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What to Do If You’re Selected for FAFSA Verification

FAFSA verification is the process used by the Department of Education to double-check the financial information of students. About 30 percent of FAFSA applicants are required to verify their information every year. Most are randomly chosen, so there’s no reason to worry if selected. The process may sound alarming, but it is a quick and simple application that is no cause for concern.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to FAFSA verification. We’ll walk you through the verification process and explain the purpose of verification. Finally, we’ll show you how to interpret the results you receive.

Don’t miss: Changes to the FAFSA verification process for the 2021-2022 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic

1. Don’t worry!

Before you start preparing to verify your FAFSA, take a deep breath and remember that it’s a routine process. As mentioned, roughly 30 percent of applicants are randomly asked to verify every year. Remember, the process should clarify your information–it is not an investigation. In fact, you may end up receiving a better financial aid package after verification.

Learn more: Which assets and debts are reported on the FAFSA?

2. Gather the necessary documents

The main point of a verification is to collect official documents which verify the information on your FAFSA. The documents you must submit depend on the type of information being verified. 

    • Number of people in your home – You’ll need to provide a signed statement verifying the number of people in your home. 
    • Number of household members in college – You’ll need proof of enrollment for each member. This could be in the form of a tuition bill, grades, or other document.
    • SNAP eligibility –  You may need to obtain a document from the agency that administers your benefits. 
  • Child support – You may need to provide receipts or copies of checks from child support statements
  • High school degree – You may need to submit a copy of your diploma, GED, or final transcript.
  • Income information – If you did not provide tax information using the IRS Retrieval tool, you may have to verify it. You can use the tool to verify the information, or submit your prior-year tax return transcript via IRS Form 4506-T.
  • Education credits –  You may have to provide additional tax documents to verify education credits.

Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

3. Complete your FAFSA Verification Worksheets

Your school will provide you with a FAFSA Verification Worksheet. Use your documents to fill out this sheet. The sheets can vary based on the school and on the information being verified. If you have any questions, make sure to contact your school promptly. Don’t let a confusing question delay your submission.

Many schools will do this online so you should also be watching your student portal for verification requirements.

Also read: CSS Profile vs. FAFSA: What you need to know

4. Respond to your verification request promptly

Once you fill everything out, don’t delay in sending in the verification. The sooner you submit it, the better chance that you will receive your maximum financial aid package. If you send in your verification past the institutional deadline, you may be disqualified from institutional aid. 

Each school has its own deadline for institutional aid. Once you receive your verification request, reach out to your school promptly to find out when this deadline is. Communicate openly and clearly with your financial aid office to ensure that you will not fall behind on your deadlines. Ask how long you should expect to wait to hear your amended results. If you don’t receive them promptly, don’t hesitate to follow-up with your school.

Remember, a delay in providing the information to the college may cause a delay in receiving your financial aid award!

Related: How long does it take for the FAFSA to be processed?

What are the possible outcomes of FAFSA verification?

Once you receive the results of your FAFSA verification, you’ll learn how they impact your financial aid offer. You’ll learn that your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution, has either remained the same, increased, or decreased. Here is what each of those possibilities could mean for you.

No change

Because most FAFSA verifications are selected randomly, they often cause no change to your aid. If your verified materials match the originally submitted ones, you will typically receive the same EFC that you did initially. This means that your financial aid offer will remain the same as the one offered before verification.

Increased EFC

If your verified materials indicate a higher EFC, you will receive an adjusted financial aid offer. Your higher EFC indicates a higher ability to pay, and a lower level of need. This would affect your federal and state aid. Additionally, if your school uses the FAFSA to determine institutional aid, it would impact your institutional aid. 

There are no penalties for mistakes in the first application. However, you will receive adjusted aid for your verified status. If you already received grant money based on your previous financial information, you will have to repay it.

Decreased EFC

If your verified materials indicate a lower EFC, you will receive an adjusted financial aid offer. Your lower EFC indicates a lower ability to pay, and a higher level of need. You will probably receive more federal and state aid. Additionally, you may receive more institutional aid if your college utilizes the FAFSA. However, some colleges may not offer more aid if your verification is past their filing deadline.

Read more: How to complete this year’s FAFSA

Adjustments to the FAFSA verification process for the 2021-2022 school year

What this means for you

In accordance with a memo released by the Department of Education in July of 2021, FAFSA verification requirements will be relaxed for the 2021-2022 school year. In order to minimize roadblocks for students during the pandemic, they will reduce the number of students who need to verify their FAFSA. The Board of Education will only target instances where they suspect fraud or identity theft. Additionally, they will relax requirements for verification documents for students who still need to submit a review.

In a typical year, the Board of Education randomly selects the majority of FAFSA verifications. Since they will suspend these selections for the 2021-2022 academic year, the majority of FAFSA verifications will not be conducted. So, they are less likely to verify your FAFSA. However, it also means that in the case of verification, something about your application seemed suspicious. Make sure that you check through your verification worksheet thoroughly before submitting it. This will ensure that you don’t encounter any more roadblocks.

Note: If you received notice of FAFSA verification before July 13, 2021, there is a good chance that your verification will be cancelled. The Department of Education mandated that investigations that were underway but incomplete did not have to be carried through.

How requirements have changed

In addition, for verifications that will continue to be carried out, the Board of Education has relaxed the requirements for verification documents. To verify your identity, you can submit your verification documents electronically. This includes pictures taken by your smartphone, which you can email to your university. You can also use an electronic signature to sign your verification document. A “wet signature” is no longer necessary.

The memo also encouraged institutions to relax high school graduation status verification. If available, they should use the high school graduation certificate that students submitted to gain admission. They should not require students to submit an additional document.

Related: Emergency financial aid for college students