Raise your hand if you love filling out the FAFSA. My guess is, very few of you reading this even took your hand off your phone or tablet. Completing the FAFSA can be a long, and not so fun, process.
The good news is, once you hit submit and your application has been accepted, you may be eligible for tons of money. And that makes every minute (or hour) of staring at the screen worth it.
If you want to be eligible for federal and even state and school-specific money, you need to complete and file the FAFSA each academic year.
The award or amount of money you’re offered for each FAFSA application lasts for an academic year, beginning in the fall. For each year you plan on being in school, you will need to reapply for FAFSA.
That means when October 1 rolls around, you need to be ready to reapply for FAFSA for the following year. (For example, you can apply for FAFSA in October of 2018 for the school year of 2019-2020.)
If you submitted a FAFSA during the previous award year, and you are eligible to complete a Renewal FAFSA, you may choose to have most of the questions pre-filled with the information you 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 does not pre-fill this part of the application.
You also the option of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to help transfer data about income from your federal income tax returns. This can be a huge time save. This functionality was disabled for a short period of time, but it has been updated and is now available to use with the 2018-2019 FAFSA.
Why you need to reapply for FAFSA each year
Filling out and submitting the FAFSA each year is important — even if you didn’t qualify for any of the federal loans, grants, or work-study programs in the previous year.
Let us explain. If your financial or household situation has changed, your FAFSA eligibility may have also changed. Both household and income changes can decrease your EFC or Expected Family Contribution.
If there are more family members in your household who are in college now, you may see an increase in money on your award letter. Also, if your income went down or you or a parent/guardian lost their job, this could result in more money for the next school year.
But it’s not just financial changes that should prompt you to reapply for FAFSA each year. In order to be eligible for many private scholarships, you have to complete the FAFSA. Plus, there are also state and school-specific scholarships, grants or loans you may be eligible for, but you have to complete the FAFSA to even apply.