Once you complete your FAFSA online at www.FAFSA.ed.gov or through mailing in the paper version, you will receive your FAFSA SAR (Student Aid Report).

What’s the FAFSA SAR?

Your FAFSA SAR will summarize all of the information you included on your FAFSA form and provide you with an EFC (Expected Family Contribution).

If you filed your FAFSA online, then you can expect to receive your FAFSA SAR results in a few days. However, if you filed using the paper FAFSA, then it can take up to 4 weeks to get your results.

In addition to getting it sent directly to you, your FAFSA SAR will also be sent to all of the colleges you listed on your FAFSA.

The financial aid department at all of the colleges you listed will then use your FAFSA SAR to create a custom financial aid package for you based on the type of financial aid you are eligible for. They will then communicate this information to you in the form of a Financial Aid Award Letter or Notice.

Reviewing your FAFSA SAR

Once you receive the SAR, be sure to check it over to see if everything is accurate. This is very important! The expected family contribution listed on your FAFSA SAR will ultimately determine how much aid you will receive.

If you find mistakes on your student aid report, you can complete the Information Review Form that is on the back of the FAFSA SAR. Once completed, you can do 1 of 2 things:

  • 1) Contact the financial aid offices of the colleges listed on your FAFSA to see if the school can submit the corrections electronically
  • 2) Mail the form to the address listed on the information review form

You should also keep a copy of your SAR for your records.

Understanding the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

If all of the information on your FAFSA is complete, then you should notice an EFC printed in the top right hand corner of your FAFSA SAR.

The EFC is based on all of the information you reported about yourself and your family on the FAFSA form.

Your EFC represents the amount the government believes your family can afford to contribute to your college expenses. This amount is based on your family’s income, assets, number of children already in college, as well as other financial factors.

The college you decide to attend will use this information to award your financial aid.

What the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is NOT…

  • Your EFC is NOT the amount of money you and your family will have to pay for college.
  • Your EFC is also NOT the amount of federal student aid you should expect to receive from any college or university.

Is the EFC amount listed on the FAFSA SAR always right?

No, not necessarily. For some, the EFC amount could be pretty accurate; however some families end up paying less or more than the EFC number reported on their FAFSA SAR.

WHY? Because the government uses its own special formula to calculate your EFC, but not all colleges use this formula to calculate their EFC.

Many colleges have developed their own formula – this is often referred to as an “institutional methodology.”

The methodology used by the college you decide to attend could generate a completely different amount than the one posted on your FAFSA SAR or the college you select could use the government’s formula.

Understanding the FAFSA SAR Components:

In addition to your EFC, there are some other items that you’ll probably see on your FAFSA SAR.

A description of these additional components can be found below:

  • 1) Verification

If your FAFSA SAR has be selected for “verification,” then you’ll have to provide additional financial documentation to the college you selected in order to qualify for financial aid.

You will probably have to complete a “verification worksheet.” You can get this worksheet in the school’s financial aid office. You might be asked to provide the financial documents that you used to prepare your FAFSA form (i.e. tax returns, W-2 forms, etc.).

If your FAFSA SAR gets selected for verification, don’t sweat it! About 30% of all student aid reports are selected for verification; it’s a fairly routine request.

However, you must complete the verification step as soon as possible. Since financial aid is disbursed on a “first come, first serve” basis, the sooner you get this taken care of, the better.

  • 2) Data Release Number (DRN)

You should also notice a DRN on your FAFSA SAR. You’ll need to reference this number if you decide to make your SAR available to colleges you didn’t originally include on your FAFSA. The DRN will also come in handy if you need to make changes to any personal information (i.e. home address, etc.).

  • 3) Loan Summary

If you have other outstanding student loans, you’ll see this information in the “loan summary” section. You’ll want to review the loans listed to make sure they are accurate. If you don’t have any federal loans, then this section will likely be blank on your FAFSA SAR and you can just ignore it.

  • 4) Pell Grant Eligibility

Your FAFSA SAR will also tell you if you’re eligible for the Pell Grant. Pell Grants are awarded to low income families, so you may or may not reap the benefits of this grant.

What Does the FAFSA SAR Look Like?

  • CLICK HERE to see what a FAFSA Student Aid Report actually looks like…

If you need more information or have other questions about the FAFSA SAR, you can contact the US Department of Education Help Desk at 1-800-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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