The FAFSA consists of numerous questions regarding the student's finances, as well as those of his or her family; these are entered into a formula that determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A number of factors are used in determining the EFC including the family size, income, number in college, and assets (not including retirement and 401K). This information is required because of the expectation that parents will contribute to their child's education, whether that is true or not. Most students in the United States attending college are above the age of eighteen, which relieves their parents of any financial responsibility for them whatsoever, according to US law. This brings the question of why parents' assets are a factor at all, because of the fact that they are no more legally related to the student than is a complete stranger. Students who will not be receiving parental aid for college expenses may be able to appeal directly to their school of choice for a reevaluation of aid awards based on their personal circumstances.
A Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA responses, is forwarded to the student. The student should review the SAR carefully for necessary corrections. An electronic version of the SAR (called an ISIR) is sent to colleges/universities the student selected on the FAFSA. The ISIR is also sent to state agencies that award state need-based aid. Schools may award aid on a first-come, first-served basis, and students are advised to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible for consideration for maximum financial assistance.