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Federal Verification Process

Verification is the process by which Northwestern University confirms accuracy of the data reported on an individual student's FAFSA. The FAFSA federal processor selects the applications for which the data submitted must be verified.

The federal processor applies a series of edit checks, which are prescribed by federal financial aid regulations, to each FAFSA. The edit checks cause some applications to be selected for verification. In addition, the federal processor randomly selects a small percentage of all financial aid applications for verification.

Students who are selected for verification will be required to submit additional documentation beyond the standard financial aid application materials. These additional documents may include:

Proof of citizenship, proof identity and high school completion, proof of sibling/spouse/dependent enrollment at another institution, copies of Social Security benefit statements, 1099 forms, and other documents may also be requested. 

Per federal regulations, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid must verify all students selected for verification by the federal processor. If there is an asterisk next to the EFC figure on the top right corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR), your SAR has been selected for verification. The Chicago Office of Financial Aid may also exercise the right to select additional students for verification at any time. The Chicago Office of Financial Aid will add documents to the student’s To-Do list in CAESAR and notify them via their Northwestern email account if they are selected for verification and additional documentation is needed.

If discrepancies are discovered during verification, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid may require additional information or documents. Any discrepancies that must be corrected may change your eligibility for financial aid as estimated on your Student Aid Report (SAR).

If you, your spouse, or your parent refuse to submit the required documentation, your eligibility for federal financial aid may be forfeited.

Verification FAQs

What information will be verified?

Schools may be required to verify some or all of the data elements below:

  • Household size (number of people in your household)
  • Number in college (number of household members attending a post secondary educational institution at least half time)
  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or income earned from work if income is below minimum required for income tax filing
  • U.S. Income Tax Paid for the base year
  • Certain Untaxed Income and Benefits for the base year:
    • Untaxed IRA distributions
    • Untaxed pensions
    • Education Credits
    • IRA deductions
    • Tax exempt interest
  • High school completion status
  • Identity (which includes completion of a statement of educational purpose)

In addition to these basic verification requirements, students may be asked to verify any other data item reported on the FAFSA.

What documentation will I have to submit?

Federally dependent students are required to submit a dependent federal verification worksheet and a copy of either:

  • Federal income tax transcripts for both the student and parents for the tax year on which the FAFSA was based
  • Signed 1040 tax return forms for both the student and parents for the tax year on which the FAFSA was based

Federally independent students are required to submit an independent federal verification worksheet and a copy of either the federal income tax transcript for the applicable tax year or the signed 1040 tax return form for the applicable tax year. If an independent student was married at the time he/she signed his FAFSA and did not file a joint tax return, the student must also submit a tax transcript or signed 1040 tax return form for his/her spouse. 

If a federal tax transcript or 1040 tax return form is unavailable to you because you, your spouse, or your parent filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return, please contact the Chicago Office of Financial Aid for further instructions.

Other documents may be requested by the Chicago Office of Financial Aid during the verification process.  Students will be notified via an email to their NU email account and the addition of items to their To-Do list in CAESAR if additional documentation is required.

The verification worksheet and the tax documentation should be forwarded to the Chicago Office of Financial Aid as soon as possible after they are requested.  Students will not be awarded federal financial aid until the verification process has been completed.

How do I request my federal tax transcript from the IRS?

Tax filers can request a federal tax transcript from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), free of charge, in one of four ways. You can find more information about requesting a federal tax transcript here.

What If the student will not file a federal income tax return?

Students who were not required to file a tax return for the year in question must submit copies of all W-2s received for the prior tax year as well as a signed Student Income Tax Non-Filer form for the applicable academic year certifying:

  • That the individual has not filed and is not required to file an income tax return for the prior tax year
  • The sources of income earned from work as reported on the FAFSA and amounts of income from each source for the appropriate year that is not reported on W-2 forms

Dependent students must complete the Dependent Student Income Tax Non-Filer Form and independent students must complete the Independent Student Income Tax-NonFiler Form.

If a student did not work at all during the tax year, the student must check the appropriate box in Section B of the Student Income Tax Non-Filer form. If the student worked but is not required to file a tax return, the student should check the appropriate box in Section B of the Student Income Tax Non-Filer form, write in the sources and amounts of earnings in that same section, and attach copies of all W-2 forms.

Independent student non-tax filers are also required to provide confirmation of non-filing status from the IRS. A Verification of Non-filing letter can be obtained online or by completing and submitting Form 4506-T to the IRS, which can be accessed online. If the student attempted to obtain an IRS Verification of Non-filing letter but was unable to obtain it, they must note that at the bottom of the Student Income Tax Non-Filer Form. Dependent students who did not file taxes are not required to obtain a Verification of Non-filing letter from the IRS.

What if the parent will not file a federal income tax return?

Parent(s) who were not required to file a tax return for the year in question must submit copies of all W-2s received for the prior tax year as well as a signed Parent Income Tax Non-Filer form for the applicable academic year certifying:

  • That the individual has not filed and is not required to file an income tax return for the prior tax year
  • The sources of income earned from work as reported on the FAFSA and amounts of income from each source for the appropriate tax year that is not reported on W-2 forms

If the parent will not file a federal income tax return, the parent must check the appropriate box in Section B of the Parent Income Tax Non-Filer form. If the parent worked but was not required to file a tax return, the parent should check the appropriate box in Section B of the Parent Income Tax Non-Filer form, write in the sources and amounts of earnings in that same section, and attach copies of all W-2 forms.

Parent non-tax filers are also required to provide confirmation of non-filing status from the IRS. A Verification of Non-filing letter can be obtained online or by completing and submitting Form 4506-T to the IRS, which can be accessed online. If the parent(s) attempted to obtain an IRS Verification of Non-filing letter but were unable to obtain it, they must note that at the bottom of the Parent Income Tax Non-Filer Form.

What does it mean when I'm asked to provide proof of my sibling, spouse, or child’s enrollment?

If a student indicated on the FAFSA that there is more than one family member attending college, Northwestern may require proof that the family member is in fact attending a college/university.  In this case, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid will follow up with you to request that you submit an additional form.

How do I avoid verification processing delays?

To help diminish the possibility of verification processing delays, submit all documents at the same time by either bringing them to our office or sending them via scan and email, fax, or regular mail:

Northwestern University
Chicago Office of Financial Aid
710 N. Lake Shore Drive Suite 629
Chicago, IL 60611

Fax: (312) 503-8700

Email: financial-aid-chicago@northwestern.edu (PDF versions only, no screenshots or pictures will be accepted)

Remember to make photocopies for your records and take the following steps:

  • Print your name and 7-digit ID number (found on your Wildcard) on each page of the documents that you submit.
  • Respond to all sections of any requested verification worksheets. If a section or part of a section does not apply to you, your parent(s), and/or your spouse, write “N/A” or “0” as appropriate. Do not leave any sections blank, as that may result in delays in processing your verification.

What happens after verification is completed?

If the accuracy of the data reported on your FAFSA is confirmed, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid can determine your eligibility for financial aid. You will receive an award notification email via your NU email account directing you to view your financial aid and complete the Accept/Decline Financial Aid process in CAESAR.

If verification indicates differences between the data reported on your FAFSA and the tax documents/income information that you submit with your verification worksheets, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid may need to make corrections to the data on your FAFSA and electronically transmit the corrected data to the federal processor. The Chicago Office of Financial Aid will notify you via your NU email account if corrections are made to the data on your FAFSA.

Can my financial aid change as a result of verification?

Financial aid awards are based on the information provided on your FAFSA. Federal financial aid programs such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG Grant, and the Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan Program have strict eligibility requirements. If the data reported on verification documents differs from the information reported on the student’s FAFSA, the student’s eligibility for these programs may be affected.

What is the verification deadline?

The verification review process can range from 2 - 6 weeks.  Students are advised to submit copies of the requested documentation within 14 days of when the request is made by the Chicago Office of Financial Aid.

For federal loan applicants, Northwestern University requires verification to occur before determining eligibility; a federal loan application cannot be certified for a period of enrollment that has already passed.

Where can I download required verification forms?

Students can access required verification forms on the Verification Form page.