In order to remain eligible for financial aid, you need to resubmit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for every year you’re enrolled in school. However, it’s not necessary to reapply every semester — your yearly application will cover both semesters.

When to reapply for the FAFSA

You’ll need to reapply every year at the opening of the FAFSA for that academic year. The form opens up on Oct. 1 of each year and stays open through June 30 of the FAFSA’s award year. In other words, if you’re going to be attending school during the 2023-24 school year, you may apply anytime between Oct. 1, 2022, and June 30, 2024.

With that said, even if you don’t need money until later in the school year, it’s important to reapply or renew as soon as you can and not wait until the deadline, as some forms of aid are first come, first served.

Pay attention to state and school FAFSA requirements as well, as they may all have different deadlines. Even if you’re not starting school until the spring semester, apply as early as possible to maximize aid potential.

Renewing your FAFSA

Renewing your FAFSA is less time-consuming than completely reapplying, as you won’t have to manually reenter all of your information. If you need to update income or personal information, you have the option to simply edit the previous application details.

What about summer school or school transfers?

If you need financial aid for summer school, contact your school’s financial aid office to see which year’s FAFSA you need to complete — particularly if your classes cross the June 30 FAFSA deadline.

If you anticipate transferring schools for your second semester, it’s equally as important to talk to your school’s financial aid office and list any potential second-semester schools on your FAFSA renewal.

What to do if you miss a deadline

If you miss the official FAFSA deadline, you’ll have to wait until the following academic year to gain access to federal aid. However, if you miss a college deadline, reach out to the financial aid office to see what you can do. While not every school is flexible, there are some schools that may offer aid past the deadline if you explain your situation.

If you miss a state deadline, submit your FAFSA as soon as possible, then reach out to your state’s financial aid agency to ask about what your options are. There’s a possibility that you still could be awarded aid, but as with college deadlines, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to wait until the next academic year to receive aid.

What to do if you make a mistake on your FAFSA renewal

Mistakes happen all the time; maybe you entered the wrong school or listed an old address. If that happens, don’t fret. You can make corrections to some details on your FAFSA form, though there is a deadline.

If you’re applying for aid for the 2023-24 academic year, you’ll have until Sept. 14, 2024, to make any changes. You can do this online by logging into your FSA account and clicking “Make FAFSA corrections” on the “My FAFSA” page.

You can also print your Student Aid Report (SAR) and write the changes directly into the paper, sign the form and send it by mail to the address listed on your SAR.

Keep in mind, though, that making changes to your FAFSA will delay its processing time, which could cause you to miss important deadlines regarding institutional aid. That’s why you should contact your school’s financial aid office prior to making any changes so it can work with you individually.

When are funds disbursed?

While you will apply for funding for both semesters with a single application, you won’t receive all of your funds at once. Most schools disburse funds every quarter or semester. If you’re eligible for funds for your second semester of school, you should receive them within a few weeks of the start of term.

The bottom line

You need to renew your FAFSA only once a year, but mark your calendar for Oct. 1 and renew your application as soon as you can. Also keep the federal, state and college deadlines in mind as you renew or reapply for the FAFSA. If you miss a deadline, you risk not being eligible for financial aid for the upcoming academic year. However, there are other options available that can help lower the cost of school if you happen to miss a deadline, such as private student loans, scholarships and nonfederal grants.