What Should I Do After Filing FAFSA® to Prepare for College?

Filing your FAFSA® is a big step toward getting ready for college. But what should you do while you’re waiting for your FAFSA® to process? From reviewing your Student Aid Report to making sure the colleges you’ve applied to receive your information, here are the steps you need to take after filing your FAFSA® to prepare for college.

Make Sure Your FAFSA® Was Processed

The first step you want to take after you file your FAFSA® is to make sure it was processed. If you submit it online, you can immediately check the status to make sure everything went through correctly. If you filed a paper FAFSA®, you’ll have to wait until your form gets processed. This could take anywhere from seven to ten days after you mailed the paperwork.

After you submit your FAFSA® form, the information goes to the schools listed on your application. At that point, the financial aid office at each school uses this information to determine how much federal student aid you can get at that school. If any school you applied to has extra funding opportunities, they’ll also use your FAFSA® information to see whether or not you can apply for these, as well.

Watch for Your Student Aid Report

The first information you’ll receive after you submit your FAFSA® is your Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR will either come electronically or on paper depending on which option you chose when you submitted your FAFSA®. If you submitted electronically, you can expect your SAR in about three days. If you mailed your paperwork, your SAR will arrive in around three weeks. Your SAR will give you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid, and it will contain some general questions and answers about your FAFSA®.

You can use your FSA ID to log into the Federal Student Aid website and view or print your SAR at any time. Additionally, if you haven’t received your SAR within the previously mentioned timeframe, this is when you should check its status. After you get your SAR, review it carefully to make sure it’s complete and there are no mistakes. If you do see a mistake, you need to update your information right away.

Review Your Expected Family Contribution

One part of your SAR that you’ll want to carefully review is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is found on the first page of your SAR in a box under your Social Security number. The EFC measures your family’s financial strength using a formula established by law. This formula considers:

  • Taxed and untaxed income
  • Benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security)
  • Assets
  • Family size
  • The number of family members attending college that year

While schools will use your EFC to determine how much federal student aid you’re eligible to receive, it’s important to remember it’s not the amount of money your family must put toward college, nor the amount of federal student aid you’ll receive.

Look Over Your Financial Aid History

The final page of your SAR includes information about your financial aid history and any loans you’ve taken out. Even though it’s hard to keep track of all your loans and their interest rates, this is important information to keep in mind. By reviewing your financial aid history on your SAR, you can calculate how much money you’re borrowing and how much you’ll owe to make sure you’re still able to meet your financial obligations when you graduate.

Make Any Necessary Corrections

It’s important to review all the information on your FAFSA® and SAR to make sure they’re correct. If you see a mistake, or you need to update any details about your family’s circumstances, you need to make these corrections immediately. Luckily, doing so is easy. Simply log in with your FSA ID and click “Make FAFSA® Corrections.”

From there, you can fix any mistakes or update your information. Most corrections take three to five days to process, and you’ll receive a revised SAR afterward. Keep in mind that you can’t make any other corrections until after your FAFSA® is successfully processed.

Make Sure Your Schools Have This Information

The final step you should take to prepare for college after filing your FAFSA® is to make sure your chosen schools have received all your information. Check with your schools to see if they have deadlines for other financial aid options or need more paperwork to complete your financial aid packet.

Once you submit your FAFSA® and you’re waiting for everything to process, make sure you take these additional steps to prepare for college.

Apply For Scholarships

There’s a significant chance that your federal aid won’t be enough to cover the full cost of your tuition. If you want to avoid the prospect of taking out student loans or want to do the best you can to close the aid gap, now is the time to apply for scholarships. 

Doing a simple Google search or heading to scholarships.com can help you track down scholarships that make sense for you. If you need a little help in understanding the process of filling out scholarship applications, we have a great guide you can read through here

Scholarships are another way to supplement the financial aid you get from the FAFSA®. There’s no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply for and there’s guaranteed to be something out there that’s custom made for you. Remember to keep track of your due dates (which are individual to the scholarship itself), and apply for as many as possible. 

Negotiate for More Aid

Eventually, you’ll get your financial aid package form each of the schools you applied to. Once you have this, and you see which schools are offering you more money, you can attempt to negotiate your financial aid.

If the school your set on going to doesn’t match the aid provided at one of your other choices, you can file an Aid Appeal. An aid appeal is a letter you write to your school to ask them for more aid based on merit, additional aid offers, loss of income, or other changes in your financial circumstances. 

You can read our guide to filing for aid appeal here.