Basic Eligibility Criteria | Federal Student Aid

To qualify for federal student aid (grants, loans, and work-study funds), you have to meet certain requirements.

 Let’s go over the basic eligibility criteria.

Basic Eligibility Criteria

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


Basic Eligibility Criteria

Our general 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®) stating that
    • you are not in default on a federal student loan and 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.

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Registering for Selective Service

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

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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 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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