First of all, don’t panic or be discouraged. The verification process is usually initiated by Federal Student Aid (FSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Education. While most FAFSAs are randomly selected for this process, some may also be selected if there’s conflicting or unclear information that needs to be resolved. A college may select a FAFSA for verification for the same reasons. Think of it as an audit tool used to ensure that the financial aid offices at the colleges, universities, technology centers and career schools that administer student aid are abiding by the rules and regulations that govern the federal financial aid process. According to those rules, a financial aid office is not allowed to disburse any federal aid to a selected student who has not completed the verification process. It’s important for you to know that no one suspects you of any wrong-doing.
The first page of the Student Aid Report (SAR), that you received a few days after you submitted your FAFSA, will tell you if it’s been selected for verification. Read the first page of your SAR carefully to see what you should do next. The college(s) you listed on your FAFSA will also see a verification flag and may be in contact to tell you what they need you to send to them. If they don’t contact you within a week or two after you receive your SAR, be sure to reach out to the financial aid office and ask what you should do next.
One of the most common requests in the verification process is for you to supply proof of income for the year requested. Students who use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on their FAFSAs usually don’t need to supply that information, since their financial data was already transferred from their tax return to their FAFSA. Other items that may need to be verified are often resolved by submitting a worksheet providing more information.
This process takes time, so please be patient with the financial aid personnel at your school. They are carrying out a mandate given them by the U.S. Department of Education, and they must follow the laws that govern federal financial aid. Make sure to respond quickly to any request the financial aid office sends you so the process will go smoothly.