In the United States, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the starting point for receiving student financial aid. According to the U.S. Department of Education, students need to “use it to apply for federal student financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, student loans, and college work-study.” Submitting this five-page document online triggers the immediate assignment of a data release number (DRN).
Defining Data Release Number
The DRN is a four-digit number assigned to the application by the U.S. Department of Education when the FAFSA has been submitted. The DRN is automatically designated by a computer when the financial aid application is submitted online or when encoded by personnel when the paper form application is received by the Department of Education.
Purpose of the DRN
The DRN is used to get help from customer service representatives and make changes to the original information given in the FAFSA. Using the DRN, students can change their e-mail address, mailing address and phone number. Additionally, the DRN is used to change or add to the list of prospective schools where data is to be sent.
Where is the DRN Located?
The DRN appears below the confirmation number on the confirmation page of the electronically submitted FAFSA. Federal submission instructions also state that:"It is printed on the lower left-hand corner of the paper Student Aid Report (SAR) and in the upper right-hand corner on the electronic FAFSA SAR." Keep that DRN number in a safe place. Once you have a FAFSA login set up, you can login to locate a lost or forgotten DRN number.
Using the DNA to Change Information
There are two basic ways to use the DRN to change information or release information to schools. Any school not listed on your original FAFSA can request your data if you give them your DRN. The school will then be given an electronic copy of your SAR information. After you receive your copy of the SAR, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) and provide your DRN to request a change to your SAR. These changes can only be to your basic information such as address, phone number or school code.
Differences Between DRN and FAFSA Pin
Do not confuse the DRN and the FAFSA PIN. Both are 4-digit numbers. However, the FAFSA PIN, used along with your name, Social Security number and date of birth is used to establish your identity on the FAFSA website. Students are warned to never divulge the PIN to anyone because it is a password to their personal FAFSA financial information. However, the DRN can be shared with schools because it is used to change school codes and other non-financial information.
Patrice Robinson is a retired professional educator and administrator. She worked in the public schools for more than 30 years. She holds a bachelor's degree in the teaching of English, two master'sdegrees (one in English and one in education) and a doctorate degree in education.