What is the Renewal FAFSA®?
It’s super important to know that the FAFSA® isn’t a one-and-done thing—you need to keep filing the Renewal FAFSA® every year you attend school to continue to be eligible for financial aid. It comes with a lot of info pre-filled to make it easier to complete.
7 common Renewal FAFSA® mistakes
1. Not renewing the FAFSA® at all
Yes, believe it or not, this is a common mistake. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), the government sets aside more than $120 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to help students pay to further their education. That’s a lot of money you could potentially leave on the table if you don’t renew. To become eligible for your share of that aid, you must complete the FAFSA® every year you plan to attend school.
The Renewal FAFSA® has some of the same information from your first FAFSA® to make the renewal process easier, but you can always start a new application if you’d like.
2. Not filling it out early enough
Some state aid and university grants are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. If you don’t fill out your Renewal FAFSA® as close to December 2023* as possible, you may lose out on thousands of dollars.
3. Not filling out the special circumstances form
This form is available from your financial aid office. It lets you report any special reasons why your FAFSA® isn't an accurate statement of your current finances.
Here are a few reasons why your form could be inaccurate:
- You got married since filling out the form and are now considered an independent student
- You had a costly medical expense
- Your or your family’s income decreased—this is especially relevant if you quit your job or reduced your hours to go back to school.
4. Not listing a transfer school
Every school you’re thinking about attending should be listed on the form. If you don’t add a school you’re planning to transfer to, that college may believe that you don’t want any financial aid. The same goes for a community college or summer program you might attend.
You may even be able to use financial aid to cover expenses for studying at a school overseas. Talk to your school’s financial aid office to learn more about the type of aid you may be eligible for and how to get it.
5. Thinking you can’t get financial aid because you didn’t last year
College is a chance for renewal. For instance, your grades may be better now than in high school, and you may have become more involved in sports or extracurricular activities that qualify you for more college scholarships. Call your financial aid office to see what types of scholarships you might qualify for this year. Also, talk to the office of your major to see if there are scholarships you might qualify for directly from them as well.
You should also check free resources like Scholly by Sallie,* the top college scholarship app. It’s helped students find millions of dollars in scholarships. Best part? It’s free and super easy to use. Simply tell Scholly Search® about your interests, background, and accomplishments and you can get matched with scholarships in just minutes. Then start applying.
6. Not changing auto-populated information on the FAFSA®
While the prepopulated info on your Renewal FAFSA® can be helpful, you should check all the data to make sure it represents your current information—including your address, email, and colleges you’d like to attend next year if you plan on transferring. If your FAFSA® isn’t accurate, you could miss out on financial aid.
7. Not asking for help
Even if you’ve successfully submitted the FAFSA® multiple times before, you still may have questions about the Renewal FAFSA®. The good news is there are plenty of resources out there that can help you tackle your concerns.
If you have questions regarding deadlines, eligibility for aid, or the application process itself, contact your school’s financial aid office. The Federal Student Aid (FSA) website also has its own Help Section with FAQ’s for you to refer to, and an information center that lets you chat online, call, or email your questions.
*The FAFSA® typically opens October 1 every year, but due to new changes in the application, the opening date has been pushed to December 2023 for this year only.
These common Renewal FAFSA® mistakes are easily avoidable and can save you thousands on college costs. Make sure you provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to qualify for college grants, scholarships, and federal student loans every year.
One final tip: don’t forget to sign and date the application before you hit “Submit!”