FAFSA and FAFSA Verification

What is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?

Once you have applied for admission, your next step is to apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is required in order for you to be considered for assistance through grants, Federal Work-Study, need-based scholarships, and student loans.

We encourage you to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible in the calendar year in which you are applying for admission. This generally means that you’ll want to begin the FAFSA process as early as January. Some aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis and an early application receives priority consideration!

You may initially complete the FAFSA in January based on estimated tax information—this will help ensure consideration for maximum financial aid assistance. However, if you do so, please remember to return to your FAFSA once you have filed your federal tax returns and make a correction to your FAFSA information by using the IRS data retrieval tool (if you qualify) or else by making manual corrections. Using the IRS data retrieval tool will streamline later processes if you are selected by the federal government for FAFSA verification. 

You may begin filling out the FAFSA, save it online, and return to it later. You must include the MTSU School Code of 003510 on your FAFSA in order to insure that your results are shared with us.

Filing your FAFSA

The FAFSA application is available in three formats:

  • FAFSA on the Web - This easy, quick and secure method automatically checks for errors. Be sure to have all your information you’ll need with you when you start the process. You’ll want to have your tax returns and W-2’s (and your parent's or spouse's tax returns and W-2’s, if applicable) on hand when you begin. 
  • Renewal FAFSA on the Web - Students who applied for aid last year can use their U.S. Department of Education Pin to access the renewal FAFSA. Most of your information is already in the system. All you need to do is update the information!
  • Paper FAFSA - You are encouraged to complete the FAFSA on the Web to decrease errors and increase timely processing. However, you can request a paper FAFSA.

Regardless of which format you choose, be sure to list the MTSU school code (Title IV Code: 003510) to ensure that we will receive your FAFSA information for award processing.

You’ll need a PIN number to file and access your online FAFSA. Parents can also request a PIN number so that they can sign the student’s FAFSA. For assistance go to the Federal Student Aid PIN website.

Finally, one of the best steps you can take to help make the FAFSA tool go smoothly is to use the IRS data retrieval process to automatically populate all tax information directly from the IRS tax returns into your FAFSA. This will be very helpful to you later, if you should be selected for verification and required to document the accuracy of your FAFSA.

Your Student Aid Report (SAR)

Once you have filed your FAFSA, you will receive a paper or electronic response from the FAFSA processor called the Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will give you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid and will also list your answers to questions on the FAFSA. It is very important that you review the SAR carefully and make sure that all information is correct as listed!

Your SAR will also include a number called the EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. Based on a federal formula, the EFC is the amount of support the federal government expects you to contribute toward your educational expenses. The EFC is listed on the first page of the Student Aid Report (SAR).

Review your SAR carefully and follow the directions provided to make corrections to any information that is incorrect. Your SAR may also direct you to supply additional or supplementary information to the MTSU Financial Aid Office. Please plan to follow those instructions as quickly as possible, so that we may get your financial files in order well in advance of the semester you plan to attend. Our office will also be reviewing an electronic version of your SAR to see if additional or supplementary information is needed. If additional information is needed, MTSU will contact you via your MTSU email account,

Please respond promptly to all requests from the Federal FAFSA Processor on your Student Aid Report (SAR) and/or to requests directly from MTSU. Unsatisfied requirements can be viewed in the Financial Aid Eligibility section of your RaiderNet account.

Financial aid can't be awarded or paid to your student account unless all requested information and documentation has been submitted and reviewed by the Financial Aid Office. 

FAFSA Verification

If you have been selected for FAFSA verification, you are not alone! Verification is a process by which the federal government asks students and their parents for some additional information to check the accuracy of FAFSA information. If you are selected for verification, MTSU must collect the required documentation and complete the verification process with you before any financial aid can be awarded.

If your FAFSA is selected for verification, you will receive an email notification sent to your MT email account instructing you to review your missing requirements. Please respond promptly to all requests for information.You cannot be awarded financial aid until the verification process has been completed.

The best action you can take to help finish verification is to use the IRS data retrieval tool to automatically populate your and your parents’ tax information directly from the IRS when you are initially filing your FAFSA

Some students and/or parents will be ineligible or will choose not to use the IRS data retrieval. In these cases, only the tax return transcript will be accepted as documentation to verify tax information. 

The tax return transcript must be requested directly from the IRS by calling 1-800-908-9946 or visiting the IRS website. Be sure to request the tax return transcript, and not the tax account transcript. Include the student’s MTSU ID number on each page. We cannot accept 1040s to verify tax information.

How will I know if I have been selected for verification?

It is very important that you check your MT Mail account regularly, and that you periodically log in to your RaiderNet account and check the Financial Aid Eligibility section for any unsatisfied requirements and/or requirement messages. If you are selected for verification you will be notified by e-mail to your MT Mail account. You will be directed to your RaiderNet account to review instructions and a list of the documents that must be submitted before financial aid can be awarded.

If selected for verification, what do I need to do? 

Begin by reviewing our document “Completing Verification Requirements”. MTSU may be required to verify any or all of the following data elements on your FAFSA:

  • Adjusted Gross Income for student and parent (if dependent) or spouse (if married)
  • Taxes Paid for student and parent (if dependent) or spouse (if married)
  • Income Earned from Work (for non-tax filers)
  • Certain Untaxed Income items for student and parent (if dependent) or spouse (if married)
  • Household Size
  • Number in College (excluding parents for a dependent student)
  • Receipt of Food Stamps/SNAP Benefit
  • Child Support Paid
  • Any other inconsistent or conflicting information

To verify these elements, we may ask for the following documents; however, this is not a complete list. Specific documents requested will be based on your individual case.

  • Copies of the specified year tax transcripts for student and parent (if dependent) or spouse (if married) **See Important Note below
  • A Verification Worksheet (downloadable from this web site)
  • W-2s showing wages for student and parent (if dependent) or spouse (if married)
  • Statement of child support paid
  • Verification of net worth
  • Documentation of Food Stamps/SNAP Benefit
  • Once verification begins, we may need to ask for additional documentation based on the tax transcript.

If you are selected for verification, the notification you receive via MT email will direct you to your RaiderNet account to review instructions and a list of the documents that must be submitted before financial aid can be awarded. In general, your requirements may include all or many of the following. However, this is not a complete list, and your individual case may require that we request additional documents to meet all federal requirements.

Data Verification Worksheet: The verification process will begin with filing the correct Verification Worksheet for Dependent or Independent Students. Dependent or Independent status is as defined by the FAFSA.

IRS Data Retrieval Tool:  If you have used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when filing your FAFSA, you will usually not have to submit tax transcripts from the IRS if selected for verification. Most students selected for verification will be able to complete the majority of their requirements by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

You may use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if the federal tax return(s) have been filed, if you have a valid social security number, and if you have a FAFSA PIN number. You cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if your marital status changed as of December 31; if you are married, but filed separate tax returns or filed as Head of Household; or if you filed an amended return. If you filed an amended return, you must submit a signed copy of all pages of the original tax return and W-2 forms or a Tax Return Transcript, and a signed copy of the IRS 1040X form.

Tax Transcript from the IRS:  If you do not, or cannot, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you must submit the tax transcript from the IRS. Students and parents can request a paper copy of their tax return transcript or obtain an online PDF copy of their tax return transcript, wage and income transcripts, and verification of non-filing letter through the IRS website. A tax transcript may also be requested at 1-800-908-9946. 

Didn’t file taxes? If you and/or your parents have not and are not required to file a tax return, you MUST mark this on the Verification Worksheet. All income earned in the tax year must be reported on the FAFSA, even if a tax return is not required. Fully complete this information on the Verification Worksheet. Include the name of each employer, the amount earned for the full calendar year, AND submit a copy of each W-2. If a W-2 is not available, submit a signed statement (preferably on letterhead) from the employer verifying the earnings and explaining of the absence of the W-2.

Verification Opt-Out form: If you have been selected for verification but only wish to receive the Tennessee Lottery Hope Scholarship (and Merit Supplement, if eligible), please submit the Verification Opt-Out form to request your lottery scholarship. Please note that you will not be eligible for any other types of aid unless you complete verification.

I need additional assistance!

We know that filing the FAFSA or being selected for verification can be stressful and time consuming as you work to gather and submit all the required documentation. If you need help with questions or in navigating the process, please contact the MT One Stop.