This article about the student aid report was originally posted here on October 24th, 2016. It was updated and reposted here on October 17th, 2018.
About 2–3 weeks after you fill out the FAFSA financial aid form for your college-bound high school senior or current college student, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). One of the things this Student Aid Report will tell you is how much it is believed that your family can afford to pay for college. (Look for the line that says: “Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).”
If you find yourself laughing or crying at how high this number is, you’re not alone. Millions of families feel shocked and stunned at the high Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) listed on their child’s student aid report.
My reassuring words to you? Don’t worry too much about this right now. If you’re following the step-by-step instructions in my book, you’re going to have many strategies you can use during the next year to bring these college costs way down.
(One mom reported in an Amazon review of my book that she only used 1/4 of the book‘s pages starting when her son was in 12th grade, and she still saved thousands on college costs. There’s hope for everyone!)
For now, here are five things to know about your child’s Student Aid Report.
1. Check to be sure you’ve actually received it.
The Student Aid Report is a paper or electronic document you receive back after filling out the FAFSA form.
It usually arrives via email or postal mail within two weeks of the date that you filed the FAFSA. The Student Aid Report will give you some idea of your child’s eligibility for federal student aid, and it will list the answers you entered on your most recent FAFSA form.
2. If you haven’t yet received your child’s Student Aid Report, do this.
If two weeks have passed since you filed your FAFSA and you haven’t yet received a Student Aid Report, there may have been some problem with your FAFSA submission. Check your FAFSA status by going to Fafsa.ed.gov. Log in there with your FSA ID, and then go to the “My FAFSA” page. Select “View” or “Print Your Student Aid Report (SAR)” and you’ll have immediate access to it.
If your Student Aid Report is not there, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Ask them what could be the problem.
3. Carefully check your Student Aid Report for possible errors.
Do all the figures you submitted look accurate? Could a figure have been put in the wrong box?
Did you accidentally make any of these 30+ Common FAFSA Mistakes when you filled out the FAFSA? Any one of these mistakes could cost you thousands. (Note that this page doesn’t open on some phones. If you have trouble, please open it from your desktop.)
Did you accidentally list the value of the home you live in as one of your assets on your FAFSA form? That wasn’t necessary, and it could have pushed your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) way up.
4. If your Student Aid Report contains errors, correct those errors right away.
To correct errors, go to the FAFSA homepage at Fafsa.ed.gov and log into FAFSA on the Web. When you get there, click “Make FAFSA Corrections.”
You’ll be allowed to correct any field on your FAFSA form other than your Social Security number.
5. Understand how critically important it is for you to make these corrections.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that more than 750,000 students a year who are notified that they have FAFSA errors fail to revise their aid applications. This seemingly small oversight costs students like these millions of dollars in financial aid money.
Once you’ve finished your corrections, do this.
Be sure that all the correct people (parents and children) have signed the online correction. Signatures may be provided electronically using FSA IDs. Remember, you must complete all the required steps and receive the official FAFSA confirmation stamp in order for your changes to be effective.
If you’ve corrected your FAFSA, here’s what will happen next.
If you’ve made a correction to your FAFSA, you will receive a new Student Aid Report that reflects all the changes you’ve made. If these corrections in any way affected your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), you’ll see that change on your new Student Aid Report. Each college’s financial aid administrators will see the changes too and will adjust your financial aid package(s) accordingly.
Put this on your calendar: fill out the FAFSA form every October.
Every family should fill out the FAFSA financial aid form every October that there’s even a chance they’ll have a child in college the following fall. Don’t neglect this step because you think you make too much money to get help paying for college. You can still get help paying for college even if your household income is over $200,000 and you have significant assets.
If you have my book, LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward, be sure you’ve carefully reviewed the big-picture FAFSA strategies that are found in chapters 10, 20, 21, 22, and 23. You can find the book on Amazon here and have it in your hands in two days.
Please help others who need this information by tweeting this:
This info is provided for you by Jeannie Burlowski, author of the book:
The advice in LAUNCH provides hundreds of advantages for students at every level of ability and parents at every level of income.
You can “Look Inside” the book on Amazon for free by going to:
(Tell your friends.)
You can see why financial planners and wealth managers love LAUNCH, here.
You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCH, here.
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time author, academic strategist, and speaker. Her writing and speaking help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report.