How do I Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress in College?

Students who receive financial aid need to adhere to a specific academic standard to keep their financial aid. Although each school will have specific guidelines for maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), it usually involves taking a certain number of credit hours and maintaining a GPA higher than a specific baseline.

What Is Satisfactory Academic Progress?

In order to remain eligible for both federal financial aid and scholarships from your university, you need to meet a set of criteria during your time as a student. For federal and university aid, the guidelines usually consist of:

  • Maintaining a GPA of 2.0.
  • Graduating within three years for an associate’s degree and six years for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Passing a specific percentage of your classes.

When you accept financial aid, always pay attention to the specifics of academic progress your university wants you to adhere to because every school is different. Also, pay attention to pass/fail requirements and dropped classes, because they can also affect your performance.

Your scholarships will have different guidelines as well. They’ll probably be stricter than the broad university guidelines, especially if those scholarships are based on your previous academic performance either in high school or in a previous year of college.

What If I Don’t Have Satisfactory Progress?

Students sometimes drop below the GPA line or fail one too many classes to maintain satisfactory academic progress. When this happens, you lose your financial aid. That means you have to pay for your classes out of pocket for a semester or two.

Some schools have appeals processes. If you were unable to maintain your GPA because of health or family reasons, you may be able to temporarily suspend the progress requirement until you’re able to focus on school again. You’ll need to write a written appeal explaining why you couldn’t maintain your satisfactory academic progress, and the financial aid office has the right to reject your appeal.

If your school has no appeals process, you may still be able to regain your eligibility for financial aid. Bringing your grades back up is a common way to regain eligibility, though unfortunately many students can’t afford to pay for classes on their own without financial aid in the amount of time it takes to fix up a GPA.

Some students use loopholes, like switching majors or transferring to other colleges within the university. Some major programs, for example, don’t count classes unassociated with your major when it comes to calculating satisfactory academic process. A major switch gives you a clean slate. Transferring colleges has a similar effect because each college will determine progress by its own set of rules. Your former grades are still on the table, though, and might get in the way of these loopholes.

Maintain satisfactory academic progress by learning all the eligibility requirements when you accept financial aid. Keep track of the classes you’re taking and your performance in each one. You don’t have to make all As, but you do have to show up and prove that you want to be there.