scholarships and grants that comes directly from the college.

 

Double-check all the information to make sure it is accurate, and correct any errors as per the instructions in the section “Make Corrections If and When Needed.”

 

  1. Apply for Scholarships

 

Scholarships are a great way to supplement the need-based aid you receive. Many scholarships for which you apply will be largely merit-based, although some may incorporate need into the final selection process.

 

Many colleges award scholarships automatically based on your admission application; some scholarships granted by your college require additional applications. Scholarships awarded by outside organizations require additional applications or submissions.

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There are many resources to find scholarships, such as online databases, your college’s financial aid website, your guidance counselor, and local community organizations. For more ideas, check out CollegeVine’s Scholarship posts, where you can search for awards and competitions geared towards your particular niche or interest, such as STEM or Performing Arts. There are also plenty of scholarships geared towards students in particular demographics, as well as more general awards.

 

This is also a good time to make sure you’ve submitted all the documents you need to apply for need-based institutional aid at your college, such as the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile and school-specific forms. The college’s financial aid website should list the details on what you need to send; if it doesn’t, contact the financial aid office.

 

  1. Look Out for Your Financial Aid Offer(s)

 

The timing and policies on when colleges send their notifications of financial aid awards vary, though most aim to alert you around the same time as they send their admissions decisions. However, if you submitted your financial aid application late, your award notification may also be late. If you you have any questions about the offer, contact the college’s financial aid office.

 

  1. Make Corrections If and When Needed

 

If you find you’ve made an error in reporting your information on your FAFSA, you can go back and correct it after receiving the SAR and EFC. Adjusting your information will generate a new EFC calculation, which may differ from the one you initially received, depending on the type and magnitude of the change. The schools that receive your FAFSA will be alerted and may adjust your award accordingly.

 

Correct your data as soon as you realize you’ve made a mistake. If you need more time to locate the correct information, contact the colleges’ financial aid offices directly to let them know and see if they have special instructions for you.

For More Information

 

To learn more about the FAFSA and what to do after submitting your application, visit the FAFSA website, where you’ll find plenty of resources, such as deadlines and a College Scorecard to help you compare the cost of attending different colleges. Check out CollegeVine’s guides as well:

 

Understanding College Costs: FAQs About Financial Aid in Practice

Introducing Your Financial Aid Officers: Who They Are and What They Do

15 College Financial Aid Resources

3 Strategies for Students and Parents to Start Saving for College Now

 

Looking for help with your college applications? Check out our College Application Guidance Program. When you sign up for our program, we carefully pair you with the perfect admissions specialist based on your current academic and extracurricular profile and the schools in which you’re interested. Your personal specialist will help you with branding, essays, and interviews, and provide you with support and guidance in all other aspects of the application process.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine

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