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Guiding Students Through Financial Aid Offers Amid FAFSA Changes

May 31, 2024
By Brendan Willams

Guiding Students Through Financial Aid Offers Amid FAFSA Changes
This year has brought many changes, delays, and issues with the financial aid process. One thing hasn’t changed: financial aid is essential for students making their college decisions. It is especially important for students to get the support they need to understand the costs of their college options and the financial aid available to help cover those costs. If you are helping students review financial aid offers, it's important to note that the key parts to review are still the same, but the timing and access to information have changed. Let’s review some questions you should ask your students based on whether they have received any financial aid offers or not.

For students who have received financial aid offers:

Have you received all your financial aid offers, or are you still waiting on some colleges?  
Before making a decision, students should explore all their options. If a college has not sent a financial aid offer, students should call to confirm they’ve submitted all necessary documents and ask about the timeline for receiving an offer. If a student has an upcoming college decision deadline but has not received all their aid offers, they can take the initiative to call the college and request an extension.

Is the financial aid offer based on your most recent FAFSA submission?
Due to FAFSA submission delays and challenges, it's important to ensure everyone is working with the correct information. This might include verifying Pell eligibility by reviewing the Student Aid Index (SAI) for accuracy. Pell eligibility has changed this year due to the switch to SAI. You can learn more about the SAI changes here. If something seems inaccurate with the financial aid offer or the school isn’t using the most up-to-date information, the student should call the college and speak with a financial aid administrator for clarification.

For students who haven’t received any financial aid offers yet:

Is the college listed on your FAFSA?
Some students submitted their FAFSAs months ago, so it’s possible that their college lists could have changed, or that colleges could have been accidentally left off. If a college is not listed on a student's FAFSA, the college won’t have access to the information they need to offer financial aid. To check which colleges received the student's FAFSA information, look at the FAFSA Submission Summary. If a college is missing, students can correct this by adding the college and resubmitting the FAFSA. It will take a few days for the college to receive the information, so students should wait at least a week before reaching out to understand the timeline, next steps, and financial aid offers.

Is there anything else the college needs? 
After receiving FAFSA information, some colleges may require additional steps or documents to complete the financial aid process. Since each college is different, students should check the college portal or call the financial aid office to see what is required to receive a financial aid offer. If a student has received a request to complete verification, they should follow up with the required documents.

When will your financial aid offers arrive?  
Students should contact each of their colleges to understand the timeline for receiving their financial aid offers. Knowing this timeline will help them determine when they will fully understand the costs of their college options and make a well-informed financial decision.

This year has posed significant challenges for everyone navigating the financial aid process. By asking students these important questions, we can help limit some of the uncertainties and ensure that students and families have a clear understanding of their college costs.