What Are the Requirements for Student Aid?

Applying for financial aid is one of the most effective solutions for paying for college and the best part is that unlike student loans, its free money. However, you must meet certain requirements to get student aid. Find out if you qualify to get free student aid by taking the 30-second quiz or learning about the requirements below.

Some of the requirements for student aid include being a U.S. citizen, being enrolled in an eligible degree program, and maintaining satisfactory academic progress. While these are not the only requirements for student aid, they are certainly the most important. Let’s discuss these qualifications in closer detail so that you can make sure you’re eligible to receive financial aid.


The biggest requirement for receiving student aid is being a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen. As per the FSA, eligible non-citizens include:

  • US Nationals (including citizens of American Samoa and Swains Island), and citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Papau
  • Green Card/Permanent Resident Cardholders
  • Hold an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) showing that you are a refugee, asylee, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Conditional Entrant
  • T-1 nonimmigrant visa holders (victims of human trafficking) and their children
  • Individuals designated as a “battered immigrant-qualified alien” under the Violence Against Women Act, and the children of such an individual

Both US citizens and eligible non-citizens will need to possess a US social security number to file their applications. Male students between the ages of 18 and 25 will need to register for Selective Service. Students from the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia are exempt from these requirements.

If you are a legal resident who does not meet the above requirements, you should still consider filing your FAFSA®, as many colleges use the application to determine aid offered by the school and the state. If you do not have a US social security number, you will need to file your FAFSA® by mail. You can download and print the application here.

Enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program

Only students enrolled in eligible degree or certificate programs will be offered federal financial aid through filing a FAFSA®. The good news is this covers nearly all two- and four-year college programs.

You do not need to be a full-time student to be eligible for financial aid. Part-time students demonstrating progress towards a degree or certificate are also eligible, although the amount of aid they receive will be based on the credit hours they are taking.

Financial need

If you meet the basic requirements listed above and are able to demonstrate sufficient financial need, you will most likely receive federal financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships. Financial need is determined by the information provided on your FAFSA®.

Maintaining Your Financial Aid

Students who receive financial aid will need to maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to continue receiving financial aid in the future. Students who have defaulted on previous student loans or are convicted of drug-related offenses while receiving federal aid can expect to have their eligibility suspended until they are able to meet conditions set forth by their school.

You can learn more about regaining financial aid eligibility here.