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FAFSA Requirements: How College Students Can Unlock Financial Aid

To qualify for financial aid, you’ll need to verify your citizenship, enrollment status and financial need.
December 19, 2017
Loans, Student Loans
FAFSA Requirements: How College Students Can Unlock Financial Aid

Do you qualify for college financial aid? The short answer: It’s always worth applying. 

The long answer: The list of requirements for need-based aid is extensive, and not meeting some can lose you aid eligibility altogether.

But you’re likely to get some kind of aid if you apply. More than 13 million students received aid from the $125.7 billion the education department disbursed in 2016. Every one of those aid recipients started with same first step: submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Here are the FAFSA requirements you need to meet in order to access financial aid.

What you need to qualify for financial aid

To be eligible for financial aid, you’ll need to:

  • Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalency, such as a GED, or have completed a state-approved home-school high school education
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen with U.S. national status, or have a green card, an Arrival/Departure Record (I-94), battered immigrant-qualified alien status or a T visa or a parent with a T-1 visa
  • Have a valid Social Security number
  • Be registered with the Selective Service. This applies only if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25 and aren’t already on active military duty.
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college if you’re already enrolled. Standards for satisfactory academic progress vary by school.

On the FAFSA, you’ll need to sign a certification statement saying you:

  • Aren’t in default on a federal student loan
  • Don’t owe money on a federal student grant
  • Agree that all aid will be used for educational purposes only. That includes tuition, fees and room and board.

If you’re eligible for aid, accept all free money, such as grants and scholarships, then consider work-study options before taking out any federal student loans.

How your age affects your federal aid

Your age may affect how much aid you can receive. That’s because your age largely determines if you’re an independent or dependent student and thus whose information you report on the FAFSA.

Federal aid programs assume dependent students have the financial support of their parents.

Your age determines your dependency status, which affects whose information you report on the FAFSA.

By age 24, you’re considered independent. For the 2018-19 school year, you’re independent if you were born before Jan. 1, 1995.

You’re also considered independent if you’re married, a veteran, in a graduate program or have dependents of your own.

If you’re dependent, include both your information and your parents’ on the FAFSA. If you’re independent, report only your information. If you’re independent and married, include your spouse’s information as well.

How you could lose eligibility for financial aid

You’ll no longer qualify for aid if you can’t meet the basic eligibility requirements listed above. You could also lose eligibility if you:

    • Don’t maintain satisfactory academic progress in your program, according to your school’s standards. This might include a grade-point average minimum or number of credits completed.
    • Don’t fill out the FAFSA each year you’re enrolled
    • Default on a student loan
    • Are convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving financial aid
    • Were an eligible noncitizen, but your status expires or is revoked

If you no longer meet the basic eligibility requirements, you could lose the ability to receive more financial aid.

A specific type of aid may no longer be available to you if you:

    • Are no longer enrolled in a program that makes you eligible to receive funding, such as a TEACH grant
    • Reach the maximum annual or aggregate lifetime loan limits for unsubsidized or subsidized student loans

Even if you don’t qualify for more loans, you’ll need to repay any loan you’ve already taken.

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