4 Tips for Success: Keeping FAFSA® Eligibility

In keeping FAFSA® eligibility, you must maintain certain academic standards, also known as satisfactory academic progress. In addition, students must continue to fill out the FAFSA® each year and meet the basic eligibility criteria regarding such items as financial need, citizenship, and college enrollment. Failure to meet the eligibility requirements for the FAFSA® will result in the loss of federal student aid. Use these four tips to keeping FAFSA® eligibility.

Keeping FAFSA® Eligibility Requirements

In order to continue keeping FAFSA® eligibilty, you must meet certain basic eligibility requirements. These requirements don’t only apply for the first year that you go to college; you must continue to meet them each year that you apply for federal student aid with the FAFSA®.

Make sure you continue to meet these criteria when keeping FAFSA® eligibility:

  • Demonstrate financial need (the difference between the cost of attendance and your expected family contribution).
  • Have a valid Social Security number.
  • Be a U.S. citizen (some non-citizens, such as U.S. nationals and U.S. permanent residents, are also eligible).
  • Be registered with the Selective Service (for men between the ages of 18 and 25).
  • Be enrolled as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program.
  • Show that you’re qualified to obtain a college education (have a high school diploma or GED).
  • Agree to the federal student loan terms and conditions.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress (more on that below).

While there are a few rare exceptions to the items on this list, you generally need to meet all of the above requirements in keeping FAFSA® eligibility.

Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress in Keeping FAFSA® Eligibility

One of the key criteria for federal student loan eligibility is maintaining satisfactory academic progress, also known as SAP. Essentially, you’ll need to keep your grades up to a certain level and complete enough classes.

Contrary to what you might assume, the requirements for maintaining satisfactory academic progress are not set by the U.S. Department of Education. Instead, each school is permitted to set its own standards for what grade-point average (GPA) you need to have and how many credit hours you should complete by the end of the year.

Colleges create their own SAP policies, which also include how often your progress will be evaluated; how a change of major, transfer credits, incomplete classes, and other special circumstances affect your SAP; and what will happen if you fall below satisfactory academic progress levels as set by your school.

To get the details for your school’s satisfactory academic progress policy, check your school’s website or contact the financial aid office. If you do fall below the school’s SAP levels, the financial aid office will also be able to tell you whether you can appeal that decision and how you can potentially regain eligibility.

Know the SAP Requirements

Because satisfactory academic progress policies are set by individual schools, the requirements can vary. Looking at various college websites can tell you more about what kind of academic standards students can expect to be held to, especially if you’re not yet enrolled in a specific school. You’ll also want to check and see if keeping FAFSA® eligibilitydepends on these requirements.

For example, the University of Minnesota’s SAP policy requires undergraduate students to do the following:

  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.
  • Earn at least 67 percent of the credits attempted.
  • Be eligible to receive financial aid for 150 percent of the credits required to complete the student’s chosen degree program.

These SAP requirements are quite typical for a college or university setting. Check out your school’s website (or that of other schools) to get an idea of what you will be required to do in order to maintain your financial aid eligibility while in college.

Fill Out the FAFSA®

Meeting all the eligibility requirements above is necessary if you want to retain your federal student aid eligibility. But remember, you’ll also need to submit a FAFSA® application for each school year in order to be considered.

Those who maintain their eligibility should go to the FAFSA® website to submit all following FAFSA® applications. After signing in, click on the correct school year and then select “FAFSA® Renewal” (instead of “Start New FAFSA®”). This will lead you to an application that is partially pre-filled based on your responses from previous years, which can help reduce the time it takes to complete and submit the FAFSA®.

Keep the eligibility requirements in mind as you work your way through each school year. Your academic progress is especially important, so it’s smart to place an emphasis on performing well in your classes. In addition, make sure you fill out the FAFSA® correctly each year to be considered for federal student aid.