So, you’ve been selected for verification – don’t worry! It happens to the best of us. About one-third of all FAFSA applicants are selected for verification. Some schools even verify every single student. This does not mean that you did something wrong, and being selected is not the end of the world! Knowing a few things about verification can ease anxieties about the process and help you get through it a little easier.
Verification is the procedure that reviews your FAFSA information to make sure it’s complete and correct. Your school’s financial aid office is required by the U.S. Department of Education (The Department) to request additional documents from you to verify the data submitted on your FAFSA.
If you are depending on financial aid to be able to attend college, do not let verification interfere with your dreams. The Department and your school are not trying to make things difficult for you. Verification just helps ensure that you get all the aid you are entitled to.
The Department does not give you a specific reason why you were selected for verification, and the information that is verified changes from year to year. Many applicants are chosen randomly, but you may be selected for verification due to inconsistent or incomplete FAFSA data. Even if you were chosen for one of these reasons, no need to panic! Information can be easily updated or completed through the verification process.
One way to minimize the chances of being selected for verification is to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) when filling out the FAFSA. Using this tool does not guarantee that you won’t be selected for verification, but it is the best way to ensure that income information is correct. The DRT is a fast, easy and secure way to transfer income data, and it may also prevent you from having to submit tax documents directly to your school. If you have already filled out the FAFSA but did not use the DRT, no problem. If you need a copy of your tax return to provide to your school, you can just visit IRS.gov and use the Get Transcript tool.
If you are selected for verification, there will be an asterisk (*) next to your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on your Student Aid Report (SAR), and you will be told in your SAR acknowledgment letter. Your school will also let you know, most likely through email or your online school account, since you will be sending the information to your school. If you receive your SAR and see a little star (*) next to your EFC, make sure you check your email regularly for more specific instructions from your school. If you haven’t heard from your school but your SAR shows that you have been selected for verification, be sure to follow up with your financial aid office so they can let you know what’s going on.
Your financial aid office will tell you exactly what is needed from you to complete the verification process. Most schools will send you a verification worksheet that specifies which additional documents and information are needed. You will have to fill out this worksheet and send it back to your school along with appropriate documentation. The documents they ask for may be things like a copy of your or your parents’ tax return, proof of your high school diploma, or documentation of public assistance benefits. If you have questions about what you are supposed to send in, do not hesitate to contact your financial aid office. Verification is a routine process, and schools want to get it over with as much as you do. School administrators understand that you may be confused, and they are more than willing to assist you. All you have to do is ask.
Your school will also give you a deadline for returning the materials. It is best to send in everything before your deadline, to allow for processing time. You will not receive your financial aid until verification is complete. It is also very important that no changes are made to your FAFSA application during the verification process because this could cause a delay in aid disbursement. Do not let these deadlines or consequences stress you out. Just stay calm, follow the instructions from your school, and ask for help if you need it. When it’s all over, you will realize that verification isn’t as scary as you once thought.
To learn even more, see our Verification Q&A document.
After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, I have spent the past 5 years advising students about financial aid process and the options available to keep them from getting behind on their student loans. I would like to share my knowledge with you. I want to help you and students like you have a better understanding of your finances, provide guidance on ways to effectively manage your money, and offer you the support and encouragement needed to be successful.