With over 100 questions, the FAFSA application process can feel long and tedious! On top of that, you also need to spend time gathering all the required documents, like last year’s tax reports, bank statements, and W-2s.

If any of that’s new information, you may want to start with our 2021-2022 guide on how to apply for FAFSA

But what happens after you finally get it done? Is your FAFSA processed instantly, giving you an exact amount of how much financial aid you’ll receive? Not quite. 

In fact, it can take several months from the day you press “Submit” to the day you receive your financial aid award letter. Why? Good question! And we’ll be answering it in this blog post along with 4 things you can do if you don’t get enough financial aid. Let’s get right into it! 

After You Send in Your FAFSA Form, What Will You Receive Back?

So, you’ve just completed your FAFSA. Now what? Is there anything else you need to do to apply for financial aid? Yes, there might be. Let’s walk through exactly what happens so you know what to expect.

#1 You Receive Your Student Aid Report

After you submit your FAFSA, the first thing you should look for is your Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR is a comprehensive report that breaks down: 

  • What types of federal student loans and grants you qualify for 
  • Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) 

If it’s your first time applying for FAFSA, you might not know what an EFC is. So, let’s explain. Your EFC is how much you and your family are expected to pay out of pocket for your education. The exact number will depend on the financial information you shared while filling out the FAFSA.  

You’ll want to review your Student AId Report as soon as you get it. Why? Because you’ll want to make sure no errors have been made and that it shows you’re eligible for a sufficient amount of aid before it’s processed by your college’s financial aid department. 

#2 Your Selected Colleges Receive and Process Your FAFSA Results

If you’re an incoming freshman, all of the financial aid departments at the colleges you’ve listed on your FAFSA will receive a copy of your SAR. If you’re a current college student, just your current college will get your SAR. 

Either way, the college will use that information to determine your eligibility for college scholarships, grants, work study, or federal student loans. Even then, you won’t receive their financial aid decision until months later— if at all. 

#3 You Receive a Financial Aid Package from the Colleges That Offer You Admission

If you’re a current college student, you should expect to get your financial aid award letter for the next school year before the end of the current school year. If you haven’t received it by then, contact your school’s financial aid department ASAP. 

If you’re a high school senior about to become an incoming freshman, you’ll receive a financial aid award package after you receive your college acceptance letters. 

Often, the financial aid letter gets sent separately from your admissions letter. But you should always receive it before you need to make an official admissions decision. That way you can compare the financial aid you’re offered from different colleges. 

Now, the process of filing FAFSA and receiving financial aid isn’t perfect. And it’s definitely possible that you won’t get offered enough to cover all of your college expenses. So, what should you do?  

What To Do If You Don’t Get Enough Financial Aid

If you receive your financial aid package and know that it’s still not enough to cover your chosen college’s cost of attendance, don’t give up. Here are 4 things you can do if you don’t get enough financial aid.

Appeal Your Financial Aid Award Letter

Mistakes happen. So, if you feel your college’s financial aid department hasn’t offered you enough aid, try submitting an appeal letter. To do that, you’ll need to write and send a letter that describes why you deserve more aid. 

There could be a variety of reasons for you to write an appeal. But the ones that have the highest likelihood of getting approved usually involve changes to you and your family’s financial situation since submitting the FAFSA. For example, if one of your parents recently lost their job, you might be eligible for more aid.  Just keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that your college will approve your appeal.

Contact Your College’s Financial Aid Department

If you’re worried you don’t have a good enough case for an appeal, try directly contacting your college’s financial aid department to explain your situation. This method isn’t guaranteed either. But it’s worth a shot! 

In some cases, the financial aid department might have leftover aid from students who decided to attend a different college. They might also let you know about new campus scholarships or other funding opportunities you can pursue. 

Apply for Scholarships

You’ll get your financial aid package after the deadline for many popular scholarship applications. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! There are still tons of other scholarships that have deadlines throughout the year. 

Oh, and if you think scholarships are just for high school students and incoming freshmen, you’re wrong! There are also scholarships specifically for current college students. 

If you need help finding those scholarships, check out Scholly Search. It’s our scholarship app that will show you all of the scholarships you qualify for based on your interests, accomplishments, and traits! 

Take Out Private Student Loans

If you can’t get enough money from scholarships and federal aid (including federal student loans), then you may need to consider private student loans.

Obviously, this isn’t the ideal scenario. Private student loans don’t always have the most attractive interest rates or repayment terms. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to find one you’re happy with. 

If you’re not sure where to start, read our in-depth guide on how to take out a student loan. 

Key Takeaways

Completing the FAFSA is the best way to maximize your financial aid. Typically, it takes a few months to get your financial aid package after submitting the FAFSA. 

In some cases, you’ll get offered enough aid to cover your college costs. But, unfortunately, it’s also possible that you won’t. 

What should you do if you don’t get enough financial aid? Try one or more of the options we’ve shared in this post! As a quick reminder, you can: 

  1. Appeal your financial aid award letter 
  2. Contact your college’s financial aid department
  3. Apply for scholarships 
  4. Take out private student loans 

For more tips on how to pay for college, be sure to check out the rest of our blog where we share tips on topics like how to make extra money as a college student, how to start building credit, and how to find a job that offers tuition reimbursement. Good luck!