You’ve filed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and now the college’s Financial Aid Office is asking you to submit some documents. Why? Did you do something wrong? The answer to that is…not necessarily. You’ve been selected for a process called verification, and the following Q & A with UNK’s longtime Financial Aid Director, Mary Sommers, should answer many of your questions! Mary is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to verification, so we are honored to get this interview.
Let’s hear from Mary in her own words.
Q: What is verification?
A: When a student submits the FAFSA, the Federal Department of Education selects a small percentage of those applicants for a review or double-check of answers, to be performed by the college(s). The purpose is to ensure critical responses on the FAFSA are correct. Many times, verification can actually result in an increase in eligibility for the student.
Q: Do all student’s FAFSAs get verified?
A: No. Just a small number of students are selected for verification based on an analysis of applicants in previous years, conducted by the Department of Education. If your application was selected, it does not always mean that you did anything wrong. It may be a random selection, or your application included some responses that may be incorrect.
Q: How will I know if I was selected for verification?
A: After your FAFSA is run through the Department of Ed’s database matches and processes, you will receive an email notifying you that the results are being sent to your college(s). When you receive the email, you will have the opportunity to access a SAR (Student Aid Report). In that SAR, you may see a sentence or two that tells you that verification is required. Never fear, your college(s) will contact you once they receive your FAFSA results and will let you know exactly what they require to complete your verification process.
Q: What information or documents will the Financial Aid office require?
A: You may be asked to complete a form for your institution and/or to provide copies of tax returns to complete the verification process. Each college receiving your FAFSA may ask for slightly different documentation.
Q: Is there a deadline, and what happens if students ignore verification?
A: Your college(s) will tell you if there is a deadline for the submission of your verification documents. If you don’t complete the verification process, you may not receive a financial aid offer, or a tentative financial aid offer may be withdrawn. Don’t ignore a request for verification! If you are unsure how to respond to a request for documents, please contact your college immediately and ask them for help.
Q: If I’m selected for verification, does that mean I’ll have to complete the process each year?
A: No, not necessarily. The Department of Education is always analyzing information about financial aid applications. That analysis may change selection criteria even within a processing cycle. You may or may not be selected again in future years.
Q: How can I make this process go smoothly?
A: The best way to avoid being selected for verification is to complete your FAFSA using the IRS Data retrieval tool, if possible. IRS data retrieval isn’t an option for every applicant, but this one step will significantly reduce the likelihood of your application being selected. If you are selected for verification, and you’re unsure regarding any of the information being requested by your college(s), don’t hesitate to ask them for assistance…they want to help you get this taken care of!
Thank you so much for your expertise on this topic Mary, and for your commitment to serving students and their families!
By Jacquie Butler