Many students rely on financial aid to help pay for college. This aid can come from state programs or from the federal government in the form of grants and loans. Students who wish to apply for financial aid must submit a form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Numerous factors determine a student's eligibility and the amount of aid he will receive. State laws on aid differ, but several common factors affect federal financial aid.
All students wishing to receive financial aid must be high school graduates, have a GED or have completed a home-school program approved by their state. Applicants must be enrolled in or accepted to an eligible college degree plan or a certificate program at a career school. While in school, students must maintain their grades, which is called making satisfactory academic progress. This determination is made by individual schools.
Many financial aid programs take into account the income of both the student and her parents to determine financial need. While financial need is important, it is not the only factor taken into consideration, and students are encouraged to apply for financial aid even if they do not think they will qualify. Students should apply each year, even if they were denied in the past, especially if there are changes to their financial or family situation. Some types of aid, such as Stafford and PLUS loans, are available to all eligible students, regardless of financial need.
To qualify for financial aid, students must be U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. If students do not meet the citizenship requirements, they can still qualify for aid if they have a valid green card to prove they are permanent residents of the United States. Students can also qualify with an Arrival-Departure Record from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, as a battered immigrant or if they hold a T visa.
If the student is a male between the ages of 18 and 25, he must be registered with the United States Selective Service. Most applicants are required to have a valid Social Security number, unless they are from an area that has been granted an exception. Students must also agree to an affidavit stating that they will use the money only for educational purposes and that they do not have any outstanding financial aid loans in default status.