Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
Everything You Need to Know About Selective Service
The federal financial aid system mandates that all male students register with the Selective Service before submitting the FAFSA. Many people are unaware of the Selective Service and its requirements before applying for financial aid. Here’s our breakdown of the Selective Service enrollment process. We’ll go over what the Selective Service is, who must register, and what they are signing up for.
Related: What is this year’s FAFSA deadline?
What is the Selective Service System?
The Selective Service System is a federal database of people who are eligible to be drafted into the military. The law mandates that every male male in the US enrolls in the database within 30 days of turning 18. However, there are no penalties for signing up late as long as you enroll before you turn 26.
The database is maintained to collect data on people who might be drafted if it becomes necessary. It collects contact information and demographics. The United States has not had a draft since 1972, but it’s still important to know what you are signing up for. Unfortunately, if you will require any financial aid, you don’t have much of a choice.
Who has to register for the Selective Service?
All male Americans are required to register for the Selective Service before they turn 26 years old. If you fail to register, you waive your right to a wide variety of privileges. These include federal financial aid, naturalization, federal jobs and job training, and other state and local government jobs.
Read more: When is this year’s FAFSA deadline?
Rules for transgender students
The Selective Service enrollment requirement only applies to those who were assigned the male sex at birth. So, if you were assigned the female sex at birth and now identify as male, you are not required to register. And if you were assigned the male sex at birth and now identify as female, you are required to register.
For more details on how gender impacts Selective Services requirements, check out the Selective Service website.
What if I already turned 26 and haven’t registered?
Selective Service Exemptions
If you’ve already turned 26 and you haven’t registered, there are a few pathways to regain financial aid eligibility. The first option is to prove that you were exempt from the requirement. This could be because you were medically unable to serve, enrolled in the military, or entered the US after turning 26. To prove this, you’ll need to provide documentation of your first entry in the United States.
You may also be eligible to regain your financial aid privileges if you were hospitalized, incarcerated, or institutionalized. If you have a disability that hospitalized or institutionalized you between ages 18 and 26, you may be exempt.
Students who were not required to register can obtain a status information letter directly from Selective Service. This letter will reinstate all the privileges that were revoked by failing to enroll. It can be obtained by calling or writing to the Selective Service System. Their phone number for SIL requests is 847-688-6888, and their address is:
Selective Service System
P.O. Box 94638
Palatine, IL 60094-4638
You can find more information about SIL appeals on the Selective Service website.
Willful and knowing
Another pathway is to prove that your failure to register was not knowing and willful, as defined by 50 U.S.C. 3811(g). If you can prove that you were unaware of the requirement, you may be able to regain eligibility for federal financial aid. This decision will be made by the US Department of Education rather than the Selective Service System.
To prove that a student was knowing of their decision not to enroll, they must have been aware of the requirement. If you received mail from the Selective Service but didn’t respond, this indicates that you were knowing. But if you lived in another country between ages 18 and 26, you may be eligible to regain your benefits.
If you served in the military but were discharged before you turned 26, you may be eligible to regain your benefits. Some soldiers were not informed that they needed to register when they were discharged.
To prove that your failure to enroll was willful, it must be shown that it was done intentionally. If you were deemed mentally unfit to make this decision, you will not face the penalties of non-enrollment. This has a somewhat malleable definition, but records of institutionalization could support your case for exemption.
Related: How to complete this year’s FAFSA