Thomas Edison State University By Thomas Edison State University • September 2, 2014

After the FAFSA, Now What? How The College Financial Aid Process Works

So you clicked submit, and… now what? After spending almost half an hour filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, (FAFSA), you’ve sent your application off to find out how many scholarships and financial aid awards you will get for college. And now, you wait. But why? Where does it go? Who actually sees the information? How long will it take to hear from someone? So many questions! 

If you’ve ever wondered what happens after submitting your FAFSA, you’re not alone. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how your FAFSA is processed, calculated and awarded.

1. Your application is received. 

Your application is received by the Office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education. 

2. Your application is evaluated.

A representative from the Office of Federal Student Aid will evaluate your application. You can check on the status of your FAFSA immediately after you submit it online. Log in with your Federal Student Aid Pin Number on 

3. Your Student Aid Report (SAR) is finalized.

Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will be sent to you between three days and three weeks. During this time, complete and submit your Thomas Edison State University Application for Financial Aid. On the form, list the semester you plan to begin your first course. Fill out and submit your FAFSA as early as possible, or at least 2 months before the term you plan to enroll to ensure your financial aid is awarded in time. 

4. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR).

Review your SAR to confirm it is accurate. It summarizes all the information you submitted on your FAFSA application. On your SAR is a section labeled EFC, which stands for Expected Family Contribution. This index number determines your eligibility for aid; it does not mean that this is the amount you are expected to pay. After you receive your SAR, you can access it at any time on Once your application has been processed, you can log online anytime to make changes. 

5. Your school will be notified that your FAFSA application was submitted.

Once you receive your SAR, the schools that you listed on your FAFSA will be notified that your application was submitted. The schools will use that number to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive if you attend their school. 

6. Communicate with your school. 

Schools may request additional information from you to calculate your financial aid, so be sure to respond to any correspondence.

7. Recieve an aid offer, or award letter. 

After the schools have calculated your aid, you will receive an aid offer, or award letter. It will tell you how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.   

8. Complete entrance counseling and sign the Master Promissory Note (MPN).

If your aid offer includes a Federal Loan, and you're a first time borrower, you need to complete entrance counseling and sign the Master Promissory Note (MPN). This note is your agreement to pay back the loan. The school you choose will guide you through this process.

9. Accepted grants and loans will apply toward your tuition and fees.

Any grants and loans you accept will be applied to your tuition and fees first. If you have any money left over, that amount will be paid directly to you.

10. Repeat for the following academic year. 

Filling out the FAFSA is not a one-time application. If you plan to use financial aid for the next school year, you must fill it out again because your financial situation and any available grants and loans, may change.

Thomas Edison State University

Written by Thomas Edison State University

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