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Understanding Your Student Aid Report

If you can’t afford to cover the cost of your college education, you’ll likely need some form of financial aid. The government requires students who want federal aid to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. Once you submit this form, you’ll receive your student aid report. Here’s what you should know if you’re having trouble understanding this form.

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The Purpose of the Student Aid Report

The student aid report (SAR) provides a summary of the information that students and parents include on their FAFSA forms. It also provides students with their expected family contribution (EFC).

The EFC is an index number that estimates what individual families should be able to contribute toward a child’s college education out of pocket. While it’s based on the financial information you provided, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your family will be expected to pay X amount of money. Still, understanding how your EFC is calculated is helpful if you want a better idea of how the government decides who’s eligible for student aid.

Another important set of information that you’ll find on your SAR is a snapshot of the types of federal aid you qualify for. For example, it’ll tell you whether you can participate in the federal work-study program or you qualify for a federal student loan.

How to View Your Student Aid Report

Understanding Your Student Aid Report

If you include your email address on your FAFSA form, the Department of Education will email you and explain how to access your student aid report. If you don’t provide an email address, you’ll either receive a paper copy of your SAR (if you file a paper FAFSA) or a SAR Acknowledgement in the mail (if you file your FAFSA electronically).

If you can’t find the email about your SAR in your inbox, you can find it online by visiting fafsa.ed.gov. In order to view the document, you’ll need to enter the Federal Student Aid ID that you needed to complete the FAFSA. If you file your FAFSA electronically (or your school submits it for you) and you provide an email address, you’ll receive your SAR within three days. Otherwise, you might have to wait for as many as 14 days to see your student aid report.

Related Article: Understanding the New FAFSA

What to Do With Your Student Aid Report

Since student aid reports provide information about the details students and parents include on the FAFSA form, you can use the SAR to double-check your FAFSA. Providing incorrect numbers or answers could prevent a student from qualifying for a grant or a student loan that he or she needs in order to attend school.

If you find errors on your SAR, you’ll need to make those changes on your FAFSA form. You can do that by visiting fafsa.gov. Once you log in, you can click on a button that says “Make FAFSA Corrections.” If you want the changes you’ve made to be available to the schools you’ve applied to, you’ll need to refer to a four-digit number in the upper right hand corner of your SAR known as the Data Release Number (DRN).

If your SAR indicates that you’re missing something, you won’t be able to view your expected family contribution (EFC) until you provide that information. If you don’t find any issues on your SAR, the form is yours to keep.

Related Article: Top 5 Tips for Evaluating Your Financial Aid Award Letter

Final Word

Understanding Your Student Aid Report

The student aid report (SAR) provides a synopsis of the information you reported on your FAFSA form. It’s important for your FAFSA to be as accurate as possible. After all, making mistakes could prevent you from receiving the financial aid you need. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your SAR carefully and correct any errors you find as soon as possible.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/arekmalang, ©iStock.com/Milenko Bokan, ©iStock.com/Ammentorp Photography

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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