Financial Aid

Understand Your Student Aid Report

Learn the difference between the SAI and SAR on the FAFSA.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

April 10, 2024

Understand Your Student Aid Report
Everything you need to know about the SAR derived from the FAFSA.
As part of the FAFSA Simplification process, the Student Aid Report (SAR) has been replaced by the FAFSA Submission Summary. This is the new document that students and parents will be able to access once their FAFSA has been submitted and processed. The FASFA Submission Summary is not a financial aid package. While the federal government has its own formulas for determining financial aid, so do schools, meaning that the figures that you see on a FAFASA Submission Summary are just estimates.
The FAFSA Submission Summary also provides more information. This includes an Eligibility Overview, a review of your FAFSA Form Answers, School Information, and Next Steps. To learn more about the FAFSA Submission Summary, view our guide here. NOTE: Beginning with this cycle, SARs will no longer be used in the financial aid process. Should you need to view an old SAR, the below information will be pertinent to understanding the form. It will not, however, be relevant for the FAFSA Submission Summary. If you've recently submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) you can expect to receive a SAR in return. And while the SAR is long on data, it is rather short on detailed explanation.
Keep reading for a demystification of this sometimes inscrutable document.

When to Expect Your SAR

How you filed your FAFSA will affect how soon you get your SAR. If you filed electronically and chose to receive your SAR via email, you should receive your SAR within a few days. Keep an eye on your bulk or junk mail folders after you submit your FAFSA in case the email with your SAR gets routed there.
If you filed a paper FAFSA, you should receive your SAR via postal mail in 7 - 10 days. If you haven't received an SAR within four weeks of filing your FAFSA using either method, call the U.S. Department of Education help desk at: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

What to Look For on Your SAR

Below our some of the items you might find on your SAR. Don't worry if you're a little fuzzy on some of the terms; there's an explanation of each item below.

Student Aid Index (SAI – Formerly EFC)

You will find the SAI on page 1, underneath the date near the top right of your SAR. Formerly known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), this number will now represent a student’s eligibility aid index, which financial aid offices will then use to determine financial aid packages.


If there is an asterisk next to your SAIt means that your SAR has been flagged for verification. You will also be informed of having been selected for verification in the SAR Acknowledgement letter, which will be included with your SAR documents.

Data Release Number (DRN)

The DRN can be found on page 1, in the lower left-hand corner (upper-right corner of the electronic version). The DRN is a four-digit reference number.

Loan Summary

You will find the loan summary on page 4, top half of the page. If you have any outstanding federal student loans, they will be listed on this page.

FAFSA Changes

Changes can be made on pages 5 through 10. These pages give you a chance to correct any information that sent incorrectly the first time you filed your FAFSA.

Pell Grant Eligibility

You will find Pell Grant eligibility on the SAR Acknowledgement letter, near the bottom of the text.

Making Sense of Your SAR

Even if you have a handle on where these items are located on the SAR, it is still important to understand what they mean and why they're useful:

Standard Aid Index (SAI)

Keep in mind that the Standard Aid Index is not necessarily the amount you will receive in financial aid. Instead, the figure represents the amount the government believes you would be eligible for, based on your family's income, assets, and other factors. The amount that you receive could be less than, more than, or equal to your SAI. Why is this? The federal processor uses its own formula when calculating SAI, based on your financial situation. However, not all colleges use the government's methodology when calculating SAI; many colleges use their own formula instead (often referred to as institutional methodology) to determine financial need. The methodology your college uses may influence how your SAI is calculated, resulting in a final SAI that is different from the one posted on your SAR.


If your SAR has been selected for verification, it means that you may have to show additional financial documentation to your college in order to qualify for federal aid. The federal processor has many automatic triggers in place to flag data discrepancies for verification. Sometimes the processor finds a mistake or conflicting data; other times, it may flag an SAR with data that is not reflective of a "typical" family. Verification doesn't mean you have done anything wrong. It affects about 30% of all SARs and is a relatively routine request. You may have to fill out a Verification Worksheet, which you can obtain from your college's financial aid office. In all likelihood, you will have to provide supporting documentation (e.g., tax returns, W-2, etc.). Because so much aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, it is very important that this step be completed in a timely manner.

Data Release Number (DRN)

You'll need to reference this number if you want to make your SAR available to schools you did not originally include on your FAFSA. You'll also need to have your DRN handy if you need to change your address.

Loan Summary

Review the loans listed and make sure they are correct. If you want to review your outstanding loans in greater detail, you can visit the National Student Loan Data System. You will need the same FSA ID you used to sign your FAFSA to access your loan information. If you have no federal loans, then there is no need to review this section.

FAFSA Changes

It is important that you check over your information on the last few pages of the SAR to make sure it's correct. Make any necessary changes as soon as possible. You can make changes to your processed FAFSA in the space provided, or you make changes online. Be sure to correct estimated information, if you are able to do so. Note that the FAFSA is meant to be a "snapshot" of your situation when you originally signed it. Therefore, even if your financial or marital situation has changed since you originally signed the FAFSA, such information should not be changed when reviewing your SAR. Make sure that you (and your parents if you are a dependent student) sign the corrections before submitting them back to the federal processor. To electronically sign a corrected FAFSA, you will need your FSA ID.

Pell Grant Eligibility

Don't be surprised if you do not qualify for Pell Grants. Most students do not. This is a grant given to low-income families and it is very difficult to meet the standards required to receive one. If you have any further questions about the SAR or if you don't receive one in a timely manner, contact the U.S. Department of Education Help Desk at: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) as well as your college's (or prospective college's) financial aid office.

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Kathryn Knight Randolph

Associate Content Editor

Kathryn Knight Randolph is the Associate Content Editor at Fastweb. She has 17 years of higher education experience, working first as an Admissions Officer at DePauw University before joining Fastweb. In b...

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