You need to complete a FAFSA every year you’re in school, even if your financial situation hasn’t changed. Don’t worry — renewing your FAFSA takes much less time than the initial application.
The Department of Education will send you a Renewal Application or a reminder of your PIN (Personal Identification Number) to apply online, and you may also get a reminder from your school. However, you don’t have to wait for either notification to apply. If you need a reminder of your PIN, just head to the PIN Website.
And while it’s best to file your taxes early to have the correct information, you don’t have to wait. Use December pay stubs to estimate income for the year. You’ll have the opportunity to correct your application if needed. Plus, applying earlier ensures you meet your deadlines (some aid is first come, first served).
If your situation has changed — like a dramatic shift in your income, a divorce, or a parent’s job loss — you may want to talk with your financial aid office about how it could affect your financial aid award. They’ll be able to walk you through what may be different this year.
Once you’ve applied for federal aid, keep on applying. Seek free money like scholarships and grants. Even though you may receive enough financial aid to cover your costs, you don’t have to accept everything you are offered. Some aid, like unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans, will need to be repaid with interest — so the more funding you find that doesn’t have to be repaid, the better!