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Don't Forget to Update Your Student Aid Report (SAR)

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If you filed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) last month you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) this month. The SAR contains the information you submitted on the FAFSA and is the document that will go out to the colleges you listed on your FAFSA.

Colleges use this information to determine your eligibility for need-based financial aid. Some colleges will use only the SAR, others will use a combination of the SAR and information submitted on either their own financial aid forms or from the Profile form to determine your eligibility.

Since these forms are directly related how much and what type of financial aid you receive, it is important that you look over the information for accuracy.

If your form is complete you will find your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on the form and a Data Release Number (DRN). If you do not see these numbers on your form that means your form is incomplete. The form will also let you know why your form is incomplete and what your next steps are to get your form completed. If you fall into this category follow the directions immediately. Your EFC will not be calculated and the information cannot go out to the colleges until your form is completed.

If you do find an error in the information make the corrections as soon as possible. How you make corrections will depend on how you filed your form. If you received a SAR via regular mail the form you receive will have space for you to make corrections to the form. If you are using the paper form for your corrections both the student and one parent will need to sign the form with the corrections to make the changes. If you filed online you can make your corrections online as well.

If you filed using estimated tax information, get your 2013 taxes completed as soon as you can. Once you have your completed taxes you will need to update your SAR with your final tax information.

Some families will be selected for verification. In most cases students are selected randomly but if your form was incomplete or your information was inconsistent it will increase your chances of being selected.

Being selected for verification is similar to being audited by the IRS. You will be required to furnish the school with documentation of your income and assets. Typically you will need to send a copy of the parents and students federal income tax forms, the dependent verification worksheet, and a parent asset worksheet.

The federal processors will select some students and colleges will select students as well. If you were selected for verification by the federal processors there will be an asterisk (*) next to your EFC on your SAR. It will also be stated in your SAR acknowledgement letter that comes with your SAR. If you are selected for verification by a school, you will be notified in your award letter.

Either way there will be a deadline associated with the verification notice. If you do not comply and furnish the required information by the deadline you will not receive any financial aid. I cannot stress enough how important it is to respond quickly and with complete information if you are selected for verification. You do not want to lose out on the aid you are entitled to because of a misstep here.

Once your SAR is squared away you can expect to begin receiving offers of financial aid from the colleges you applied to.