How to renew your FAFSA: FAFSA Renewal in 2020-2021
If you are a college freshman, sophomore or junior, you are probably familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The FAFSA is the application that students use to access need-based financial aid. One of the most important things for students to remember is that they must apply for FAFSA renewal each year that they will be attending college. The good news is that renewing your FAFSA is a simpler and easier process than applying for the FAFSA in the first place.
Jump ahead to:
- How to renew your FAFSA
- Common FAFSA renewal mistakes
- Renewing merit-based scholarships
- Key next steps for students
Let’s dive into FAFSA renewal so you can get as much need-based financial aid as possible!
How to renew your FAFSA
As we mentioned, FAFSA renewal is an easier and less time intensive process than completing the FAFSA as a first year student. In fact, you can easily submit your FAFSA in just a few easy steps:
Sign into your Federal Student Aid Account
First things first, you will need to sign into your Federal Student Aid or FSA account.
If you don’t remember your password from last year, you can simply request a new password.
Select the FAFSA Renewal option
Next, if you are eligible for renewing your FAFSA, you will see that as an option after you log into your FSA account.
Make any necessary changes to the FAFSA
When you select the FAFSA Renewal option, your FAFSA application will be pre-filled with information. You should review this info and make sure that everything is correct.
Since the FAFSA relies on the most up-to-date financial aid information, you will also have to pull in new financial data for you and your parents. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is the best way to seamlessly pull in financial info for you and your family. The FAFSA uses prior, prior financial data, so you will be using tax information from two years prior.
Submit your FAFSA by the deadline
Now last and certainly not least, you will need to submit the FAFSA deadline! The FAFSA opens up on October 1st, so we recommend getting it done as soon as possible!
Common FAFSA renewal mistakes
According to the National Center for Educational Statistic, 78% of students received financial aid in the 2017-2018 academic year. This is why the FAFSA is such an important part of paying for college. Below are some of the big mistakes that students regarding the FAFSA renewal process.
Not actually applying for financial aid
Some students assume that they won’t qualify for financial aid. Maybe you didn’t even qualify for financial aid last year. Colleges know that a student’s financial aid may change from year to year, which is why students can apply for financial aid through the FAFSA each year. If your family’s financial situation has changed for the worse or you are concerned about paying for college, you should absolutely complete and submit the FAFSA to your college.
Applying for financial aid late
Financial aid is one area of life where you do not want to be late. Since the FAFSA opens up on October 1st, you should absolutely get your FAFSA renewal in as soon as possible. Yes, we know that the deadlines may be later, but you won’t be sorry if you do get it in as soon as you can.
Submitting the FAFSA to transfer schools
If you are even thinking about transferring to a new college or university, you will want to list those new colleges on your FAFSA (even if you haven’t formally applied yet). This is just a smart way to play it safe and ensure that the colleges have the proper financial data from you. This will ensure that you won’t miss out on need-based financial aid opportunities if you do decide to transfer.
Remember, if you are trying to send your FAFSA to more than ten institutions, you will need to follow these special instructions.
Renewing merit-based scholarships
If you are receiving any merit-based scholarships you may be able to renew these awards too! This goes for both college-specific scholarships, as well as private scholarships from other organizations. Every scholarship will have its own scholarship renewal process, so you should definitely review your scholarship award letter (generally this will include information about renewing your scholarship).
Generally, there are a few big things that students must do in order to renew their scholarship:
- Maintain a specific GPA (many colleges and organizations will require a 2.0 or 3.0 GPA)
- Maintain full time student status (this usually requires a certain amount of credit hours)
However, you should always check-in with the organization that awarded your scholarship for more details!
Key next steps for students
- If you received need-based financial aid, you will need to submit a FAFSA renewal by the FAFSA deadline.
- The FAFSA opens up on October 1st, so smart students will get their FAFSA submitted as soon as possible.
- Even if you didn’t qualify for need-based financial aid in the previous academic year, you may qualify for it this year! It can be worthwhile to submit your FAFSA for consideration.
- Finally, fi you are receiving any renewable merit-based scholarships, you will want to make sure that you are meeting the required criteria to renew the scholarships.