If you receive a FAFSA verification notice, your heart may stop as you realize something went wrong. Don’t panic. Schools use FAFSA verification to ensure that all the personal and financial information on your FAFSA is correct. The U.S. Department of Education selects around 25 percent of all filers for verification.

Your FAFSA being selected for verification may not be a problem. Sometimes, it can happen randomly or your school may want to verify all forms. Follow the instructions you receive to make the process as smooth as possible.

What is FAFSA verification?

FAFSA verification is a process to verify that all of the information you entered on your FAFSA form is correct. Think of it as a double-checking process.

When selected for verification, you will see a notification on your Student Aid Report (SAR) — the summary of the information you submitted on your FAFSA. Your school might also contact you to let you know that you’ve been selected for verification.

During the verification process, your college financial aid administrator will require you to submit certain documentation verifying the information you submitted on your FAFSA. They may request information such as W-2s or income tax returns. If you refuse to submit the requested documents, you can be disqualified from receiving federal student aid.

FAFSA verification is also the only time you can make certain updates to your FAFSA. It’s the only time you can update your household information, and you must do so if you’re selected.

Why was my FAFSA selected for FAFSA verification?

Being selected for verification doesn’t always happen because of red flags on your application. Sometimes FAFSA filers are chosen for verification because of something questionable on their form, but they can also be selected at random. Some schools even choose to verify all applicants.

However, some filers are chosen because of inconsistent information on their FAFSA form. In this case, the federal processor will look at parts of the FAFSA that are often wrong or flag information that seems incorrect. If you fill out your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), you are much less likely to be chosen for verification, although you may be chosen if you modified any of the information pulled using the IRS DRT.

What steps do you take if you’re selected for FAFSA verification?

If you are selected for FAFSA verification, don’t delay the process. The sooner you submit all of the information required, the sooner you will receive your financial aid package.

Check your verification requirements

The verification process may look different for each FAFSA filer, depending on why you were selected and what information needs to be verified. You should receive instructions to help you determine what form you need to fill out and what documentation is required. According to the U.S. Department of Education, common items you may need to verify include:

  • Adjusted gross income.
  • Education credits.
  • High school completion status.
  • Household size or number in college.
  • Identity/statement of educational purpose.
  • Income earned from work.
  • IRA deductions and payments.
  • Tax-exempt interest income.
  • U.S. income tax paid.
  • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions.
  • Untaxed portions of pensions.

Complete the verification worksheet

If your school requires a verification worksheet, download it and make sure that you understand everything you need to complete it. Contact your college financial aid officer for clarification if you have any questions about the worksheet.

Correct your FAFSA if needed

If you find a mistake on your original FAFSA, correct it if you can. Not all mistakes can be updated, but eligible mistakes on your FAFSA can be corrected online or on paper. For FAFSA verification, you are required to note if your household has added or lost members.

Submit your worksheet and any required forms

Once you’ve filled out everything on your worksheet and required forms, you are ready to submit for verification. Check with your college to ensure you submit everything correctly and on time. If you miss a deadline, you could lose aid eligibility.

Follow up about your aid

In some cases, the verification process can impact the amount of aid you receive. If your available aid goes down and you’ve already been awarded money, you must pay back any extra amount you have already received.

The bottom line

By working with your school’s financial aid department, you can provide the needed forms or documentation so that your FAFSA application is verified. FAFSA verification doesn’t need to be too nerve-wracking. It just means that the federal government needs more information or needs to check that something is correct. Sometimes, verification can even happen at random.

Frequently asked questions

  • Once all required documents are submitted for verification, the process should take about two to four weeks, depending on the college and the time of year. Your college will notify you when your financial aid package is ready.
  • You can be selected for verification for a variety of reasons. Some filers are chosen at random, some schools choose to verify every FAFSA applicant and some FAFSA forms are targeted for inaccurate or inconsistent information. Sometimes, FAFSA verification can result in a predetermined financial aid package being changed, but this does not often happen.
  • The documents you need for FAFSA verification vary depending on the circumstances under which you were selected for verification. The most common FAFSA verification documents needed are:
    • Confirmation of nontax filing status.
    • Copies of IRS tax documents or W-2s.
    • Documentation for SNAP or food stamp benefits.
    • Documentation of tax-exempt interest income.
    • Documents clarifying inconsistent information on your FAFSA.
    • Household verification form.
    • Proof of adjusted gross income.
    • Proof of child support you may have paid or received.
    The financial aid officer has the right to ask for any documentation they feel they need to verify your information, so you could be asked for documents other than these as well.
  • If you do not respond to a request for FAFSA verification, you may lose out on financial aid, such as grants, scholarships and loans.