As senior year goes by and the reality of college gets closer, financial aid might be on your mind. College is expensive, and financial aid is the best way of paying for a higher education. But what if your grades aren’t so stellar?

Do only students with straight As receive the benefits of financial help?

While it’s true that many financial aid programs are merit-based, the idea that these are the sole options for college students is simply false. Financial aid from the government, distributed through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), goes to those who need it most, taking necessity into consideration before the high school grades of the applicant. That is to say, if you come from a working-class family and have a 2.2 GPA, your family’s income will be the primary factor that decides your level of aid.

However, once you start college with federal aid, it’s a different story. There’s a clause in the FAFSA form that requires recipients to meet satisfactory academic progress (SAP) to continue receiving money. SAP, sometimes called “good standing,” is measured by your individual school, but generally, you must maintain a 2.0 GPA as an undergraduate or a 3.0 GPA as a graduate student. If you don’t meet this requirement for a semester, your FAFSA money will be put on hold until your GPA rises above the watermark.

Everyone should file the FAFSA

Approximately 80% of all college students fill out the FAFSA form, because there’s really nothing to lose by doing so. It will cost you nothing but a few minutes of your time, and until you apply, you won’t know for sure how much money you’ll definitely be eligible for. In a 2012 study, 44% of college students who had no form of federal or private aid said that they thought they wouldn’t qualify for any sort of said assistance. It’s very important to realize that you should explore all possible options for financial aid, especially FAFSA, even if you personally feel like it’s a waste of time. You may find help available that you never even considered.

To this last point, like we’ve discussed, many students with mediocre or poor grades think that the FAFSA form will be a waste of time for them. It is vital that this myth be dispelled, as it often hurts those most in need of financial assistance. FAFSA programs do not discriminate based on any reason. The function of the application is solely to provide financial assistance to those who need it most. On the other hand, you have to be very careful to not slip academically once you start your college career. In short, FAFSA money is not given based on your grades in high school, but it can be taken away based on your grades in college.

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