Planet with rings and stars
Ascent Blog

How Long Does FAFSA Take to Process?

Featured Image

If you recently submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, congratulations on completing this important step toward paying for college! If you plan on completing the FAFSA but have not submitted your form yet, don’t miss out on your chance to secure financial aid for college. Get a jump on the process by staying informed on new FAFSA changes

No matter where you are in the application process, you’ve probably wondered, “How long does the FAFSA take to process?” If you completed your FAFSA in December, will you still be waiting for your results in April? Does it make a difference if you submit your FAFSA online or through the mail? 

To help answer these questions, we compiled this quick reference guide on how long it takes to get FAFSA results. 

What is FAFSA and why is it important?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step toward receiving need-based or merit-based federal financial aid.  

In addition to determining the amount of federal student aid you’re eligible to receive, schools and states use the FAFSA to assess financial need and inform which scholarships, grants, or student loans you might qualify for. 

If you’re worried about FAFSA eligibility — don’t be. All U.S. citizens and even some non-citizens can apply for federal financial aid. However, the amount you qualify for may depend on your family’s financial circumstances.  

The FAFSA for the 2024–2025 academic year opened in December 2023, and submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. CT on June 30, 2025. But because some financial aid opportunities are first-come, first-served, the earlier you submit, the better. 

When to expect your FAFSA results

Once you submit your FAFSA application, you can expect a FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS), formerly known as a Student Aid Report (SAR). The FAFSA Submission Summary is issued by the federal government to summarize the information submitted on your FAFSA. This document contains an important number called the Student Aid Index (SAI), formerly known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The SAI/EFC helps assess your eligibility for financial aid, as well as your potential eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant and federal student loans. 

Note: The shift in terminology from Student Aid Report (SAR) to FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) and from Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to Student Aid Index (SAI) are part of larger changes implemented for the 2024-2025 award year via the FAFSA Simplification Act. The new names are more descriptive, though their role in the FAFSA process remains unchanged.  

Whether you receive your FAFSA Submission Summary online or on paper and how long it will take to receive your document will depend on how you filed it: 

If you filed online:

  • With an email address:
    • Signed with FSA ID: 3–5 days (you’ll receive your report via email)
    • Sent a physical signature page: 2 weeks (via email) 
  • Without an email address:
    • Signed with FSA ID: 7–10 days (via paper mail)
    • Sent a physical signature page: 2 weeks (via paper mail) 

If you filed by mail: 

  • With an email address: 2 weeks (via email) 
  • Without an email address: 3 weeks (via paper mail) 

Your FAFSA is processed when you receive your FAFSA Submission Summary. Make sure you read your report closely. You’ll want to ensure your information is correct and note whether you’ve been selected for verification (your FAFSA Submission Summary should provide directions on what to do if selected). If you need to make any corrections, you can do so through the FAFSA website

It’s important to note that your FAFSA Submission Summary is not a financial aid award. Your official financial aid award(s) will come from the school(s) you had your FAFSA information sent to. Once accepted to those schools, their financial aid offices will assemble a financial aid package based on your FAFSA. That package will include any federal aid you qualify for, such as grants, scholarships, or other types of aid you’re eligible to receive from the school. 

Each school operates on a timeline, so check with the financial aid office at yours to find out when you can expect to receive your financial aid package. They can also help you navigate how to understand your financial letter when it arrives. 

How long does it take to get FAFSA money?

First, FAFSA money goes directly to your school. Your chosen school applies it to your tuition, fees, room and board. If there’s anything left over, the school will pay that money to you. 

The only exception is federal work-study, which is a set amount of money you can earn by working on campus jobs. If you qualify for work-study and decide to take advantage of it, work with your school’s financial aid office to find out about available work-study jobs on campus. You can choose to have work-study dollars applied directly to your student account or paid to you personally. 

For grants and loans, funds are typically disbursed once per term. A school with semester terms will disburse a portion of those funds (applied to your school costs) at the beginning of the fall semester and again at the beginning of the spring semester. 

Be sure to stay on top of FAFSA deadlines to complete your application on time to get the money you need to pay for school. 

How to track your FAFSA application status

You’ve submitted the FAFSA and now you’re waiting for results to be processed. The good news is, submitting your FAFSA doesn’t send it into a void. The FAFSA website allows you to check the status of your submission. 

The process is simple: 

  1. Log in to the FAFSA website
  1. Indicate whether you are a student, parent, or preparer. 
  1. Find your application status on the “My FAFSA” page. 

If you mailed your FAFSA instead of submitting it electronically, you can expect to wait 7 to 10 days. You can follow the same process listed above to check your status anytime. 

You’ll likely see one of four different status messages. Here’s how you can understand them: 

Processing: Keep waiting. They’re working on it. 

Processed Successfully: Sit tight – your FAFSA Submission Summary is on its way. 

Missing Signatures: You must sign – with your FSA ID or a physical signature page. (If you opted to send a signature page instead of signing with the FSA ID, this will likely show up while your signature page is in transit.) 

Action Required: You may have missed something or need to verify your information. Work with your school’s financial aid office to address the problem. 

Troubleshooting FAFSA Delays

If it’s been weeks since you filed your FAFSA and you still haven’t received your FAFSA Submission Summary, it may be time to double-check that you did everything right. Start by checking your FAFSA status (see above).  

  • If your status is “Missing Signatures,” submit a new signature page or sign with your FSA ID.  
  • If the status is “Action Required,” contact your school’s financial aid office for further directions.

You may need to correct your information online (this is as easy as selecting “Make Corrections” once logged into the FAFSA website). Note that you can change any field except your Social Security Number. You’ll have to start a new FAFSA form if you accidentally put in the wrong SSN. 

If you’ve received your FAFSA Submission Summary, but it didn’t include your Student Aid Index (SAI), your FAFSA application is likely missing critical information. Your FAFSA Submission Summary should clarify what you need to complete your application. 

Tips for a smooth FAFSA experience

The best thing you can do for your FAFSA experience is fill it out correctly the first time — and triple-check that everything is accurate. To make this easier, use these tips: 

  • Gather everything you’ll need before you start completing the FAFSA:  
  • FSA ID 
  • Social Security Number (or Alien Registration Number, for non-U.S. citizens) 
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned (or use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool instead) 
  • Bank statements
  • Investment records 
  • Untaxed income records 
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your tax information into the FAFSA. Not everyone can do this, so pay attention to the exceptions. 
  • Sign with your FSA ID, not a signature page, for the quickest processing time. 
  • Submit the FAFSA online — and ensure it went through by checking for a confirmation page and email. 

Learn more with Ascent 

Completing the FAFSA can be stressful, and waiting to find out if you are eligible for financial aid can feel like an eternity. No matter what federal aid you qualify for, additional options, like private cosigned student loans and non-cosigned student loans, are available to help you fund your college education.  

Ascent is committed to providing students and their families with the financial wellness resources needed to achieve their goals in college—and beyond. Learn more about our student loans or check your rates today to take the next step toward securing your financial future.  


How long does it take for FAFSA to release funds? 

FAFSA money goes to your school first. It is later applied to your tuition, fees, and room and board at the beginning of each term.  

Do colleges receive FAFSA immediately?

The schools you listed on your FAFSA should receive your Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) when you receive your FAFSA Submission Summary (formerly the Student Aid Report) — after processing your FAFSA. 

How do I receive my FAFSA money?

FAFSA funds go directly to your school and are only passed on to you if: 

  1. They exceed the cost of tuition, fees, room and board. 
  1. You qualified for federal work-study and opted to have work-study earnings paid directly to you instead of being applied to your bill. 
Symbol icon

Join the Ascent community!

Stay in the loop with finance tips, scholarship resources, product updates, and more.