Verification Frequently Asked Questions
- What should I do if selected for verification?
- What happens during the verification process?
- Why was my FAFSA selected for verification?
- How long does the verification process take?
- How should I submit my verification documents to the Office of Financial Aid?
- How will I be notified if I have incomplete verification materials?
- What happens if I do not complete verification?
- How can my parent/guardian or I check the status of my verification?
- What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, should I use it and how?
- How do I know if I am eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- What should I do if I am not eligible or cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- Who should be considered a parent on the FAFSA?
- How should I answer the question about parent marital status?
- Why do I have to include step-parent information?
- What if I was unmarried when I filed my taxes, but am now married?
What should I do if selected for verification?
All students selected for verification must submit the appropriate documentation to the Office of Financial Aid (OFA). Documentation should be uploaded to the Student Forms Self-Service Portal. Remember, all students must first create a Student Forms account and then follow the instructions to complete all outstanding tasks. This may include, but is not limited to:
- A University of Mississippi verification worksheet/webform, (if required) in Student Forms with appropriate signatures.
- IRS Data Retrieval Tool or Tax Return Transcripts.
- Any applicable tax schedules (i.e., 1-3, C, F, or Schedule K-1 Form 1065) for student/parent or student/spouse.
- All student/spouse W-2 form(s) or 1099-MISC form(s) for total wage income*.
- All parent W-2 form(s) or 1099-MISC form(s) for total income*.
- Parent verification of non-tax filing if parents did not file taxes (if requested by OFA).
- Parent Statement of Financial Support (if requested by OFA).
- Verification of Student Identity & Statement of Educational Purpose.
- Proof of high school or equivalent completion.
*NOTE REGARDING TAX DOCUMENTS: Remember that in any given academic year, we request the tax return information from two previous tax-filing years ago (prior-prior year). For instance, for the 2022-203 academic year, we would request tax information that was filed for 2020 which is the tax information that should be reflected on the FAFSA and 2021 Federal Tax information is associated with the 2023-2024 FAFSA.
What happens during the verification process?
During verification, the OFA compares information from the student’s FAFSA with all other required verification documents. If needed, the OFA will correct a student’s FAFSA and submit them to the federal processor. Therefore, it is very important during or after verification that a student (or parent, spouse) NOT make any changes to the FAFSA as this will only delay the awarding and disbursing of Federal or need-based aid (Pell Grant, Federal Direct Loans, Work-Study, certain scholarships, etc.).
Why was my FAFSA selected for verification?
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) does not share with applicants the specific reason why their FAFSA was selected. The DOE uses a formula, not revealed to colleges and universities, to select applicants based on common data errors.
How long does the verification process take?
Verification processing time is generally two to three weeks during peak season (June-October), and one to two weeks during non-peak season (November-May). Therefore, students should start the process as soon as possible. We recommend having paperwork submitted NO LATER THAN JUNE 1ST in order to be ready for the fall term. See below for a few ways to expedite the process:
- Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool OR Request Tax Return Transcripts as soon as notified.
- Complete the worksheet web form in its entirety prior to submitting.
- Submit all requested documents and make sure they are complete and legible.
- Keep a copy of all documents submitted for your records.
- Monitor the student’s Ole Miss email account for requests for additional information and updates.
- NOTE: Calling and emailing frequently to request verification processing updates only slows the process as a member of the verification team must stop reviewing to answer questions. Students and parents can check the progress by logging into their Student Forms account at https://olemiss.studentforms.com
How should I submit my verification documents to the Office of Financial Aid?
Students selected for verification by the federal processor are placed in specific verification “categories”. The categories may have different requirements and a student’s customized verification worksheet/webform specifies what additional documentation and information is needed to complete verification. All verification documents should be submitted via the Student Forms Self-Service Portal. See below for more information:
- Students are guided to the Student Forms Self-Service Portal to create an account when they log into their myOleMiss portal by clicking on ‘Award Notification’ under the Financial Aid App. Students should click on the details link to the right of the message regarding completing a verification worksheet.
- Once the student is logged into their Student Forms account they can begin completing the verification worksheet/webform task and providing the additional documentation requested based on the answers.
- If for some reason students cannot create their Student Forms account they should contact the Office of Financial Aid by emailing email@example.com, or by calling the Student Financial Services HELP LINE at 1-800-891-4596 for assistance.
How will I be notified if I have incomplete verification materials?
Students should continue to check their Ole Miss email account for important information regarding their financial aid status. Students can also monitor their status by logging into their Student Forms account at: https://olemiss.studentforms.com.
What happens if I do not complete verification?
If a student who is selected for verification does not complete the verification process, then any Federal and/or need-based aid (Pell grant, SEOG, Work-Study, Federal Direct loans, certain Scholarships, and institutional aid) will NOT be awarded or disbursed.
How can my parent/guardian or I check the status of my verification?
Students (and parents, who are listed on the FAFSA) may check the status of verification by logging into: https://olemiss.studentforms.com.. In addition parents/students can call the Student Financial Services HELP LINE (1-800-891-4596) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an update. We encourage students to check their Ole Miss email regularly as that is how our office will request any outstanding documents/requirements to complete the process. If the need arises for more detailed investigation of a student’s verification status, the help center may refer student or parent inquiries to a verification advisor.
What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, should I use it and how?
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)* is a function in the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) where students or parents who filed an IRS tax return have the option of directly transferring required tax data from the IRS database directly into the student’s FAFSA. For returns filed electronically, tax data can be transferred into the FAFSA using the DRT within 2 weeks from the date of filing. For returns filed by mail, tax data can be transferred into the FAFSA using the DRT within 6-8 weeks from the date of filing.
If a student/parent is eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (see next question below), we highly recommend using the tool for several reasons:
- It’s the fastest, easiest, and most secure way to provide tax data.
- It’s the best way of ensuring the FAFSA has accurate tax information.
- It may reduce the chances of being selected for the verification process.
*NOTE: at the beginning of the FAFSA processing cycle (October 1), the IRS Data Retrieval Tool may not be immediately available.
How to use the DRT:
- Log into the FAFSA using the student’s FSA ID and Password.
- Select “Make FAFSA Corrections.”
- Click on the “Financial Information” tab. For dependent students, FAFSA first displays the “Parent Financial Information” screen. Select “already completed” from the drop-down box. For independent students, the FAFSA first displays the “Student Financial Information” screen. Select “already completed” from the drop-down box.
- Determine if the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can be used. If parent/student is eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval, enter the parent/student FSA ID and Password and link to IRS. You will be notified that you are leaving FAFSA on the web. Click “OK” to continue.
- Enter requested information EXACTLY as it appears on the filed tax return (tax filing status and address information*). Click “Submit”. If the IRS is able to validate your identification, the Federal Income Tax Information will display. Select the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA” checkbox, and then click the “Transfer Now” button. You will then be re-directed to the FAFSA. If a dependent student filed a tax return, select “already complete” and repeat the process from step 4 to use the IRS Data Retrieval.
- Once completed, Do Not change any data transferred from the IRS. Continue to the “Sign & Submit” tab to fully process corrections and re-submit the FAFSA.
- Corrected FAFSA results will be sent to all schools indicated. The successful use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will expedite the verification review process and may alleviate the requirement for additional tax information.
* NOTE: ANY data entry error, for example using “St.” instead of “Street,” may cause requests to fail.
How do I know if I am eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
Students/parents who meet the following criteria, are given the option to retrieve, display and transfer federal tax information:
- If student/parent filed a tax return.
- If student/parent has a valid Social Security Number.
- If student/parent has an FSA ID and Password, otherwise, one should be created at FSA ID – create account.
- If student/parent marital status has not changed since December 31st.
If any of the following conditions apply to students or parents, DO NOT use the DRT if:
- An amended federal tax return was filed – the DRT can be used, but additional documentation is required.
- A federal tax return was not filed.
- The federal tax filing status is “married, filing separately”.
- The marital status from January 1st through May 11th has changed.
- A foreign tax return was filed.
What should I do if I am not eligible or cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
If students/parents are unable or choose not to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in FAFSA on the web, they are required to submit to the OFA the appropriate year Tax Return Transcript(s)—NOT the “Account Transcript” from the IRS. We will also accept a signed copy of the Federal Tax Return including applicable Tax Schedules 1-3, C, F, and/or K-1 Form 1065.
Example of a Tax Return Transcript:
Who should be considered a parent on the FAFSA?
The FAFSA application requires dependent students to provide information about a student’s LEGAL parents (biological, adoptive, step-parent). See next question for more information about parent marital status. The following people are NOT considered parents on the FAFSA (unless they are considered adoptive parents): grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts. Please visit: https://studentaid.gov/help/who-is-parent for more information.
Under certain circumstances, the student DOES NOT need to include parent information, if:
- the student is in Legal Guardianship: A legal guardian is NOT considered a parent in the financial aid process (the OFA will require additional documentation to verify Legal Guardianship status in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status).
- the student has foster parents: A foster parent is not considered a parent in the financial aid process (the OFA may require additional documentation in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status).
- the student is an orphan: students are considered an orphan if both of your biological or adoptive parents are deceased. If you meet this definition of an orphan and had no living parent (biological or adoptive) at any time since you turned 13. (the OFA will require student to provide documentation to verify this information in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status.)
- The student is a ward of the court: If a student at any time since you turned age 13 was a ward of the court. (the OFA will require student to provide documentation to verify this information in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status.)
- The student is an emancipated minor: The student is emancipated through a court decision. (the OFA will require student to provide documentation to verify this information in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status and ensure the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the student’s home state where the emancipation is filed.)
- The student is homeless or at risk of being homeless: The student has been deemed homeless by a source in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education’s definition for homeless/risk of homelessness. (the OFA will require student to provide documentation to verify this information in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status and ensure the U.S. Department of Education definition is met.)
If you are unable to provide information about your parent and have a special or unique circumstance that you can document regarding Dependency Status, please contact the OFA. You can start the process by visiting:https://finaid.olemiss.edu/pj_dependencyoverride/.
How should I answer the question about parent marital status?
Indicate the parent marital status as of the day you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA considers five marital status categories for parents of dependent students based upon a parent’s particular marital status. Parent marital status affects what additional information is needed for other FAFSA questions, therefore it is IMPORTANT to answer the parent marital status questions accurately. Following is a list of the five marital status categories including information on how to answer FAFSA questions based on that marital status:
- Never married: a (single) parent who was never married and does not live with the student’s (other) legal parent, or a parent who is widowed but not remarried. Answer questions about that parent.
- Unmarried and both parents living together: a student’s legal (biological or adoptive) who are not married but live together. Provide information about BOTH parents, regardless of gender.
- Married or remarried: legal parents (biological, adoptive, step-parent) who are married and/or living together. Same-sex couples must also report their marital status as married if they were legally married in a state or other jurisdiction (foreign country) that permits same-sex marriage, without regard to where the couple resides. NOTE: If legal parents are divorced but LIVING TOGETHER, answer “Unmarried and both parents living together”. If legal parents are SEPARATED BUT LIVING TOGETHER, answer “Married or remarried”, NOT “Divorced or separated”. NOTE: This is because they are both in the same household.
- Divorced or Separated: legal parents (biological, adoptive, step-parent) who ARE NOT living together. Provide information about the parent that you lived with most during the last 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, provide information about the parent who provided most of your financial support during the last 12 months.
- Widowed: If a widowed parent is unmarried, answer questions about that parent. If a widowed parent is remarried as of the date of the FAFSA submission, answer questions about parent and step-parent.
Why do I have to include step-parent information?
Reporting step-parent information DOES NOT require a step-parent to offer financial assistance to the student for educational expenses. However, if a legal parent (biological or adoptive) is divorced and REMARRIED, step-parent information (including income and assets) is considered an important aspect of the family’s financial situation, and IS required for the calculation of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which determines a student’s eligibility. Including step-parent information on the FAFSA provides an accurate picture of the family’s total potential to pay college costs.
What if I was unmarried when I filed my taxes, but I am now married?
- If a student was married BEFORE submitting the FAFSA, then the student may be considered independent.
- If the student was married AFTER submitting the FAFSA, the student must contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information regarding independent status through the Expected Family Contribution Appeal professional judgment process. You can visit: https://finaid.olemiss.edu/pj_efc/ for more details regarding how to complete this process.