For students who are interested in getting federal financial aid, there are many important things to be aware of. Not everyone is eligible for this benefit, and there are some requirements to be aware of.
In this article, we'll focus on the requirements of federal student loans and discuss other helpful information you'll need to know before applying.
Basic Requirements for Eligibility:
- You need to be a US citizen or an eligible non-citizen with a valid SSN
- If you are a male applicant between the ages of 18 to 25 you much be registered with Selective Service. In practice, this has little meaning as the US army has been a volunteer army since 1973 – but registration is still a requirement for federal student aid.
- You must be enrolled as a regular student in a degree or certificate program.
- As a student, you need to be enrolled for at least half-time to be eligible for the Direct Loan program.
- You need to meet all education requirements and remain on track to graduate on time.
- You need to read and sign the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, which states three key things:
- You do not owe any money on a federal student grant
- You are not in default on a federal student loan
- The purpose of the loan will be solely for academic purposes, nothing else,
- Finally, you must show proof that you are qualified for a college degree or certificate program by either:
- presenting a high school diploma or GED certificate,
- or: completing a high school education in an approved homeschool setting
- or: enrolling in an eligible career pathway program.
If you fit all the above criteria – congrats! You are one step closer to receiving federal student aid and paying for your education using a fixed rate loan from the federal government.
Next, you'll need to understand the types of federal student loans available. And generally, there are two types of federal student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
These loans are granted to students who have fulfilled all of the federal loan requirements and are able to demonstrate dire financial need. Students that are granted this kind of loan do not pay interest while in school, this interest is covered by the federal government.
An unsubsidized student loan is for students who are unable to show financial need. This loan begins accruing interest as soon as it is taken out and the federal government will not cover the interest charged on the loan
When is the Best Time to Apply?
The federal government recommends completing your FAFSA form as soon as possible after October 1st during the year before you plan on attending college. For many this is during 12th grade, but if you are planning a gap year, then you should wait until Oct 1st of your gap year in order to apply. So be sure to apply early and have the necessary documents in order to complete your application in a timely manner.
Is it Difficult to get Federal Student Aid?
In short, no. Getting a federal student loan is one of the easiest loan processes out there. As long as you are eligible and have fulfilled out all the criteria, you should have no problem applying for and receiving your federal student loan.