How Does FAFSA Eligibility Get Determined?
Use the following simple criteria to help figure out if you qualify to receive aid for college…
Despite the almost universal need for financial help when it comes to college tuition, many families are hesitant to even apply for aid in the first place.
Why? Because they simply don’t know if they’re eligible to receive funds.
So in an effort to clear up confusion, let’s take a brief look at how exactly the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines who is and who isn’t eligible.
The following are some of the most basic and common criteria you’ll encounter in order to qualify for financial aid on the FAFSA:
- Demonstration of a financial need. Where you keep your money can go a long way towards determining how much financial aid you’re eligible for. Having money in “non-includable” accounts such as IRA’s, 401(k)’s, annuities and cash value life insurance can help keep many families’ “Expected Family Contribution” as low as possible. Check out some of the related articles listed below to learn how – even with a very nice income and considerable assets – you can still demonstrate a measurable need for college aid.
- Completion of high school. This is of course an obvious one. In order to qualify for aid to go to college, you must have first completed high school or a high school equivalency. One step at a time…
- U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizenship. Eligible non-citizens include those with asylum in the U.S. or with permanent residency status. International exchange students typically do not qualify for government aid. Children who are legal citizens but whose parents are illegal immigrants may also qualify for financial aid. In these cases, it’s best to consult and work with a financial aid officer since it can be a bit tricky.
- Grade Level, Degree Pursued, First Bachelor’s Degree. Most federal financial aid is reserved for students pursuing their first degree. If you’re going back for a second undergraduate degree you still may end up qualifying for funds, but what you receive will be FAR less than what you were eligible for your first time around. However this does NOT apply to graduate students. Eligibility for graduate school is handled differently.
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- Registration with the selective service. If you’re a male and you’re over 18, this is a simple one. Either you register for the draft, or you’re not eligible for financial aid. It’s simple to do and the draft hasn’t been in effect for decades, so this really shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle.
- Enrollment status. In order to qualify for Federal financial aid you must be enrolled as at least a student for half of your time. Each school ultimately makes the determination on what “half time” is, but typically you’re looking at 6 credit hours or more.
- Highest level of education for parents. The parents’ highest level of education completed is the key in determining eligibility for “First in the Family to College” type scholarships. The name is pretty self explanatory. If your child is the first in the family to attend college, they’ll end up eligible for even more Government aid. This is a nice program and incentive for those families who are newcomers to higher education.
Don’t Leave Free College Money on the Table
The biggest mistake many families make when applying for college is assuming they won’t be eligible for financial aid.
No matter how much money you earn, what type of degree you’re pursuing or how much time your child plans on devoting to college, it’s within your best interest to at least fill out a FAFSA form and see what you qualify for. Also make sure to check out our 5 tips on how to fill out the FAFSA form.
The form is free to submit, so really there’s no reason NOT to do it. With the right information and the right approach, you could significantly bring down the out of pocket costs you’ll be responsible for when sending your child to college.
As always, do your homework and research thoroughly. You can start right here. I’ve included links below to several reports that can help teach you how to maximize your college aid potential.
Make sure to also have a look at the U.S. Department of Education student loans web site for more information.
Good luck and good learning.
To your successful college search,