Who Qualifies for Financial Aid?
There are two main types of financial aid: merit-based and need-based. Merit-based financial aid is distributed based on test scores, gpa, and other academic indicators. Need-based financial aid is usually allocated based on four main factors: financial need, education requirements, legal and other requirements, and “match” requirements. (Additional information can be found in "Who Gets Aid?")
Most financial aid is need-based, designed to bridge the gap between what you and your family can afford to pay.
Financial Need is determined by the information you provide when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The amount you are expected to pay for your education, your expected family contribution (EFC), is calculated using a formula established by law. Many factors are taken into account (income, assets, benefits, family size, etc.) so it is important to provide all the information requested. Your financial need is computed by subtracting the EFC from the cost of attending college (note: because the cost of tuition/fees and room/board varies among colleges, this number is specific to each college you indicate on your FAFSA).
Education requirements include demonstration that you are qualified to enroll in a college/university, enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program, and making satisfactory academic progress (determined by the school you are attending).
Legal and other requirements include U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizenship, possession of a valid Social Security Number (unless you’re from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau), not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe a refund on a federal student grant, and registration with the Selective Service if you are male and 18 to 25 years of age (go to www.sss.gov for more information). Generally, you will be ineligible for federal financial aid for a period of time if you were convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid.
Some of the information you provide on your FAFSA are verified with certain federal agencies (Social Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, and Selective Service) and the National Student Loan Data System to ensure you meet the Match requirements.