As you may know, there are several ways to submit your FAFSA. The online application is the most efficient because it eliminates errors and reduces manual processing time. Be very careful that you apply only at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ -- this is the authentic federal student aid application Web site. Don't type "FAFSA" into a search engine like Google or Yahoo because the links you'll get in the first several pages will be filled with references to sites that aren't endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. Some may even be unscrupulous outfits set out to charge you money or, worse, steal your identity [source: Kristof].
About three days after you complete your FAFSA online, you'll receive a personal identification number (PIN) with which you can check the status of your financial aid application. It takes about a week from the day you file your application electronically to see your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), correct any mistakes or enter new information. If you mail in a hard copy of the application, it will take two or three weeks for processing before you can log into the FAFSA Web site to get your EFC and make any corrections. No matter whether you applied online or by snail mail, you'll have to log into your account online after your application has been processed to make any changes.
It's very important to check the status of your FAFSA as soon as possible. The Office of Federal Student Aid, your state's education department or the schools to which you've applied may have questions, and you'll be notified only when you log in to your account on the FAFSA Web site.
Once you provide all of the necessary information (including your signature), answer any additional questions and provide further documentation, you'll receive access to view and print your Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR will also list your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). To find out how much total assistance you qualify for, you'll need to contact the financial aid office at each school where you applied for financial aid.