Navigating Financial Aid Verification

By: Texas OnCourse Leader Fellow Holly Moore
reading time icon2 min

You sent emails and texts and held parent meetings before October 1st in hopes that your students would complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A successful financial aid night has come and gone, and you're impressed with the FAFSA completions at your high school. All is calm until a panicked student comes into your office and tells you they received an email saying they were selected for verification.

What is verification?

Verification is proof through documentation that the information provided on a student's FAFSA is correct. The federal government requires colleges and universities to verify or confirm the data reported by students and their parent(s) on the FAFSA.

Who is selected?

Typically, about one-third of students are selected for verification. However, some schools verify all students.

Why was a student selected for verification?

First, reassure the student that they didn’t do anything wrong. Verification selection can be random. It could also be that the FAFSA submitted was incomplete, used estimated information, or provided inconsistent data. The verification process is a federal requirement to ensure that eligible students receive all the aid that they qualify for and to prevent ineligible students from receiving aid.

How does a student know they were selected for verification?

On the top of the Student Aid Report (SAR), they will see the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If there is an asterisk (*) behind the EFC number, the FAFSA was selected for verification. Students selected for verification may also be notified directly from the college(s) they have applied to via mail, email, or the student’s portal. In addition, counselors and advisers can see which students have been selected for verification by logging into the ApplyTexas Counselor Suite and clicking on their high school’s FAFSA apps.

How can counselors and advisers help students navigate the verification process?

  1. Educate students and families about verification in advance. If families know what verification is and what to expect if they are selected, then the student is more likely to be successful at completing the verification process.
  2. Encourage all families to request a tax transcript from the IRS if they are unable to use the IRS data retrieval tool when completing the FAFSA. Offer to assist with ordering tax transcripts, if applicable, during financial aid workshops. This is one of the most common documents requested when a student is selected for verification.
  3. Make sure students check their email and log into their college portals so that they don’t miss any needed paperwork or deadlines. If ever in doubt, call the college’s financial aid office.

Verification can be a major barrier, especially for Pell-eligible students. NCAN data shows that over 100,000 Pell-eligible students in 2016–2017 who were selected for verification never completed the process. Counselors can help keep students on course by tracking students selected for verification, ensuring that they submit documents, and scheduling meetings to review their financial aid award letters.

If you’re craving more FAFSA knowledge, watch our webinar on financial aid.

And finally, counselors and advisers, we encourage you to check out all eight strategies to combat verification challenges in the Texas OnCourse Academy FAFSA module, pictured below and also featured on our Pinterest board:

8 Strategies to Combat FAFSA Verification