You must meet certain requirements to qualify for federal student aid (grants, work-study, and loans).

Let’s go over the basic eligibility criteria.

Eligibility Requirements

Basic Eligibility Criteria
Registering for Selective Service
Ability-to-Benefit Alternatives


Basic Eligibility Criteria

Our basic eligibility requirements are that you must

  • demonstrate financial need (for most programs);
  • be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen;
  • have a valid Social Security number (with the exception of students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau);
  • be registered with Selective Service, if you’re a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25);
  • be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program;
  • be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds;
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school;
  • sign the certification statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA?) form stating that
    • you are not in default on a federal student loan,
    • you do not owe money on a federal student grant, and
    • you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes; and
  • show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school education by
    • having a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate;
    • completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law (or—if state law does not require a homeschooled student to obtain a completion credential—completing a high school education in a homeschool setting that qualifies as an exemption from compulsory attendance requirements under state law); or
    • enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the "ability-to-benefit" alternatives described below.

Additional eligibility requirements can apply in certain situations including for non-U.S. citizens, students with criminal convictions, and students with intellectual disabilities.

Some federal student aid programs have their own eligibility criteria in addition to the general requirements listed above. Check with your college’s financial aid office if you have questions about a particular program.

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Registering for Selective Service

Most male students must be registered with Selective Service to receive federal student aid. You must register if you are a male and are not currently on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. You can call Selective Service toll-free at 1-888-655-1825 for general information about registering, or register online at sss.gov or while completing the FAFSA form.

Note: If you are a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau, you are exempt from registering.

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Ability-to-Benefit Alternatives

If you were enrolled in college or career school prior to July 1, 2012, or if you are currently enrolled in an eligible career pathway program*, you may show you’re qualified to obtain a higher education by

  • passing an approved ability-to-benefit test* (if you don’t have a diploma or GED, a college can administer a test to determine whether you can benefit from the education offered at that school) or
  • completing six credit hours or equivalent course work toward a degree or certificate (you may not receive aid while earning the six credit hours).

*For more information about these criteria, talk to the financial aid office at your school. Your financial aid counselor can tell you whether your school offers an eligible career pathway program and can advise you about any ability-to-benefit tests the school uses.

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