If you applied for aid last year, you completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Each FAFSA application is good for only one academic year. So, each year you want to apply for aid, you'll need to complete a Renewal FAFSA.
The good news: The Renewal FAFSA is prefilled with some of your information from the previous year, which makes updating your information easier than completing the entire FAFSA like you did the first time around. Typically, the Renewal FAFSA takes less than an hour.
Why you should complete the Renewal FAFSA
The FAFSA is the main source of data that the federal government, states, and colleges use to award financial aid.
Any change — from income and family finances, marriage status, or even the number of siblings going to college — can affect your eligibility for loans, grants, scholarships, or need-based aid from your school. In addition, financial aid formulas often change, which may make it easier for you to qualify for awards to help pay for college.
Eligibility and renewing your FAFSA
If you completed a FAFSA last year, you are eligible to renew a FAFSA this year. To renew your FAFSA, log in with your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID atFAFSA.ed.gov. Your FSA ID is a unique user name and password that allows you to identify yourself electronically and access the FSA website. Both the student and at least one parent (if the student is a dependent) will need FSA IDs. If you don’t have your FSA ID or have forgotten your user name or password, don’t worry! You can get help with that online.
Once you've logged into the FAFSA site, click the FAFSA Renewal button.
Review the prefilled data, and make any necessary changes.
Provide answers to all other questions.
Save and review your Renewal FAFSA often.
A note for parents with two or more children in college: Complete the Renewal FAFSA for your oldest child first, then transfer a copy of the parental information to the FAFSAs of your younger children.
You can submit a Renewal FAFSA as early as October 1 for the upcoming academic year. It's always better to submit your FAFSA renewal as early as possible — some aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, so it pays (literally) to apply early.
To submit in October, you and your parents (if you're a dependent student) will report income from the prior tax year. You'll then need to update the income information on the Renewal FAFSA once your taxes are filed. You can use theIRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer data about income from your federal income tax returns to the FAFSA.
To submit your Renewal FAFSA:
Sign the Renewal FAFSA with your FSA ID.
If you're a dependent student, your parent will also have to sign with their FSA ID.
Read the certification statement and click “Submit my FAFSA Now.”
After you submit the Renewal FAFSA, print a copy of the Confirmation Page.
You should receive an email within five days confirming that your Renewal FAFSA has been processed.
Help is available
If you have questions about the Renewal FAFSA, ask! Your school’s financial aid office can help answer questions about deadlines, the application process, or financial aid eligibility. Or, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800 433-3243) for answers to questions about filing the Renewal FAFSA.
Carol Katarsky is a contributing writer for Nitro. She is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience writing about both finance and education. Her corporate and non-profit clients include AIG, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Project Management Institute. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, son, and one cat more than she should. Read more by Carol Katarsky