By Katie Wornek, Outreach Officer and Financial Aid Expert – March 22, 2017 (updated January 3, 2019)
What is verification?
When you complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you provide personal and financial information that is used to calculate what is called your “Expected Family Contribution” or EFC. Your EFC helps determine the types and amount of Federal Student Aid (grants, federal work-study, and federal student loans) you’re eligible to receive. Any colleges or universities you list as potential schools on your FAFSA receive your information. The school (or schools) then use that information from the FAFSA to provide you a financial aid award letter.
“Verification” is the process colleges and universities use to check if the information you provided on the FAFSA is accurate.
Who is selected for verification?
Different schools handle verification differently. Some schools randomly select students for verification, some schools verify every student’s FAFSA, and some schools will select a student for verification only if they feel additional documents are necessary. It is important to remember that being selected for verification does not mean you are in trouble. It simply means that you need to follow up with the financial aid office at your college or university for additional instructions.
How will I know if I am selected?
- Check your Student Aid Report, or SAR. When you complete the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report either digitally or by mail. If you filed your FAFSA online, the easiest way to view your SAR is to log in to FAFSA.gov using your FSA ID. Your SAR summarizes the information you provided on the FAFSA and lists your EFC. It may also contain a message letting you know if your college or university selected you for verification.
- Maintain contact with your college or university. After you submit your FAFSA, make sure to regularly log into your profile on your college or university’s website, check the e-mail your college or university has on file for you, and check your physical mailbox. It is also wise to contact the financial aid office at your school if you have any questions about your financial aid status.
What documents will I need and how can I obtain copies?
As part of the verification process, you will likely receive a verification form or worksheet from your college or university. REMEMBER: do return this paperwork on time and don’t leave any fields blank (write “0” or “Not Applicable” where needed). Your school may also ask for additional supporting documents. There a few categories on the FAFSA that your school may need to verify, including:
- Tax information. If your tax information needs to be verified, you will most likely need a tax return transcript. You can request a digital copy of your tax return transcript from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through this link if you meet certain requirements (listed within that link). If you do not meet the requirements for receiving a digital copy, you can request a hard copy by mail, which can take 5-10 calendar days.
- Household size and number of college students enrolled. Some schools may accept a signed statement clarifying household size, but you may need to provide proof of enrollment (this could mean a school transcript, receipt for tuition paid or a 1098-T tax form, etc.) for any household members you counted as college students on the FAFSA.
- SNAP Benefits. If you indicated on the FAFSA that you or your family receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (sometimes referred to as “SNAP” or “Food Stamps”), you may need to sign a statement declaring you enrollment in this program or provide documentation from the Utah Department of Workforce Services (more info here).
- Child Support. If you, your parent, or your legal guardian received child support payments, you may need to provide a signed statement outlining the amount paid, from whom, to whom, and for what child. Your school may also ask for copies of checks or receipts for these payments.
- High school completion status. Your college or university may ask you for copy of your diploma, GED, or final high school transcript with your graduation date listed to verify that you have completed high school.
NOTE: This list only offers examples of documents your school may ask for. You should always follow the specific instructions your school provides.
The bottom line is this: verification adds some additional responsibilities to your plate, but you can absolutely get through the process by being prepared, diligent, and thorough. If you have any general questions about FAFSA filing or verification, you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have been selected for verification and have more specific questions, however, be sure to contact the financial aid office at your college or university.
Katie is an Outreach Officer with UHEAA and StepUpUtah. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Political Science from the University of Utah and previously worked as a tutor with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college preparatory program. You can follow her for professional advice about preparing and paying for college on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (@StepUpKatie).