Federal Financial Aid Eligibility Explained: Part I

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financial aid eligibility part i

These are just a few requirements for federal financial aid eligibility. Check out Part II of this post to learn more.

Are you a new or current college student looking to apply for federal financial aid but don’t quite understand the eligibility requirements? Have you decided not to apply for federal financial aid simply because you think you are ineligible to receive funds?

Before you miss out on valuable loan and grant opportunities, let us help you better understand your federal financial aid eligibility! Here we’ve provided an explanation for each and every eligibility requirement for federal financial aid. Let’s dig in.


FAFSA Eligibility #1: You Must Demonstrate Financial Need (For Most Programs)

First, the federal programs that require you to demonstrate financial need on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) include: Pell grants, FSEOG grants, subsidized loans, and Perkins loans.

“Financial need” can be a tricky topic. Let’s start from the top! When you complete the FAFSA, you are providing information about you and your family’s financial circumstances. After completing the FAFSA, you’ll receive a number called your expected family contribution (EFC), which is a rough estimate of how much the federal government determines that your family can afford to contribute toward your college education. To determine financial need, your EFC is compared to your college cost of attendance.

If you are unsure if you will be considered to have financial need, it’s best to complete the FAFSA anyway and see what the powers that be have to say.

FAFSA Eligibility #2: You Must Be A U.S. Citizen Or An Eligible Noncitizen

U.S. citizens can move on to the next requirement.

However, for those of you who are on the fringe and are working/living in the United States, yet not a citizen, this requirement begs the question: “What is an eligible noncitizen?” Eligible noncitizens include:

  • U.S. permanent residents (who have a Permanent Resident Card in their possession)
  • A U.S. national including American Samoa or Swains Island
  • Someone with an Arrival Departure Record (I-94) and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing ONE of the following designations: refugee, asylum granted, Cuban-Haitian entrant (status pending), conditional entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980), victims of human trafficking/T-visa holder, or parolee

If you meet these criteria, then you meet the citizenship eligibility requirements for the FAFSA. If you are still unsure, it’s probably best that you talk with your financial aid office or the office of the school that you wish to attend to determine your status.

FAFSA Eligibility #3: You Must Have A Valid Social Security Number

This one is pretty straightforward; you must have a valid United States Social Security number (unless you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau).

FAFSA Eligibility #4: You Must Be Registered With The Selective Service If You Are A Male Between The Ages Of 18 And 25

Selective Service is a United States agency that maintains of list of men between the ages of 18 and 25 who, in the case of a national defense emergency, are potentially subject to military conscription (i.e., the draft).

It’s required that all men receiving federal financial aid (all federal grants and loans or other financial benefits) register with the Selective Service. Failure to do so could entail jail time or fines. Registering doesn’ mean that you will automatically be drafted in times of war—it just puts your name on the list should a draft ever occur.

That covers Part I of our breakdown on federal financial aid eligibility. Part II talks about the remaining five basic federal financial aid eligibility requirements.

Want to learn more federal financial aid eligibility? Check out our short video The Ultimate Federal Financial Aid Eligibility Guide for more information!

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