It’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed by the many different terms, acronyms, and unfamiliar words found all over the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This list of explained FAFSA terms should help alleviate that confusion:


Confirmation Number: The number you get when you finish your FAFSA that confirms your FAFSA submission was successful. You may need it if you have to call later with questions.

Dependent/Independent Student: Determined by criteria set by the Department of Education. Dependent students need parental financial information in order to complete the FAFSA. Dependency is not determined by whether or not the student lives with parent(s), if parents claim the student on their taxes, or whether parents are contributing to the student’s educational expenses.

EFC – Expected Family Contribution: This is the amount you and your family are expected to put towards your education which can be cash, housing, food, transportation, or supplies/books. To learn more about how the FAFSA calculates your “Expected Family Contribution,” check out this great video. 

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid: Contrary to what some people think, the FAFSA itself is merely an application for student loans, grants, and work-study aid. Filing a FAFSA does not obligate you to accept any aid, nor does it guarantee that you will receive any aid. File your FAFSA at

Federal School Code: This tells the FAFSA where it should send your financial information for processing. You will be able to search during the FAFSA process for the federal school codes of colleges where you are interested in attending. You can choose to send your information to up to 10 schools on the FAFSA.

IRS Data Retrieval Tool: A tool that allows you to import tax data from the IRS rather than typing it in by hand in each field. Students who use this tool will speed up the aid process by avoiding tax verification. Click here for more information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. 

FSA ID: A Federal Student Aid ID. Both you and one parent will need to have your own FSA IDs to sign the FAFSA electronically and to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool. Click here to get help creating your FSA ID. 

Student Aid Report (SAR): Student Aid Report. This is a summary of your FAFSA application and tells you what types of federal aid you may be eligible for.

Selective Service: If you are male and between ages 18 and 25, you are required to register with the Selective Service before receiving federal student aid. You can select “Register Me” and you will be registered.

Verification (or FAFSA “Audit”): Verification is intended to improve the accuracy of the information submitted on the FAFSA. During verification, the college financial aid administrator may ask the applicant to supply copies of documentation such as income tax returns, tax transcript, W-2 statements and 1099 forms, to verify the data that was submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Click here to learn more about FAFSA Verification.

Do you need help completing and submitting your FAFSA? We’re here to help!