Five Things Students & Families Need to Do If Selected for Verification
With the addition of the FAFSA’s IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) and the use of tax information from an earlier year (instead of estimated income), the income information on the FAFSA is more accurate. Using the DRT can lessen your chances of being selected for verification, a review process that requires schools to collect additional income and household information from some students. Being selected for verification does not mean that you did anything wrong!

In this month's Five on the Fifth, we outline five actions students and families should take if selected for verification.
1. Verify your income (or that you have no income) and collect documentation
If you did not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), log back into the FAFSA and see if you are able to use the tool to transfer your tax information from the IRS. If you aren’t able to use the DRT, you will need to obtain a tax return transcript from the IRS website or by calling 800-829-1040. Also, get copies of all relevant W-2s from your employer, if you do not already have them. If you were not required to file taxes and you are either a parent of a dependent student or an independent student, you will need a Verification of Non-Tax Filing letter. To receive this letter by mail, complete this form and send it to the address on the back.
2. Complete and sign all forms sent by the college (on time!)
Each school listed on the FAFSA will notify you of the required documentation and when it is due. Generally, you will be asked to complete a verification worksheet, provide W-2(s), and verify tax information using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) or by providing a Tax Return Transcript or Verification of Non-Filing letter. You can request these documents now; having them ahead of time will ensure timely completion of the verification process. Be advised you'll need to complete this process for each institution you are considering attending. Each school has its own verification form, so while the information requested will be similar, the forms themselves will look different.
3. Check your email for any follow up requests for more information
After your school begins the verification review process, they may contact you for more information or for clarification. It is important to check your school email (it is their primary mode of communication) and student portal regularly for any updates or additional requested documentation. Financial aid cannot be awarded until the verification process is completed, so it's important not to miss any information.  
4. Even if you're not selected for verification, notify your school of any changes or "special circumstances"
Because the FAFSA uses tax data from two years prior (the 2018-2019 FAFSA required 2016 income information), your circumstances may now be different. If there has been a significant reduction in income, a divorce or separation, a death in the family, unusual medical expenses, or other extenuating circumstances, contact your school's financial aid office. All they know about your situation is what was on the FAFSA and gathered through verification (if selected). You can and should notify the financial aid office of any changes that impact your family’s ability to pay for school, even if you’re not sure if your circumstances will change your aid offer.
5. Follow up with the financial aid office
Financial aid offices do the best they can to communicate proactively with students, however it's always a good idea to follow up with the financial aid office after you have submitted paperwork or whenever you have questions. Contact them via email to make sure everything is complete and to find out when you will receive your award letter. You can also call, but with email, you have everything in writing to refer back to if you have questions. 
FAME is here to help all students on their journey toward higher education. We offer in person help as well as online resources to help students plan, save and pay for college. 
Want More Information?
Join us for this month's FREE Wednesday Webinar:
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
10:00–11:00 a.m.

Filling out the FAFSA is usually simple if a student’s circumstances are straightforward, but what happens if that's not the case? Join us for January’s webinar when we'll talk about verification, special circumstances, and appeals. We’ll take a look at challenges, any regulatory updates, and tips & strategies for streamlining these often complex issues.
For additional helpful information and resources, find  previous issues of 5 on the 5th on our website.

FAME's College Access and Financial Education Team:

Mila Tappan, College Access and Outreach Manager
Jessica Whittier, College Access Counselor 
Nikki Vachon, College Access Counselor
Maria MacDougal, College Access Counselor
Floreka Malual, College Planning Advisor
Mary Dyer, Financial Education Officer
Jennifer Lanphear, Education Programs Officer
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