"I got this notice in my emails to renew my FAFSA. What's a Renewal FAFSA? Is it different than a regular FAFSA?"
These are questions I heard every year. But to answer them, you have to remember how a FAFSA works. The FAFSA is only good for a certain period of time. It isn't good for your first year, but rather from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the next year. If your school year is during this time, then it's more coincidence than anything. Some schools don't start in August or September. Let's say you start in January. Then your FAFSA will still only be good until June 30 of that same year.
If you will still be enrolled after June 30, then you will need to complete the FAFSA that picks up July 1. You will receive renewal notices about this as early as January.
Actually, there is no difference between a FAFSA and a Renewal FAFSA. The only thing different is how much easier it is the second time. Not only will you have more experience filling out your second one, but because of your PIN, you'll probably have some of the information already completed for you. You will just have to update any out of date information and enter the new income information based on the new year's taxes.
But unless you are enrolled in a short program (typically a certificate), and are only enrolled in a period of time that begins no earlier than July 1 of one year and ends no later than June 30 of the next year, then you will have to fill out a minimum of two FAFSAs. And if you're in a longer program (like a bachelor's degree), prepare to fill it out four or five times. One easy assumption is that you will fill it out the same number of years you will be enrolled.
For more information about how many times you will have to complete a FAFSA, talk to your Financial Aid administrator. Also, keep in mind that any alteration in your length of program can result in the number of times you'll have to complete the FAFSA.