Free FAFSA Guide
Summary: If you completed a FAFSA the previous year, you will have the option to fill out the Renewal FAFSA. Some of the data will be pre-filled, saving you time and hassle.
You need to apply for student aid every year because the FAFSA determines your eligibility for only one academic year at a time. Fortunately, there’s a special version of the FAFSA —the Renewal FAFSA (sometimes called FAFSA Renewal) — that makes it easier to complete the form the second (or third +) time around.
Why Complete the FAFSA Every Year?
Things change every year: new jobs, graduations, marriages, births, and more. One small change in your circumstances can have a big impact on your eligibility for financial aid. For example, an increase in the number of children in college can significantly reduce your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which means you’ll be eligible for more student aid.
Financial aid formulas also change, sometimes in major ways.
In short, a lot can change in a year, and if you want to receive federal student aid, you'll need to complete the FAFSA for each academic year.
NOTE: Even if you received no financial aid other than loans the previous year, you should still take the time to complete the FAFSA. You don’t want to miss out on “free money” (grants and scholarships), or money you need to borrow from the various federal student loan programs.
What's Different With the Renewal FAFSA?
- You have to complete the Renewal FAFSA online at FAFSA.ed.gov. There is no paper version.
- The Renewal FAFSA is pre-filled with some of the demographic information from the previous year’s FAFSA. So, you don’t have to fill out a completely new FAFSA every single year.
- You can update any information that has changed since the previous year. And, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer data about income from your federal income tax returns to the FAFSA.
- If your circumstances have changed significantly, you might decide to complete a new FAFSA instead.
Renewal FAFSA Tips
Check FAFSA deadlines for your school
Give yourself enough time to submit your Renewal FAFSA and any other required documents to your school’s financial aid office before the deadline.
Ask for help with the FAFSA
Contact your school’s financial aid office with any 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.
Print the FAFSA worksheet
Make sure you understand each FAFSA question and possible answers before you complete your answer.
Respond quickly to FAFSA document requests
If the financial aid office asks for additional documents, send the information right away. Save copies of all documents you submit.
6 Simple Steps for Completing a Renewal FAFSA
Step 1: Get Ready for the 2018-2019 FAFSA
Step 2: Get an FSA ID
Step 3: Start a Renewal FAFSA
- Log in with your FSA ID at FAFSA.ed.gov.
- If you submitted a FAFSA the previous year, you will have the option to complete the Renewal FAFSA by clicking the “FAFSA RENEWAL” button. (This will allow you to prefill your 2018-2019 FAFSA using information from last year's form.)
Step 4: Complete Missing and Changed Information
- Provide answers to the questions about income, assets, and taxes.
- Provide school codes.
- Update any information that has changed since the previous year.
- Save and review your work often.
Step 5: Sign and Submit the Renewal FAFSA
- If filing electronically, sign the Renewal FAFSA with your FSA ID.
- If you are a dependent student, the parent whose information is reported on the FAFSA will also have to sign with their FSA ID.
- After you submit the Renewal FAFSA, print a copy of the Confirmation Page.
Step 6: Use 2016 Federal Income Tax Returns to Update Income, Asset, and Tax Information
- After your family has filed their federal income tax returns, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to transfer information from the tax returns (both yours and your parents', if applicable) to the FAFSA.
- This will improve the accuracy of your FAFSA and reduce the likelihood that your FAFSA will be selected for verification.
- File the FAFSA every year to maintain eligibility for student aid.
- Select “FAFSA Renewal” after you log in with your FSA ID. Some of your FAFSA data will be pre-filled, making it faster to complete.
- Print the FAFSA worksheet first so you can practice before you complete the FAFSA online at FAFSA.ed.gov.
- If you’re a parent with two or more children in college, consider completing the Renewal FAFSA for the oldest child first, then transferring a copy of the parental information to the FAFSAs of the younger siblings.
- If you need help with your FAFSA, download our free FAFSA guide.