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Student Loans

How Often Do You Need to File the FAFSA?

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required if you’d like to be considered for federal student loans, grants, work-study, and other types of aid. You must submit a new FAFSA each year to determine your financial aid eligibility. The annual deadline for filing is June 30. 

You need to file the FAFSA each year because your financial circumstances may change from one year to the next, which can affect the amount and type of aid you qualify for. We’ll walk you through FAFSA filing requirements, including how many times you can apply. 

How many times can you apply for the FAFSA? 

You can (and must) submit a FAFSA each academic year in which you plan to seek financial aid. You don’t need to apply each semester or term; your annual application covers you for the entire academic year. Any aid you’re approved for is disbursed according to the schedule your school set, typically at the beginning of each new term. 

FAFSA renewal can fast-track the process of reapplying for aid. You can log in to your FAFSA account using your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, then choose the “Renew My FAFSA Form” option. Once you’ve done that, you can:

  • Update any prefilled information carried over from your previous FAFSA application
  • Provide new income and tax information
  • Sign and submit your form

If you filled out the FAFSA as a dependent student, you’ll receive a save key to share with your parents so they can submit their information for renewal. 

When should you file the FAFSA? 

You should file the FAFSA when you know you’ll need financial aid for school and ahead of the annual deadline. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether you’re starting school at the beginning of the term or the middle of the year. 

These are the three FAFSA deadlines to know if you plan to apply for financial aid:

  1. Federal deadlines
  2. State deadlines
  3. School deadlines 

FAFSA forms, including renewal forms, are due by 11:59 PM Central time (CT) on June 30 of each year, but you don’t need to wait until then to submit your form. It’s better to get your application in as soon as possible because certain types of aid, such as work-study, are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. 

State and school deadlines vary, and there may be more than one. For example, there may be a regular deadline for applying and a priority deadline to get early consideration for aid. If you’re in doubt about when you should submit the FAFSA, contact your school’s financial aid office to clarify. 

Can you refile your FAFSA if circumstances change?

If you’ve submitted your FAFSA, you have until September 14 to make corrections to your form. The types of corrections you can make through the StudentAid website include:

  • Missing signatures
  • Incorrect or missing Social Security numbers
  • Adding or deleting schools

If your situation has changed, contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss the next steps. School policy may allow you to update your dependency status or financial information. 

For example, your status may change from dependent to independent if you:

  • Get married
  • Become a parent to a dependent child
  • Are granted emancipated minor status by the court
  • Become a ward of the court
  • Are orphaned

As an independent student, you would not include your parents’ income and asset information on your FAFSA. Moving from dependent to independent status could affect the amount of aid you qualify for. 

You’d also need to report other changes to your school that could affect your Student Aid Index (SAI), formerly called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

Your SAI measures how much your family is expected to contribute toward your education costs. This number may be affected if there are changes to your family’s:

  • Household income
  • Assets
  • Household size

If your parents separate ahead of a divorce or one of them loses a job, for instance, you’d want to report that to the school because you could qualify for more aid. 

Be aware that your application may be selected for verification. Schools may do this randomly or for all students who apply for aid. If it happens, you’ll need to provide additional information about your financial situation to verify the details you included on your FAFSA. 

What happens if you don’t refile your FAFSA? 

Failing to refile your FAFSA can affect your ability to pay for school. If you don’t submit a FAFSA renewal, you:

  • Won’t be eligible for federal student aid, including loans, Pell Grants, and work-study
  • May be ineligible for school-based aid, such as scholarships
  • Could miss out on a chance to qualify for aid offered at the state level

So you’d be wholly responsible for paying your college costs. If your school doesn’t offer a tuition payment plan, you’d need to come up with the money from other sources to maintain your enrollment. 

When you refile, verify that the prefilled information is correct, and update your income and tax details. Purposely submitting a FAFSA or FAFSA renewal with incorrect information could be construed as fraud by the federal government, which is punishable by fines and prison time. 

What happens after you file the FAFSA? 

After submitting the FAFSA, the Department of Education processes your application. You’ll receive a FAFSA submission summary, which you can review to ensure that your information is correct. This document replaces the Student Aid Report (SAR) for the 2024 – 2025 award year. 

Your FAFSA details are passed on to the schools you listed in your application. Each school then uses your information to put together a financial aid package. You’ll get an award letter from each school telling you how much aid you qualify for and the types of aid you can receive. 

Once you receive the award letter, you can:

  • Accept the offer
  • Turn it down
  • Appeal the offer to request more aid

Appealing your award could help you qualify for more aid in case of extenuating circumstances. You’ll need to write a convincing financial aid appeal letter to your school explaining why you should be considered for more aid. 

If the school is unwilling or unable to grant more aid, you could explore private student loans to fill the gap. Comparing the top private student loan lenders can help you find the best option to fit your needs.