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How long does it take FAFSA® to process?

How to Pay for College > How do I Apply? > Next Steps After FAFSA® > How long does it take FAFSA® to process?

The time it takes to hear back from your FAFSA® submission can seem like ages, but you’ll be happy to know the process can be quicker than you’d think.

For an electronically filed FAFSA® signed online with an FSA ID, you’ll receive a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR) in as little as 3 to 5 days . By contrast, paper FAFSA® applications can take up to 3 weeks, so how long it takes really depends on how you’ve applied.

 

How Long Does It Take To File FAFSA®?

If you need to gather necessary information for filing and you are filing for the first time, it can take a couple of hours to file your FAFSA®. If you are filing online and if you already have the necessary information information ready, it take 4 – 60 minutes for a first time filer depending on the online filing tool you use.

 

Form Type First Time Filer (Avg)Renewal (Avg)
Paper FAFSA®3 hours3 hours
Online FAFSA®1 hour45 minutes
 Frank 4 minutes 4 minutes
Corrections10 minutes10 minutes

 

How Long Does It Take To Process FAFSA®?

After you submit your FAFSA® and it processes, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR)  in about 3 to 14 days or sometimes longer depending on if your receive it over email or by post, and other factors.

To receive your SAR  in the quickest amount of time, complete the the form online, provide an email address, and sign the FAFSA® using your FSA ID. You can also create your which is a personal identification number used to access federal student aid information and legally sign electronic documents.

If you don’t provide your email address on the electronic FAFSA®, you will receive a paper SAR in the mail in about 7 to 10 days. For those who have filled out the form online, provided a valid email address, but haven’t signed the FAFSA® with an FSA ID, receiving the SAR by email can take up to two weeks.

You can fill out the paper form and provide an email address on the application, which ensures you receive a link to your SAR via email in two weeks.

Without an FSA ID or email address, a paper form will take as long as three weeks to process and send out your SAR. Also, providing an invalid email address on the FAFSA® using any method will result in a delayed SAR.

While you can fill out the paper form and submit it via mail, you can only make corrections to the SAR Acknowledgment online. If you haven’t heard anything regarding your FAFSA® in more than three weeks, check your SAR status online.

 

First, the schools you listed on your FAFSA® receive your EFC.

After receiving your SAR, which includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC),  the schools you listed on the application will receive the information to determine your financial aid eligibility.

All colleges can access your information the day after the FAFSA® has been processed, but each college or university financial aid department has its own processing time as they receive numerous applications daily.

 

Then, the school you are accepted to creates a financial aid award package.

Listing the college on the FAFSA® alone is not enough to automatically receive aid from that school. Colleges don’t create financial award packages for every applicant because most students list multiple schools on their FAFSA®, especially if they’re incoming freshmen and haven’t yet decided where to attend.

Although your timeline to accept an offer may vary, many acceptance offers in the United States come in prior to May 1 due to the Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA).  The CRDA is an agreement that gives students until May 1 of every year to accept or decline college admission offers.

If you do plan to study at a particular college, contact the school’s financial aid department directly. The school will determine your eligibility and deliver a financial aid award letter to you.

 

When Will Your Federal Student Loan be Disbursed ?

Image via Flickr by wuestenigel

If you are eligible for any federal student loans offered as part of your financial aid package and you signed your Master Promissory Note (MPN), you can expect to get your student loans about 10 days before you start classes, although this may vary depending on a number of factors.

If you did not sign your MPN, the amount of time to receive your federal student loan funds can take several weeks.

 

Tips For Quick FAFSA® and Financial Aid Award Package Processing

Pay attention to all communication from the financial aid department, as you may need to submit additional documentation on a deadline. Also, reach out to the college for more information on when you’ll receive your award letter.

The FAFSA® has provided a streamlined process for students applying for aid, so processing times are minimal. Keep on top of all deadlines and make any needed corrections immediately to get your aid in a timely manner.

 

 

 

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Disclaimer Block

The above information is intended solely for general use. While every attempt has been made to ensure its accuracy, Frank makes no representations or warranties as to the validity or completeness of any information. Frank will not be responsible for any errors or omissions in this information, or for any losses or damages arising from its use. Please seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for personal financial advice.

 

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.

 

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