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How to Renew the FAFSA | Paying for College

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, can be a daunting and time-consuming task for many students and families.

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But once it’s complete, the renewal process for subsequent years “can be a much faster process,” as information is automatically filled out on the form, notes MorraLee Keller, director of technical assistance at the National College Attainment Network, a nonprofit that promotes closing property rights gaps in education.

She adds, “You’re not starting from scratch, and if you’re a family that uses the IRS data recovery tool to fetch your financial information from the IRS, you can really get a FAFSA renewal in a very quick time frame.”

For the 2022-2023 FAFSA, for example, it took dependent students less than 54 minutes on average to complete a new form and 35 minutes to complete a renewal; The average completion time among independent students was less than 21 minutes for a new form and 17 minutes for a renewal form, according to the US Department of Education.

How to renew the FAFSA

To submit a FAFSA renewal, applicants must follow the steps below.

1. Gather the necessary documents.

Updated financial and tax information from the “previous year” is required to renew the FAFSA. This means that applicants filling out the 2022-2023 form, for example, must use their 2020 federal income tax return.

Dependent filers provide information from their parents’ taxable and non-taxable income records, bank statements and investment records, if applicable. Those who file the files independently report the same things as well as provide the information of the spouse, if married.

To be considered independent, a student must meet at least one of several criteria, some of which are: at least 24 years old by January 1 of the academic year you are applying for assistance; Work towards a master’s or doctoral degree. married or separated, homeless or at risk of homelessness; the parent who provides more than half of the financial support; in custody, orphan, custodian, or court dependent after the age of 13; A veteran or active-duty military member; or an emancipated minor.

2. Log in to fafsa.gov with your FSA ID.

First-time applicants and parents, if registered as a dependent, create an FSA ID using their Social Security number, full name and date of birth. This ID is used for each year a student submits a FAFSA form.

While submitting the renewal application, if the student or parent does not remember their FSA ID, there is an option to select either “Forgot Username” or “Forgot Password”. Additionally, instead of using a username, applicants can also log in with a phone number or email address associated with the ID.

The FAFSA can be accessed on a computer, mobile phone or tablet.

3. Review the pre-filled information and update the financial information.

Once logged in, students must choose the application for the upcoming academic year. The FAFSA will be filled in with standard information such as applicants’ name, address, and Social Security number from the previous academic year. Students and parents can then update the form and add the required financial and tax information.

Jill Deggin, policy analyst at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, advises applicants to “use caution” when reviewing the FAFSA.

“You really want to keep looking at the pre-filled information and make sure it’s still accurate, because you might inadvertently make the mistake of filling it in just by hovering over it,” she says.

4. Sign and file your FAFSA renewal.

Before the FAFSA can be considered complete, signature by the student—and the parent if the student is registering as a dependent—is required, which can be done with an FSA ID.

Days or weeks after applying, applicants will receive a Student Assistance Report, or SAR, that summarizes the information disclosed on the form. The report also includes an Expected Family Contribution, also known as an EFC, which determines a student’s estimated eligibility for Federal Pell Scholarships and student loans.

Additionally, the SAR notifies the student if he or she has been selected for verification by the Department of Education. On average, more than 3 million individuals potentially eligible for a Pell Grant are required to confirm their information through the verification process.

It takes up to five days after the online application and between seven and 10 days for the printed forms to be processed by the Ministry of Education and sent to the applicant’s school.

How often should the FAFSA be renewed?

The student must complete the FAFSA each year he wants federal, state, or even institutional financial aid.

“Private scholarship organizations also often use the FAFSA to identify potential recipients of scholarships and grants,” says Ann Hendrick, director of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation’s Get2College Program. “So it’s very important to fund college education.”

The 2022-2023 FAFSA opens on October 1, and students have until June 30, 2023 to submit. State and institutional deadlines vary, but they are often well before the federal deadline. Renewal applications for New Jersey, for example, are due April 15, 2022.

Four-year colleges usually have first-year deadlines early for renewals, according to Keeler.

“Institutions are not likely to have any version of the early deadline for returning students because you know they are there,” she adds. “Often, when offering financial aid packages, colleges tend to rank incoming students first because they have to commit by May 1, and then top class award. Colleges will award top class at different times. They may do so in the spring but in Oftentimes, they may wait until the grades are published for the spring semester.”

If a student or parent has questions about the FAFSA, the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center, or FSAIC, offers support by phone, email, or web chat. The college financial aid offices also provide assistance.

In addition, many colleges and nonprofit organizations such as WHEF have developed YouTube videos to provide step-by-step instructions on how to submit a FAFSA renewal.

“People all over the country use our walking tour, which I think is great because it depicts each section of the FAFSA and explains the correct way to complete it,” Hendrick says.

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