Step 1: Set aside time to apply after October 1st.
October 1, 2019 is the earliest you can submit your FAFSA for the 2020-2021 academic year. While the federal deadline is June 30, 2021, many states require you to submit your FAFSA earlier.
The earlier you get your application in, the better. Many schools offer scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis. So the sooner you resubmit your FAFSA, the more free financial aid you might receive.
Step 2: Log in to your FSA account as a returning user.
Once you’re ready to get started, log in to your FSA account on the FAFSA website as a returning user. Use your FSA ID and password — you created these when you applied for the FAFSA the first time.
Don’t remember your login credentials? You can also sign in with your name, Social Security number and birthday.
Review the disclaimer and hit the button to start the FAFSA. You’ll be directed to create a safe key, which you and your parents can use to access this specific application.
Step 3: Review the prefilled information.
The FSA saves all of your information from the previous year. Go through your application, reviewing all of your answers. If you notice any mistakes, change it before hitting Next.
Changes you might need to make include:
- Mailing address
- Email address
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- Marital status
- Number of dependents
Step 4: Have your parents review their section.
If you’re an independent student, the FSA lets you skip this section. However, the following types of students might need to submit information about their parents:
- Dependent students
- Law students
- Medical students
- Nursing students
- Other professional degree students
- Students at schools that require information about parents regardless of dependency status
The easiest way to do this is to have your parents fill it out themselves. Give them the safe key you created so they can access your application.
Step 5: Upload your income and tax information.
The one thing that doesn’t renew each year is your tax information. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to upload your details automatically, rather than entering them manually.
Take note that the Department of Education now allows you to use tax information from two years prior to the beginning of the school year. This means you can use your 2018 tax details on the application for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Step 6: Review and submit the application.
Double-check the information you entered is correct — and have your parents go over their section, too. Once you’re sure everything looks good, submit your application.
If your financial situation changes between submitting the application and the start of the school year, you can go back and make adjustments up until September 12, 2021.
I renewed my FAFSA. Is there anything else I need to do?
Talk to your school’s financial aid office to find out if there are any other forms you need to submit to be considered for all financial aid awards the school offers. Some may require you to renew your CSS Profile to be considered for non-federal scholarships and grants.
If you had to take out student loans last year, it might be worth looking into outside scholarships and grants you can apply for. Some might be enough to cover the rest of your tuition. Others might only offer a few hundred dollars, but they’re often easier to qualify for.
3 tips for renewing your FAFSA
Follow these tips to make resubmitting your FAFSA a breeze — and to ensure you qualify for as much aid as possible:
- Get it in ASAP. It’s worth repeating. Some aid programs run out fast, which could mean you have to borrow more to pay for school.
- Share parent information with your siblings. If you have siblings in school, have your parent complete the parent section for the oldest and transfer it over to the other FAFSA applications to save time.
- Ask for help. Confused? Reach out to your school’s financial aid office or call the FSA helpline at 800-433-3243 for assistance. You can also read our guide to filling out the FAFSA for any sections you’re unsure about.
Renewing your FAFSA isn’t nearly as time consuming as that first time around. But you still need to do it each year to make sure you’re considered for all types of financial aid available.
Learn more about how paying for school works with our guide to student loans.
Frequently asked questions
What happens if I don’t renew the FAFSA?
You won’t be eligible for federal student aid next year if you don’t renew the FAFSA. You also might not be considered for some university scholarships and grants, which rely on FAFSA data. Some schools might even require you to renew the FAFSA to be considered for any financial aid at all.
This means you’d have to pay out of pocket, apply for outside scholarships or rely on private student loans to cover your cost of attendance.
Do I have to renew my FAFSA every semester?
No. You just need to renew the FAFSA every academic year, which includes the fall, winter, spring and summer semesters.
The only time you need to fill out the FAFSA during the semester is if you start in the spring. In that case, you’ll fill out the FAFSA for the academic year that includes the spring, as well as the FASFA for the following academic year.
Do my parents have to fill out the FAFSA every year?
It depends. If you’re considered an independent student and your school doesn’t require updated information about your parents’ finances, then they don’t need to fill out the FAFSA. Otherwise, they must complete their portion of the FAFSA each year, along with their children.
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