How Do I Get My Money?

After filing FAFSA®, your school will explain how and when your financial aid will be distributed. At this time, you may want to contact the financial aid department to double-check that the college doesn’t need any additional paperwork, as overlooking any detail can leave much-needed money on the table.

After Filling Out the FAFSA®

Once you’ve filed FAFSA®, be patient, as it takes some time to process and for the schools you’ve specified on the application to receive your information. You’ll shortly receive your student aid report (SAR), which is a paper or electronic document that lists your questions to the FAFSA® as well as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Read your SAR carefully and make any needed corrections as soon as possible.

Locate your EFC at the top of the first page of the SAR beneath your social security number. This is a measure of your and/or your parents’ financial strength, which considers taxed and untaxed income, benefits, assets, family size, and how many people in your household will attend college during the upcoming year. The EFC is not necessarily how much money you will have to pay the school, but it is a figure the school’s financial aid department uses to determine how much financial aid to award.

On the last page of your SAR, you’ll find a review of your financial aid history. This is a good way to keep track of your previous student loans and their interest rates, helping you get a better idea of how much you’ll owe after you’re finished with school.

Getting Your Financial Aid

Your student aid will cover an entire academic year and will be disbursed over at least two payments, typically at the start of each semester. If the academic year at your college is broken into quarters or shorter terms, these payments may be spread out even more. When you actually receive the financial aid depends on how your school has set up its academic calendar and when each semester or quarter start date occurs.

Contact your college’s financial aid department directly, either over the phone or via email, to get a better idea of when your financial aid will be paid out. In general, it’s a good idea to contact the department anyway to see if you need to submit additional paperwork or meet other requirements before a deadline. If this is your first time receiving aid, for example, you will need to sign a promissory note and take entrance counseling online.

Touching base with the financial aid department can help you understand the process better and keep you aware of important dates. Also, keep an eye on any important mail from the school’s financial aid department, as a letter may be a request to submit additional documentation by a certain deadline. Failing to do so can void your financial aid or cause you to receive less than you might have otherwise been given.

Depending on your school, you may receive your financial aid in the form of a check or direct deposit to your bank account after all other college expenses have been paid.