WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FAFSA IS SENT OFF?
Hopefully by now you have the FASFA form well on its way to completion. By being obsessively accurate or completing the form online there is a good chance that you were able to identify any mistakes. Your financial package can be delayed by inaccuracies, which in turn can effect the amount of your award since the money is awarded on a first come first serve basis. It is always a good idea to check with the colleges’ financial aid counselors to make sure that they have received all of your financial information. This contact also provides an opportunity to begin a relationship with the person who will be instrumental in deciding the amount and make-up of your financial package.
Soon after submitting the FAFSA, sometimes within a week (compared to four weeks for the paper FAFSA), you will receive an email with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR). This form, which colleges use to determine eligibility for federal assistance, includes: information reported on the FAFSA, an opportunity to make corrections, and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the “expected contribution” (sorry, but not what you think you should contribute) based on the information given on the FAFSA. The amount of the financial need is determined by subtracting the expected family contribution from the total cost of attending that particular college. Just a heads up – this is often the source of disappointment with financial aid packages. Check the SAR report over very carefully to be sure all of the information is correct. If you find any mistakes immediately make the necessary changes.
The financial aid package is usually made up of three general categories: grants/ scholarships, loans and work-study. The sad reality is that the amounts in these three categories plus your family contribution may not cover the total bill. The amount that is short is called a ‘gap’ and you should be forewarned that this might give you heartburn and sleepless nights. The amount of the gap and loans is the reason that you want to be able to compare financial packages offered by the different colleges you are considering. If all this causes you to take excessive amounts of Tums contact the financial aid officer of the college to ask if there is any chance of adjustments being made. Often schools have some flexibility and can make adjustments. If you have special circumstances or your financial situation has changed since completing the FAFSA make sure that the financial aid officer knows about them. Additional information may help to increase the award. Private scholarships can help, but where the help comes (subtracted from grants, loan or work-study) depends on the policy of the particular college. Rarely do these awarded private scholarships mean less parental contribution.
One last reminder, it is important not to get so caught up in interpreting and comparing (and haggling over) the packages that you lose track of the deadlines set by the colleges for accepting the awards. If you miss the deadline your student could lose the whole package and you could be writing a really big check. That will call for more than a few Tums.
College Planning Consultants