How Long Does FAFSA Take to Process – (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 30 minutes

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid regulated by the United States Department of Education. Students must fill out a FAFSA for every year they want to attend a college or university.

This is true for any student who wishes to obtain higher learning regardless of whether they have the money to pay for school or not. The FAFSA does not give the student any money directly but they let the student know what he or she is eligible to receive.

This includes federal grants and federal loans. The FAFSA is also used by schools to determine what financial aid they can offer the student based on the information that is in the Student Aid Report (SAR).

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

The FAFSA can be completed online within 30 minutes. Most times is does not take longer than this but there are times when it can take much longer if the student does not have the information readily available.

Once the student completes the FAFSA online, they receive the results of how much they are expected to contribute towards their own education immediately called the EFC or expected family contribution. This amount is based on income and some other factors that the student gives in the application.

If they do not receive this information immediately, it may indicate some major problems with their information. The FAFSA is processed within 3-5 days of the student hitting the submit button.

If a student feels the need to submit their FAFSA through the mail, then it will take 7-10 days from the day it was mailed for the FAFSA to be processed.

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Why Does the FAFSA Take That Long to Process?

It was not always this fast. Decades ago before the internet, it took weeks to receive the results of your FAFSA in the mail.

Back then, you had to manually fill out the application and send it in. Once it was received, employees had to manually enter the information into their computer system.

The computer system would give them the results and then it would be mailed to the individual. The mailing system alone would take up to five business days for the FAFSA to be received and then up to another five business days for it to be sent back and received by the student.

Nowadays, with the internet available that process which consists of computer programming is available online and is completed within minutes. Once the student has completed their portion online, the United States Department of Education would then have the information they needed to complete the processing.

Removing the manual data entry from the employees helps them to process the FAFSA a lot quicker. This makes it easier and quicker for students to apply to the schools they would like to attend, and they will know how much aid they can receive.

This information is used to make an informed decision on which school to attend.

References

https://academic.oup.com/qje/article-abstract/127/3/1205/1921970