FAFSA Eligibility: Who Qualifies for FAFSA Aid?

Jon O'Donnell Updated on August 30, 2021

Think you won’t qualify for federal student aid because you (or your parents/guardian) make too much money? Think again.

Income is taken into consideration, but it doesn't automatically prevent you from being awarded your slice of the more than $150 billion in annual grants, loans, and work-study funds provided by the U.S. Department of Education. You can still receive federal student aid if you meet specific qualifications.

Who gets aid?

Before you can know if you're 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 determine your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant, school-based aid, and Federal Subsidized Stafford and Direct Subsidized Loan Programs. The EFC is not used to determine your FAFSA eligibility for non-need-based Federal Unsubsidized Stafford and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

See also: How Does the FAFSA Work?

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. The 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 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 the 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 (such as 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 these 11 common FAFSA mistakes to increase your chances of earning money to pay for college. 

Published in: FAFSA

About the Author
Jon O'Donnell

Jon is a writer and marketer for Nitro who is passionate about bringing transparency to the student loan process along with providing families with the information needed to make smart financial decisions. He also just recently refinanced his student loans allowing him to pay them off 5 years faster all while saving an additional $152/month. As he continues to pay them off himself, he strives to help others do the same. Jon also has a long history of connecting people with educational opportunities to help them improve their careers and their overall personal finances. In his free time you can find him reading travel blogs and researching destinations around the world in search of his next adventure. Read more by Jon O'Donnell

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