Getting financial aid to cover your college costs is both easy and not so easy. On the one hand, completing and submitting the FAFSA is fairly simple and straightforward, and getting scholarships is simply a matter of finding the ones for which you’ll likely qualify and then proactively applying for them. On the other hand, there are several mistakes you can make that could put your precious financial aid dollars in jeopardy. Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid these missteps, as long as you know what they are.
1. Letting your grades slip
Every school specifies a minimum GPA that you must maintain in order to progress through college and to graduate. If you fall below that GPA, you could be put on academic probation and, in turn, you could lose your eligibility for financial aid. If you’ve received any merit scholarships, you may have to maintain an even higher GPA than the school’s minimum requirement in order to continue receiving those funds. Long story short: keep you grades up if you want to keep your financial aid.
2. Not taking enough credits
In order to be eligible for most types of financial aid, you’re required to be a full-time student. At most schools on a semester system, that means taking about 12 or more credits per term. Failing to register for a full course load could jeopardize your financial aid package. Make sure you’re aware of your school’s policies, and speak with your academic advisor if taking the minimum number of credits to qualify as “full-time” is overwhelming for you.
3. Dropping too many classes
On the same note, dropping too many classes can also put your financial aid in limbo. Making what is known as “satisfactory academic progress” means keeping your GPA up and completing enough credits to show that you are on the path to graduation. Dropping classes mid-semester can derail your progress—and your financial aid.
4. Not submitting your FAFSA
This one is a no-brainer. If you want to continue receiving federal financial aid, you have to submit the FAFSA every single year. It might be kind of a pain to gather all those numbers and get your application submitted on time, especially when you have so many other things going on during the school year, but it’s worth it in the long run.
5. Breaking the law
Getting in trouble with the law can limit or even eliminate your eligibility for federal student aid, depending on the type of crime you’ve committed. If you commit a drug-related offense while receiving federal aid, you’ll be required to submit a worksheet that will be used to determine whether your conviction will affect your eligibility. Certain violent crimes will also negate your eligibility. And if you’re incarcerated in a federal or state institution, you can’t get Federal Pell Grants or federal student loans. So be cool, stay in school, and say nope to dope.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Every school has its own rules and requirements, so there are plenty of other things that could cost you your financial aid. The best thing to do is to make sure you’re aware of them so you can safeguard your hard-won dollars.