Jon O'Donnell Updated on October 4, 2016

Think you won’t qualify for federal student aid because you or your parents make too much money? Think again. While income is taken into consideration, it does not automatically prevent you from being awarded some of the more than $150 billion in annual grants, loans and work-study funds provided by the U.S. Department of Education. You can receive federal student aid if you meet specific qualifications.

Who gets aid?

Before you can know if you are eligible for federal funds to help pay for college, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the common denominator in all federal aid, including grants, loans and work-study support. 

Once you submit your completed application, your FAFSA eligibility for aid is calculated. To determine eligibility, the information on your FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is used to ascertain your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant, campus-based programs and Federal Subsidized Stafford and Direct Subsidized Loan Programs. The EFC is not used to determine your FAFSA eligibility for the non-need-based Federal Unsubsidized Stafford and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Checklist of FAFSA eligibility criteria

FAFSA qualifications include the following criteria:

Education – You must have a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), or have completed high school in a home school setting approved under state law.

Citizenship – You do not have to be a U.S. citizen for consideration for FAFSA aid. Citizenship requirements include:

  • U.S. citizens with Social Security numbers. Males between the ages of 18 and 25 must also be registered for the Selective Service.
  • Legal permanent residents or eligible noncitizens like U.S. nationals.
  • People who were born in one of several Pacific Islands like the Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa and the Marshall Islands.
  • People with refugee status, victims of human trafficking and those who have been granted political asylum.

Enrollment – You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program.

Certification – You must agree to the certification statement that you are not in default on a federal student loan, do not owe money on a federal student grant and that you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes.

To retain eligibility for federal student aid, you must meet the following criteria:

Academic progress – You must maintain satisfactory academic progress, which typically means a 2.0 GPA and progress toward completion in a normal timeframe.

Criminal record – You must not be convicted of possession or sale of illegal drugs while you receive federal financial aid.

Get started with the FAFSA

 

The FAFSA is for most students who plan to enroll or are enrolled in two- and four-year colleges, graduate schools, professional schools (like law, business or medical school) or any program that rewards a degree, certificate or credit, including most vocational and technical schools. Completing the FAFSA is the biggest step in getting financial aid. But before you start your application, learn how to avoid making five common FAFSA mistakes in order to increase your chances of earning money to pay for college. 

Learn more now

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