The FAFSA® determines how much financial aid you’re eligible for through a variety of programs including grants and loans. While there’s a lot of hype over completing the FAFSA® before your freshman year of college, this isn’t the only time you’ll encounter these forms. You need to maintain eligibility throughout your college career if you want to continue receiving financial aid through federal programs.
Stay Enrolled in College
You must maintain active enrollment in college to receive financial aid. FAFSA® financial aid programs are only available for students who are in an eligible degree or certificate program. For Direct Loan Programs, you must be enrolled at least half-time. You’ll find fewer financial aid opportunities with a lighter course load.
If you take time off college, not only will your aid lapse for that year, you may have to begin paying back your student loans. Most loans come out of deferment when you leave college.
Demonstrate Satisfactory Academic Progress
Satisfactory academic progress is a complex factor in evaluating continued eligibility for financial aid. To demonstrate satisfactory academic progress, you must keep good grades and maintain a steady pace toward graduation. Each school uses its own methods to determine adequate progress. Check your school’s policy to determine:
- The GPA you must maintain
- How many credits you need to complete each year
- How class withdrawal, incompletion, or failure impacts your progress
- Allowances for changing your major
- Frequency of evaluations
If you change your major too frequently, have a low GPA, or don’t successfully complete the required number of courses each semester, your college may determine that you’re not demonstrating satisfactory academic progress. You may have the chance to file an appeal for outstanding circumstances such as serious illness or injury, the death of a family member, or other situations.
Complete the FAFSA® On Time
You need to complete the FAFSA® for every year that you’re enrolled in college. Currently, the earliest deadline for the FAFSA® is October 1 of the year preceding your enrollment. You can file the FAFSA® as late as June 30 the following year, but those who file late are less likely to receive aid. Funds for many programs run out early on.
Though you’re probably not thinking about the FAFSA® anymore as you’re settling into the first semester of college each year, this is just the time when you need to revisit these papers. Keep that October date in mind. If you’re a new college student, you’ll file for your sophomore year just a few months into your freshman year. Continue this schedule throughout your college career to make sure your paperwork is in early and you’re eligible for the maximum amount of financial aid.
The FAFSA® is something you should always keep in mind as a college student. From keeping your grade point average in the right range to taking the proper course load, there are several small things that are essential to keeping your financial aid at a maximum throughout college. With the right approach, you can maximize the available funds for your education.