FAFSA Verification: Everything You Need to Know in 2021
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- What is FAFSA Verification?
- How FAFSA Verification is Changing in 2021
- Steps to Verifying Your FAFSA
- What Happens After Submitting Your Info?
- Where to Go for More Help
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was difficult enough to complete the first time around. So, it’s natural to feel frustrated (and possibly a little anxious) if you’re asked to complete a FAFSA verification process.
What exactly does this mean? Why were you chosen to verify your FAFSA information? And what happens now? In this post, we’ll walk you through the FAFSA verification process to answer these questions.
What is FAFSA Verification?
Each year, some students who have applied for financial aid are chosen to verify the information they provided on the FAFSA they submitted. The purpose of this verification is to ensure that the information is accurate and that your estimated family contribution (EFC) is fair and accurately reflects your financial needs and means.
Around 1 in 5 applicants are chosen to verify their FAFSA. Often, students are chosen at random to undergo the FAFSA verification process. In other cases, you may be asked by a specific school. With that said, lower-income students and Pell Grant recipients are typically more likely to be chosen.
How FAFSA Verification is Changing in 2021
In July 2021, the Department of Education announced that they would be temporarily implementing new changes to the FAFSA verification process for the 2021–2022 academic year, in light of financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usually, several million Pell Grant applicants are chosen for FAFSA verification and required to provide additional documentation. This presents difficulties to these potential recipients because many low-income students are often exempt from filing taxes because of their financial status, which makes it more difficult for them to verify their income.
Because of these challenges, many low-income FAFSA applicants are unable to complete the verification and thus cannot attend college due to financial constraints.
This year, however, as part of a larger effort to combat inequities caused or exacerbated by the pandemic, the Department of Education will focus its verification efforts on identity theft and fraud. Therefore, many of the requirements will be waived. Low-income students will not be asked to provide additional documentation. According to the Department’s research, these changes will help approximately 200,000 additional students from low-income backgrounds and students of color matriculate.
The Department has not yet announced whether they will extend these changes beyond the 2021–2022 academic year.
Steps to Verifying Your FAFSA
These are the usual steps for verifying your FAFSA. Remember that because this year’s process looks a little different from that of previous years, you may not need to provide as many documents or undertake as thorough of a process this year.
1. Don’t panic
It’s anxiety-provoking to be notified that you need to complete a FAFSA verification, but there’s no need to panic. You most likely weren’t selected because you did anything wrong. Chances are, you were chosen at random.
2. Review the list of required documents
In the request for FAFSA verification, there will be a list of necessary documents to provide, such as copies of your parents’ tax returns. Review the list of required documentation, gather together the paperwork, and make copies.
3. Complete the verification worksheet
The requesting school will also provide you with worksheets to complete. Respond to all the questions (if a certain question doesn’t apply to you, simply write “N/A”). As with your documents, look over the worksheets to ensure the information is accurate.
4. Correct mistakes
If you notice any mistakes you may have made during the verification process, be sure to correct them immediately. It’s possible that you filled out your FAFSA incorrectly, in which case you can correct it online at FAFSA.gov. Alert the financial aid office about the mistake, too.
Of course, you should always thoroughly read over your FAFSA the first time around to prevent mistakes, but errors do happen — you’re only human.
5. Send all your materials by the deadline
It’s extremely important to submit all materials for verification by the stated deadline. If you fail to do so, you won’t receive your financial aid. In fact, if you’re hoping to receive aid from the college itself, you’ll need to complete the verification well before the deadline. Otherwise, you may no longer be eligible for non-loan awards.
6. Follow up
After completing the verification process, you will be notified of any changes to your financial aid package. Make sure to follow up if you have questions or are confused. See below for more details about this.
What Happens After Submitting Your Info?
After you submit the necessary documents and paperwork, you’ll be alerted to changes in your financial aid package. In most cases, the verification process won’t affect your award. In other cases, your EFC could increase or decrease.
When your EFC increases:
Unfortunately, this means you will be required to pay for a larger part of your tuition and other expenses than you initially expected. If you’ve already received financial aid, you should expect future offers to be smaller, and you may no longer be eligible for certain awards. You’ll also have to repay awards you’ve already received for which you no longer actually qualify.
This can be concerning, but there are options. For example, you can apply for external merit-based awards.
When your EFC decreases:
You will be eligible for additional federal financial aid. That means you’ll have more help paying for college. Bear in mind, however, you won’t always get additional aid from the college itself.
Where to Go for More Help
The College’s Financial Aid Office
If you’re confused or concerned about changes to your award or the FAFSA verification process in general, contact the college’s financial aid office. They can answer your questions and give you guidance on what to do next.
While most FAFSA verifications don’t result in changes to your financial aid, it is possible for your EFC to increase, meaning you won’t receive as much financial aid as you expected. Talk to your parents about your options for paying for college. They may be able to help.
Your School Counselor or Teachers
Your school counselor and teachers have probably worked with students in these types of situations before. Based on their experience, they can offer you advice and tips on how to navigate the financial aid process.
We have a community forum dedicated to paying for college, where you can learn more about the process and request an expert answer for free.
Unfortunately, many students abandon the financial aid and FAFSA verification process because it becomes too complicated. If you don’t complete it, you won’t be eligible for aid. It’s important to complete this process so this doesn’t happen to you.