So you have filled out your FAFSA form and sent it on its way. Mission accomplished! Now it’s just a matter of hearing back from the Department of Education and your schools, right?

Well, not exactly. Not if you really want to do a good job of making sure you get the best financial aid package possible. There are a few things that the Department of Education recommends that you do after the form is sent in.

Get your Student Aid Report (SAR). This is the response from the Department of Education and contains some basic information about your eligibility for federal aid. It also lists your answers to the FAFSA questions, so it would be a good idea to review it for accuracy.

You can also update the information if needed. For example, if you filled out the FAFSA before you filed your tax return, you can amend the income information (if necessary) after you do. Changes can be made by going to

Find (and Follow Up On) Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). One piece of key information in the SAR is your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. This is not the actual amount of money you must pay, or the amount of aid you will receive.

It is a score that reflects and measures your family’s financial strength and is calculated via a formula in the law. Schools use this score to determine your aid eligibility and your aid award. You might want to contact your schools to find out how they use this score to calculate financial aid.

Make Use of Financial Aid History Info. One of the many mistakes people make with student loans and financial aid is that they fail to keep track of their borrowing. However, the last page of the SAR includes information about your financial aid history, like the loans you have taken out. You can also get this information from the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System.

Follow Up with the Schools. The FAFSA and the SAR, with all of its information, may not be the be-all and end-all of the data your school or schools need for calculating aid. You should contact them to find out what additional paperwork they may need or deadlines they may have.

Consider Adding Schools to the List. You might be thinking about other schools, but not have included them in the list of those to receive the FAFSA information. If their deadlines have not passed, you can add them to the list! This may result in more offers (and maybe better offers), to allow you to make the most economical choice for you.

More Information

If you are looking for more information about federal financial aid for college, then download my free book, Applying for Federal Financial Aid: The Definitive Guide for Students and Parents.

For more information about what happens after you graduate, get my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.

You can also access the latest news on student loans, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and read articles in my Library. Continue to educate yourself as you go through the process of making smart decisions about college financing!

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.