Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important task in your quest to pay for college. The FAFSA is how the colleges determine how much federal, state and college-based aid you are eligible to receive. Because this is a federal form, there is a chance that you will be flagged for a process called verification. I can just about hear the next questions running through your mind, “What is verification, and how will I know if I’ve been chosen?”
For starters, just the word “verification” sends panic through people’s system, and it doesn’t have to! Verification is actually a very common practice, and doesn’t necessarily mean you did something wrong. In the financial aid world, verification is a process put in place by the U.S. Department of Education to confirm that the information reported on your FAFSA is accurate. The purpose of verification is to make sure that colleges are not awarding need-based financial aid to students that do not actually qualify. To follow, are some questions and answers to help you understand and navigate through the verification process.
How will I know if I have been selected for verification?
If your FAFSA was chosen for verification, the college will make you aware of this decision as well as what additional documentation they’re requesting. You will be contacted by the college via postal mail, e-mail or your college-based student account (also known as your student portal). Due to federal privacy laws, the college cannot share this information with your parent(s), unless a waiver has been signed by the student, and is on file with the Financial Aid Office. Therefore, it’s important for you to check these communication platforms regularly and follow up in a timely manner.
What kind of information might be needed?
There are several important pieces of information that the college may want clarification on. Some of the most common documents requested are:
- Federal Tax transcripts
- Household verification form (provided by the college)
- Proof of federal benefits, such as SNAP, TANF, free/reduced lunch, etc.
- Printout of child support paid or received
Why was I chosen for verification?
Not all students selected for verification are chosen for the same reasons. About 25% of all FAFSA filers are chosen for verification, and some colleges actually verify 100% of all FAFSAs filed with their institution! A few reasons why FAFSAs are verified can be:
- Missing or inconsistent information
- Failure to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool
- Students who qualify for a federal need-based grant
Is there a deadline to complete the verification process?
The college will inform you of their deadline, but keep in mind that the verification process must be completed before you’ll be offered financial aid. Therefore, it is crucial to return information and requested documentation to the college’s financial aid office as soon as possible! If deadlines are missed or you completely ignore the verification process, your aid package may be reduced or lost altogether. Our best advice is to stay on top of things!
If you have further questions about the verification process, contact the Office of Financial Aid at your college or the EducationQuest office nearest you.