Are You Eligible for Federal Financial Aid?

Find out if you can receive financial aid to help pay for college.

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Federal financial aid for college is the largest national source of student aid. To get most kinds of federal grants, college loans, scholarships and work study, you’ll have to prove financial need. There are, however, additional requirements.

Read on to learn how federal aid is allotted and the main requirements you need to have to receive it, as well as your options if you don’t meet all the requirements.

If you’re not currently eligible for aid but will be during the school year, contact your financial aid administrator to find out if you can set something up for mid-year.

Education Requirements for Federal Aid

In order to qualify for federal money for college, students must:

  • Have a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) certificate. If students don’t have either of these, they must pass an approved ability-to-benefit (ATB) test. Students who are educated in a homeschool setting are eligible provided they complete their high school education.
  • Be enrolled or accepted in eligible degree programs or certificate programs (if they’re studying at a community college or career college).
  • Maintain academic progress at the school they’re enrolled in. Each school determines the guidelines for what they constitute satisfactory academic progress.

Legal Requirements for Federal Aid

Students seeking money for college are also required to:

  • Be a US citizen, or eligible non-citizen, with a valid social security number.
  • Register with Selective Service, if required. It is currently required for all males between 18 and 25.
  • Certify that they are going to use their federal college money only for their education.
  • Certify that they don’t owe money on federal grants and are not in default on any federal college loans.
  • Not engage in illegal activity involving drugs. If a student is convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs, aid eligibility will be suspected, if the student was enrolled and receiving federal aid when the offence occurred.

Financial Requirements for Federal Aid

Federal aid is awarded to students who want to pursue their college degree and can prove they cannot afford the cost of degree programs at colleges and universities they’re qualified for.

The Department of Education determines financial need in two different ways. For the Federal Pell Grant, the amount you are eligible to receive depends on the following factors:

  • Your family’s expected family contribution (EFC), which is determined by the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • The cost of attendance (COA) at each school you’re applying to. The financial aid department at the colleges and universities will determine this amount, factoring in tuition, room and board and other education-related costs.
  • Your enrollment status at the school: full-time, three-quarter time, half time or less than half time.

For other federal aid programs, each school’s financial aid office will assess their cost of attendance and subtract your expected family contribution, the amount of the Federal Pell Grant you’re eligible and any aid you get from any other sources.

College Federal Financial Aid Tips & Tactics

  • Don’t think you’re eligible for federal aid? You should still submit your FAFSA form, because you may still be eligible for state aid, college aid and financial aid from private institutions, and some of these programs may require the FAFSA.
  • If you’re not currently eligible for aid but will be eligible during the school year, contact your financial aid administrator to find out if you can begin to receive federal aid.
  • Not sure if you qualify as an eligible non-citizen? Contact the financial aid office at each school you’re applying to.
  • If your financial need changes significantly after you submit your FAFSA form, contact your financial aid administrator to see if your expected family contribution can be adjusted accordingly. In some cases, special circumstances like medial expenses, unforeseen tuition expenses can be used to adjust your EFC and help you get more money toward your college education.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Complete Your FAFSA
5 Helpful FAFSA Tips
Changes to the FAFSA Form Make It Easier to Complete
Understanding Student Aid: Federal, State and College Aid
How to Apply for Financial Aid
What to Do When You Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)

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