Federal Financial Aid Eligibility Explained: Part II

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financial aid eligibility part II

Want to know if you’re eligible for financial aid? Be sure to check out Diane’s entire series on the topic!

This is the sequel in our two-part series breaking down federal financial aid eligibility requirements.

Part I explained the first four eligibility requirements (financial need, citizenship, Social Security requirements and selective service), whereas Part II will explain the final five requirements, including enrollment status, satisfactory academic progress and the various statements you’ll be required to sign upon acceptance of these awards.

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FAFSA Eligibility #5: You Must Be Enrolled Or Accepted For Enrollment As A Regular Student In An Eligible Degree Or Certificate Program

What this statement means is that you must be planning to use your federal financial aid toward obtaining a degree, certificate, or some other officially recognized credential offered by an accredited institution in the United States. It doesn’t mean that you have to wait to be accepted into a college before you can apply for federal financial aid.

If you are a high school senior, you can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) starting on January 1; however, you must enter the names of all of the colleges and universities that you will be applying to for admission and financial aid. (Don’t worry—if you decide to apply to additional schools later, you can always add them to your FAFSA list).

FAFSA Eligibility #6: You Must Be Enrolled At Least Part Time To Be Eligible For Direct Loan Program Funds

This is pretty straightforward, although they do not mention what happens if you dip below half-time enrollment.

If you do, you’ll lose access to financial aid for that period. To get more aid in the future, you’d need to re-enroll to be in school at least half time. Now, the tricky part is schools define “half-time enrollment” differently, so you’ll want to check with your financial aid office if you’re not taking a full course load or plan to drop some classes.

FAFSA Eligibility #7: You Must Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress In College

Your college or university determines satisfactory academic progress, not the federal government. So, how do schools figure this out? It varies from school to school (so check with your school ASAP) and can include things such as GPA, attendance, and whether you faced any serious disciplinary action while at college. This is usually disclosed pretty clearly on the financial aid office’s website or publications.

FAFSA Eligibility #8: You Must Sign Statements That State That You (A) Do Not Owe Money On A Federal Student Grant Or Have Defaulted On A Federal Student Loan And (B) You Will Only Use The Money For Educational Purposes

As wordy as this sounds, this eligibility requirement basically means that the federal government won’t give you additional financial aid if you have any federal student aid accounts that are in default status (i.e., you didn’t pay ‘em back for a long time). If you were to make payments on those accounts to remove the default status, you may become eligible for additional financial aid again.

You also have to agree to use the money for its intended purpose: your education. That means, paying for tuition, room and board, etc. is OK, but using loan money for things like a car or a vacation aren’t.

FAFSA Eligibility #9: You Must Show That You Are Qualified To Obtain A College Education

All this means is that you must be eligible to be accepted into and complete a college-level program. Having a high school diploma or its equivalent, a General Education Development certificate (GED), or  completing home school, qualifies you to obtain a college education in the United States.

Still have questions on federal financial aid eligibility? Check out our short video The Ultimate Federal Financial Aid Eligibility Guide for more information!

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