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Financial aid can be more than just "sign & submit" - there's "verification" too

Many students are not aware that getting college financial aid can take more than just hitting sign & submit on FAFSA®. Every year, about 30% of students applying for aid get selected by their colleges or the Dept. of Education for “verification.” Verification is an extra step that requires families to provide evidence backing up some of the information they listed on their FAFSA® before they can receive their financial aid. But tens of thousands of students miss these verification requests every year or don't provide the requested information.

Being selected for verification is NORMAL. It could be in relation to a specific set of information a student entered, or a student could be selected at random, and some schools choose to verify information from 100% of their financial aid applications.

A student may receive a verification request from the Department of Education on their "Student Aid Report" (sent to them after they submit the FAFSA®) or be directly notified by their college in an email, letter, or school account message.

Usually schools request a copy of a family’s IRS tax transcript, but they might also ask for evidence related to a student’s household status, assets/bank accounts, or something else.

Step one is to be ready!

The most important first step in the verification process is for the student to be on the look out for it and make sure they find the school or Dept. of Education's request for more information - don't let it slip through the cracks! Sometimes these requests for information can seem confusing (or definitely annoying), but failure to respond can mean that a student doesn’t receive any of the aid money they would otherwise qualify for!

What is an IRS transcript and how can you get one?

One of the most common verification requests is for a student to provide their parents' "IRS transcript," which is basically a summary of their tax return. Most students selected for verification have never heard of an “IRS Transcript” before, but the process for a student, parent, or guardian to receive their tax transcript from the IRS is FREE and laid out right here:

The IRS provides Tax Return Transcripts (essentially summaries of tax returns) for free. Students applying for the 2019-2020 college school year will need tax transcripts from 2017. Students and parents can get the transcript online or request one by mail at this IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript.

To be able to use the online request feature the IRS requires a few different things to be able to verify your identity:

  • Tax payer's Social Security number;
  • Tax payer's filing status and address from last-filed tax return;
  • Personal account number from a:
    • credit card, or
    • student loan, or
    • home mortgage loan, or
    • home equity (second mortgage) loan, or
    • home equity line of credit (HELOC), or
    • car loan
    • (The IRS does not retain this data)
  • A readily available mobile phone. For instant access, the tax-payer’s name must be associated with a U.S-based mobile phone capable of receiving text messages. If the mobile phone number cannot be linked to the name, then a tax-payer may opt for a mailed activation code during registration.

If one of those items is not available, then you can choose the request transcript by mail option instead.

Either way, when a student or parents receives a 2017 tax return transcript, either downloading it online or in the mail, follow the college’s instructions for how to share it with the financial aid office.

Use school forms, follow instructions, ask for help

Schools have their own instructions and distribute their own forms for collecting and verifying additional information. For example, if a student reports that he or she has a dependent at home, the school may ask for evidence in the form of a copy of a birth certificate, or just ask for more details on a spreadsheet. If a student or parent is confused, the best thing to do is call or email to the financial aid office making the request.

In the end, being responsive and following instructions will keep your aid package in good shape. Go get 'em!


Have you applied for all the financial aid you qualify for? Only one way to be sure…

Every year, the federal and state governments give out billions of $$$ in financial aid to students to help meet the costs of a college education. Don’t miss out on aid money that could save you or your parents a lot of hard-earned cash over the course of a degree. Mos (at www.mos.com) is the only financial aid tool that combines the applications for all 500+ federal and state financial aid programs into one super easy-to-use interface. Give it a try for free at mos.com and make sure you get all the financial aid money you qualify for today!

As a reminder, federal and state government operate financial aid programs. Many have their own applications, FAFSA® being the most important one. Mos is not affiliated with the Department of Education or any state agencies. Mos helps students with their FAFSA® for free, and the FAFSA® is also always available from fafsa.gov.

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