Once you submit the FAFSA, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you check this off the to-do list.  Your FAFSA will be processed within three to five days.  After that time, you will receive an email with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR), which will include a summary of your application and let you know if there were any issues that still need to be resolved.  If your application is complete, then the SAR will display your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is then used to calculate your financial aid eligibility at each institution


Although it may appear that you’ve completed everything at this stage, there may still be more to the application process.  After you submit your FAFSA, you may be selected for Financial Aid Verification.  Always keep an eye out for emails, letters, portal messages etc. from the financial aid offices, as colleges will often send missing information notifications when they are looking for verification documents from you.  Don’t ignore these requests, as it may put your financial aid in jeopardy or at least delay getting your finalized financial aid award. Check your spam folders regularly as these emails can sometimes look like spam.

FAFSA Renewal is Easier… Really!

In order to reapply for financial aid, you will need to complete the FAFSA for each academic year.  However, the renewal form is much easier than the initial form, as all the demographic information is populated from your prior FAFSA.  You’ll basically just need to tackle the financial section, add the college your child is attending, review the pre-populated data, electronically sign with your FSA IDs and submit!

Have you heard that the FAFSA is changing? The 2016-2017 academic year is the last time the FAFSA will be based on the prior income year.  Starting with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA will be based on the prior-prior year income (in this case, 2015 again) and it will be available earlier three months earlier than it has been previously: on October 1st, 2016.

Since the base year is changing, you’ll have much easier access to the information necessary to complete the form and you will not need to worry about estimating your income.  You can even use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and many financial items will populate for you right from the IRS!  These items include your Adjusted Gross Income, tax filing status, type of tax return filed, income earned from work, income tax, IRS exemptions, education credits, IRA deductions and payments, tax-exempt interest income, untaxed IRA distributions, and untaxed pension.  This will make the financial section a breeze and you’ll only need to worry about filling in any untaxed income and asset information.

Read all the posts in this series:

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Written by Michelle Clifton
Michelle Clifton is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Coach, she was a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Babson College and a Student Loan Officer at Rhode Island School of Design.