Let's be real: No one loves filling out the FAFSA. Completing the FAFSA can be a long, tedious process.
The good news is, once you hit submit and your application has been accepted, you may be eligible for tons of financial aid. And that makes every minute (or hour) of staring at the screen worth it.
To be eligible for federal financial aid and even certain state and school aid, you need to file the FAFSA each academic year.
The award or amount of money you’re offered for each FAFSA application lasts for one academic year, beginning in the fall. You'll need to reapply for FAFSA each year you plan to be in school.
That means when October 1 rolls around, you need to be ready to reapply for FAFSA for the upcoming year. (For example, you can complete the FAFSA in October 2021 for the 2022-23 school year.)
If you submitted a FAFSA during the previous award year, and you're eligible to complete a Renewal FAFSA, you may have most of the questions prefilled with the information you previously provided. All you have to do is review the application and update any information for the new school year.
However, any financial or tax-related questions will need to be filled out each year. FAFSA doesn't prefill this part of the application.
You also have the option of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to help transfer data about income from your federal income tax returns. This can also be a huge time saver.
Why you need to resubmit a FAFSA each year
Filling out and submitting the FAFSA each year is important — even if you didn’t qualify for any federal loans, grants, or work-study programs in the previous year.
If your financial or household situation has changed, your FAFSA eligibility may have also changed. Changes to either your household or income can decrease your EFC or Expected Family Contribution. Which means you'd be more likely to qualify for some aid.
For example, if there are more family members in your household attending college now, you may see an increase in money on your award letter. Or, if your income went down or you or a parent/guardian lost their job or had a serious illness that resulted in loss of income, that could increase your eligibility for aid in the next school year.
Financial reasons aren't the only reason to resubmit a FAFSA each year. Many private scholarships, as well as state and school-based aid requires you to complete the FAFSA.
If you need a refresher on filling out the FAFSA, check our out guide to some of the thorniest FAFSA questions.