What to Do When You Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)

Learn why this report is an important part of getting financial aid.

March 04, 2014

As soon as possible after receiving your SAR, you should review it to make sure your financial information is correct.
Photo: Thinkstock

After you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to apply for federal aid as well as other types of financial aid money for college, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). If you provided an e-mail address, the SAR will be sent to you via e-mail a few days after your FAFSA has been processed. If you did not provide an email address, you’ll receive your SAR by mail a few weeks after your report has been processed.

Because the information in your SAR will be used to help determine your college aid eligibility, it’s important for you to understand how to read the report and make any necessary changes. Errors on your SAR could mean you receive less college money to help pay for school, which could prevent you from getting your college degree at your top school.

Scholarships and grants are considered “gift aid,” in other words, money you don’t have to pay back, so be sure to accept that before any college loans, which do need to be paid back.

What Is Included in a Student Aid Report (SAR)?

The SAR summarizes the financial aid information you gave on your FAFSA. Your SAR will inform you whether you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, as well as for other federal grants, college loans or work-study programs. It will also state whether your FAFSA form has been selected for verification. Each year, some FAFSA forms are selected for this process, in which your school confirms that the information on your FAFSA is accurate. If your FAFSA is selected for verification, your school may contact you to request documentation supporting what you listed on your form.

The SAR will also inform you if you are required to provide additional information to be eligible for federal aid. If no further information is needed from you, your SAR will include your expected family contribution (EFC), the amount of college money you are expected to contribute toward your college education. The Department of Education, as well as colleges and universities, will use your EFC as they determine whether you are eligible for federal aid.

If more information is needed from you, your SAR will not include your EFC. Instead, the financial aid office at your school will contact you to answer all outstanding questions.

What Are Your Next Steps After Receiving Your Student Aid Report (SAR)?

As soon as possible after receiving your SAR, you should review it to make sure your financial information is correct. Remember, the colleges and universities that accept you will use this information to determine how much money for college you’ll receive, which could determine which school you attend, so it’s very important that the information listed in the SAR is accurate.

If you need to make changes, either because the information is incorrect or your financial situation has changed since you submitted your FAFSA form, you should make those changes as soon as possible and have your FAFSA re-processed.

There are four ways to make changes to the information in your SAR and FAFSA form:

  • If you submitted your FAFSA online, go to the Make Corrections to a Processed FAFSA section of the Federal Student Aid website.
  • If you received a paper version of your SAR, you can make the changes directly on the paper, and mail the corrected SAR back to the address listed on the form.
  • Ask your guidance counselor if your high school can make the changes for you.
  • You can make a few changes by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID. On the phone, you can change your mailing address, e-mail address, your answer to the question concerning a drug conviction and the names of the colleges and universities you want to receive your FAFSA information. Before you call, please locate your Data Release Number (DRN). You’ll find this number on your SAR or on the FAFSA on the Web confirmation page.

How Do You Find Out If You’ve Been Awarded College Aid?

When you complete your FAFSA form, you indicate which schools you want your financial information sent to. This data will automatically be sent to the colleges and universities you’ve selected and then be used by these schools to determine your eligibility for aid like federal grants and college loans.

When a college or university accepts you, they will send you an acceptance letter as well as an award letter, listing the amount of financial aid they are willing to offer you. This aid can be federal aid, state aid or college aid, and be in the form of federal grants, college scholarships and work-study programs.

College SAR Tips & Tactics

  • If you want to send your FAFSA information to a school not listed on your FAFSA form, you’ll need to make that change on your Make Corrections to a Processed FAFSA form or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center and submit your information to that school by that school’s last day of enrollment (or by mid-September, whichever comes first). Contact that school’s admissions office or financial aid office to find out when their last day of enrollment is.
  • Forgot your Federal Student Aid PIN? Request a duplicate.
  • When you get your award letter, remember that you don’t have to accept all the financial aid you’ve been given. Scholarships and grants are considered “gift aid,” in other words, money you don’t have to pay back, so be sure to accept that before any college loans, which do need to be paid back. Private loans can be especially tricky to find the best terms and conditions, so be sure to compare student loans during your search.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Apply for Financial Aid
How to Complete Your FAFSA
5 Helpful FAFSA Tips
Changes to the FAFSA Form Make It Easier to Complete

See All College Financial Aid: The Basics of Student Aid and FAFSA Articles

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