How Long Does It Take for the FAFSA to be Processed?

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By Mark Kantrowitz

September 21, 2020

It can take 3 days to 3 weeks for the FAFSA to be processed, depending on whether the FAFSA was submitted online or offline, whether the FAFSA was signed with an FSA ID and whether you provided an email address on the FAFSA.

After the FAFSA is processed, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which contains the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If the student provided a valid email address, they will receive an email message containing a link to the SAR. Otherwise, a paper SAR will be sent by postal mail.

If you file the FAFSA online, sign it with an FSA ID and provide a valid email address on the FAFSA, the SAR will arrive within 3-5 days. If you did not provide a valid email address on the FAFSA, a paper SAR will arrive within 7-10 days.

If you file the FAFSA online, but do not sign it with an FSA ID, it will take 2 weeks for the SAR to arrive after you sign and mail the printed signature page.

If you file a paper FAFSA, it will take 3 weeks for the SAR to arrive.

If you don’t receive the SAR within these timeframes, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to ask about the status of your SAR. You can also login to FAFSA.ed.gov. The most common reason for a late SAR is a failure for the student or parent to sign the FAFSA. 

When you receive your SAR, the college will receive the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR), which contains the same information as the SAR. At that time, you can login to FAFSA.ed.gov to replace the current list of colleges with a new set of colleges if you are applying for financial aid at more than 10 colleges

Your eligibility for need-based financial aid is determined by each college, based on the college’s cost of attendance and your EFC. The difference between the cost of attendance and your EFC is your demonstrated financial need. The college will send you a financial aid award letter providing details of your financial aid package, including the types and amounts of financial aid. How long it takes for a college to issue a financial aid award letter depends on the college. You will receive a financial aid award letter only if you are admitted by the college. Some colleges send financial aid award letters only to students who have demonstrated financial need. Typically, colleges send financial aid award letters with or soon after offers of admission.

A good place to start:

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