FAFSA verification: Steps to take if you’re selected

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FAFSA verification is used by schools to ensure that all of the personal and financial information on your FAFSA is correct. The U.S. Department of Education selects around 18 percent of all filers for verification, and in many cases the selection is random. Read on to learn what to do if you are selected for verification.

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 like a double-checking process.

When you are 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’re able to make certain updates to your FAFSA. It’s the only time you are allowed to update your household information, and you’re required to do so if you’re selected.

Why you might be 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.

Steps to 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. If you have any questions about the worksheet, reach out to your college financial aid officer for clarification.
  3. Correct your FAFSA if needed. If you find a mistake on your original FAFSA, be sure to correct it, if possible. 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.
  4. 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. Before you submit, check with your college to ensure that you submit everything correctly and on time — if you miss a deadline, you could lose eligibility for aid.
  5. 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 will have to pay back any extra amount that you have already received.

Frequently asked questions about FAFSA verification

How long does the FAFSA verification process take?

Once all of your 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.

Is FAFSA verification bad?

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.

What documents do you need for FAFSA verification?

The documents you need for FAFSA verification vary depending on the circumstances under which you were selected for verification. The most common documents needed for verification are:

  • Household verification form.
  • Proof of child support you may have paid or received.
  • Documentation for SNAP or food stamp benefits.
  • Copies of IRS tax documents or W-2s.
  • Confirmation of nontax filing status.
  • Documents clarifying inconsistent information on your FAFSA.

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.

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Written by
Emma Woodward
Contributing writer
Emma Woodward is a freelance writer who loves writing to demystify personal finance topics. She has written for companies and publications like Finch, Toast, JBD Clothiers and The Financial Diet.
Edited by
Student loans editor