To keep federal financial aid, students must remain eligible by continuing to fill out the FAFSA® each year and maintaining satisfactory academic progress. Though many students get through college without ever losing financial aid, it is possible to lose your financial aid if you fail to meet some of the requirements, whether academic or not. Be aware of the steps you must continue to take to keep your aid throughout your academic career.
Fill Out the FAFSA® Every Year
The primary thing you must do to keep your financial aid is fill out the FAFSA®. You need to submit a new FAFSA® every year to reflect any changes in your financial situation. How much aid you qualify for can change drastically even in one year. If you file as a dependent of your parents one year and independently the next, your SAR will be very different.
Your FAFSA® is only good for one year, so be prepared to submit it every October when the application becomes available again. FAFSA® is how schools evaluate the financial needs of students. This is a necessary step that you cannot skip even once.
Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress
Satisfactory academic progress means you need to continue to meet certain academic criteria to keep your financial aid. You need to achieve several things to keep your academic progress where it needs to be:
- Your GPA needs to hit a certain mark. A very common number is a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, but you should check with your school specifically for the GPA you need.
- You have to be moving towards graduation at a certain speed. Usually, that means measuring the number of credits you’ve completed each semester or year. Most schools want you to graduate within 1.5 times the standard time it takes to graduate. That means, if you’re attending a 4-year program, you have six years to graduate. Again, check with your school, because these standards change.
- You must also keep track of how pass/fail, withdrawals, dropped classes, and credit transfers affect your progress. These guidelines are different at every school. Know what the rules are before you do anything like drop a class halfway through a semester.
Stay Within Basic Eligibility Criteria
To be eligible for federal financial aid, you have to meet certain criteria, like being a U.S. Citizen or being within the specific types of eligible noncitizens. Though your eligibility is unlikely to change, be aware of the ways you could become ineligible. For example, only some degree programs qualify for federal aid. If you transfer schools and move to a program that does not qualify, you cannot continue to receive aid.
You also can’t default on a current student loan, nor can you use your student loan money for things that don’t pertain to your schooling.
If you do lose eligibility, you can take steps to regain your financial aid — but knowing how to keep your aid is the far easier option. Stay on top of your finances and schoolwork to maintain aid throughout your college career.