Financial Aid

Do You Know These Key FAFSA® Terms?

Terms include FSA ID, Federal School Code, Custodial Parent, Expected Family Contribution, Student Aid Report, and IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
Woman completing the FAFSA on a laptop sitting next to a couch

EFC, SAR, and FSA ID. The FAFSA process is full of new acronyms and vocabulary, and if you're applying for financial aid, you'll want to become familiar with each one. We've compiled a list below of financial aid words and phrases that you'll likely come across in the weeks ahead – if you haven't already. Review each term to stay informed this season.

  • FSA ID: A username and password that allows a student to log into federal financial aid websites. Both the student and one parent will need an FSA ID to submit the FAFSA. You can learn more about the FSA ID here.
  • Federal School Code: A unique number assigned to each college and university that provides federal financial aid to students. Families will need to list these codes on the FAFSA to indicate the schools to which the student is applying. You can learn more about listing schools on the FAFSA here.
  • Custodial Parent: For families with divorced or separated parents, the parent with whom the student has lived the most over the previous 12 months. You can learn more about the custodial parent here.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): A calculated number intended to reflect the monetary amount that a family can pay for one year of college costs. A family's EFC will appear immediately on the confirmation page once the FAFSA is submitted, and each college will use the EFC to determine the student's financial aid offer. You can read more about the EFC here.
  • Student Aid Report (SAR): A summary of the information that a family has provided on the FAFSA, as well as notification of basic federal financial aid eligibility. Students receive a SAR soon after submitting a FAFSA. Read more about the SAR here.
  • IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT): A resource provided by the Department of Education and IRS that allows a family to pull tax return data electronically into the FAFSA from the IRS website. You can learn more about the IRS DRT here.

As you navigate the financial aid process this year, refer to this list as you encounter these new terms. And remember that you can always reach out to us here at MEFA with questions about the FAFSA or any other aspect of applying for financial aid. We're happy to help. Call us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or email us at

Learn more about the FAFSA