Students must apply for financial aid every year, because the FAFSA determines eligibility for only one academic year. However, there is a special version of the FAFSA called the Renewal FAFSA that makes it easier to complete the form in the second and subsequent years. Some people incorrectly refer to this form as the FAFSA Renewal.
Students should file the FAFSA every year, even if they got no financial aid other than loans during the previous year. The federal need analysis formula is complicated enough that even simple changes in the student’s circumstances may have a big impact on eligibility for need-based financial aid. For example, an increase in the number of children in college may significantly reduce each child’s expected family contribution (EFC), thereby increasing their eligibility for financial aid. The formula also changes frequently, sometimes in significant ways (e.g., the addition of the small business exclusion, changes in the definition of parent and changes in the treatment of 529 college savings plans).
Rather than requiring applicants to file a completely new FAFSA every year, the U.S. Department of Education can pre-fill FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) with some of the demographic data from the previous year’s FAFSA. This version of FAFSA on the Web is known as the Renewal FAFSA on the Web. (There is no longer a paper version of the Renewal FAFSA.) Applicants must then update any information that has changed since the previous year. They can also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer data from their federal income tax returns to the FAFSA.
Parents who have two or more children in college should consider completing the Renewal FAFSA for the eldest child first, and then transferring a copy of the parental information to the FAFSAs of younger siblings.
Applicants also have the option of completing a new FAFSA instead of a Renewal FAFSA if their circumstances have changed significantly.
Renewal FAFSA Tips
- Determine the college’s renewal aid application deadlines. Allow enough time to submit the Renewal FAFSA and any other required documents to the college’s financial aid office before the deadline.
- Contact the college’s financial aid office with any questions about deadlines, the aid application process or financial aid eligibility.
- It may be helpful to review and complete the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet before filing the Renewal FAFSA.
- Read each FAFSA question and possible answers carefully before responding.
- 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.
- Respond in a timely manner to all queries from the college’s financial aid office. Submit all required forms and materials well in advance of the college’s financial aid deadline dates. Save copies of all documents submitted to the college’s financial aid office.
Six Simple Steps for Completing a Renewal FAFSA
Step 1: Get Ready
Review the prior year’s FAFSA, Student Aid Report (SAR) and supporting documents. Gather this year’s financial information and other records.
Step 2: Get a PIN
If the student has forgotten his or her PIN, request a duplicate PIN on www.pin.ed.gov.
Step 3: Start a Renewal FAFSA
Complete the FAFSA online using the Renewal FAFSA on the Web (FOTW), which can be accessed at the same site as a new FAFSA, www.fafsa.ed.gov. If the student is eligible for the Renewal FAFSA, the site will allow the student to choose between a Renewal FAFSA and a new FAFSA.
Step 4: Complete Missing and Changed Information
Provide answers to the questions about income, assets and taxes. Also update any information that has changed since the previous year. Save and review work often.
Step 5: Submit and Sign the Renewal FAFSA
Submit the Renewal FAFSA on the Web and sign it with the student’s PIN. If the student is a dependent student, the student’s parent will also have to sign it with the parent’s PIN. Print a copy of the Confirmation Page.
Step 6: Use Federal Income Tax Returns to Update Income, Asset and Tax Information
After the family has filed their federal income tax returns, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer information from the student’s (and parent’s, if applicable) federal income tax returns to the FAFSA. This will improve the accuracy of the student’s FAFSA. It will also reduce the likelihood that the FAFSA will be selected for verification, saving the family time and hassle.