Is The FAFSA Per Semester or Per Year? How Often You Should Apply

Jon O'Donnell Updated on November 1, 2018

In most cases, you will need to re-apply for federal student aid each year you are in school. But does that mean completing a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) per semester or just once per year?

The fast answer: once per year. But like with most fast answers, there are exceptions. Let's dig in a little deeper. 

FAFSA

Because your or your family’s financial information can change from year to year, your eligibility for federal, state, or institutional financial aid can change as well. You may qualify for more or less money than you did last year.

But even if nothing has changed in your financial situation, you still need to fill out a new FAFSA every year, or you won't qualify for financial aid at all. 

FAFSA is generally good for one full academic year, beginning in the fall. However, it's important check when the FAFSA is due because deadlines can change.

See also: How Long Does FAFSA Last?

FAFSA renewal or start a new FAFSA?

Filling out the FAFSA should be a little easier the second (or third or fourth) time around.

While you still need to provide up-to-date financial information, the FAFSA website doesn't make you start from scratch. Instead, it lets you submit a Renewal FAFSA that already includes demographic information—the stuff that isn't likely to change each year. But if any of this information has changed, the Renewal FAFSA gives you the opportunity to update it.

How often do you get FAFSA money?

If your FAFSA qualifies you for federal grants or loans, that money is disbursed directly to your school. Your school will notify you each time money is disbursed to cover expenses, typically twice a year.

With grants or loans, your school will apply that money toward your tuition, fees and (if you live on campus) room and board.  Any money that is left over will be paid to you to use for other expenses associated with school. You may be able to choose how that money is paid to you: via check, cash, a credit to your bank account or a prepaid debit card.

Remember than any federal loan money will need to be paid back with interest. If you end up with funds than you really need, it's smart to put them toward your loans immediately. 

If you qualify for a work-study program, your school will pay you directly unless you request that money be applied to your student account.

First things first

If you’ve been approved for a grant or loan and have already filled out your FAFSA, you’re probably a pro at this process.

If not, get the information to do it right by checking out our Step-by-Step Guide to the FAFSA Questions. Get started by learning all you need to know to get the money you need for school.

Published in: FAFSA

About the Author
Jon O'Donnell

Jon O'Donnell is a staff writer and marketer who is passionate about bringing transparency to the student loan process. Jon has a long history of connecting people with educational opportunities to help them improve their careers and their personal finances. When Jon isn't informing people about how to make smart financial decisions, you can probably find him in the kitchen attempting to cook up something delicious. Read more by Jon O'Donnell

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