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Why Didn’t I Receive Financial Aid?

By Kayla Korzekwinski

Kayla Korzekwinski is a Scholarships360 content writer. She earned her BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied Advertising/PR, Rhetorical Communication, and Anthropology. Kayla has worked on communications for non-profits and student organizations. She loves to write and come up with new ways to express ideas.

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and Varonika Ware

Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: January 30th, 2024
Why Didn’t I Receive Financial Aid?

College isn’t cheap, and you’re likely looking for options to help pay for it. In fact, many college students depend on financial aid to help fund their education. However, not all students are eligible to receive aid. Not receiving any aid can make a student wonder “why didn’t I get any financial aid?” There are several possible reasons, so keep reading to learn more!

You didn’t complete the FAFSA

In order to receive federal financial aid, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually. The FAFSA is used by the Department of Education and schools to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid. If you did not complete the FAFSA for the academic year when you are seeking aid, you won’t receive any. 

If you did complete the FAFSA, but didn’t receive financial aid, confirm that you completed the form for the correct year. Contact your school’s financial aid office if the wrong form was completed.

Some schools also accept the CSS Profile, which you do have to pay to complete and send to your desired schools. It’s a lot more in-depth than the FAFSA form, and it considers private school tuition and medical bills. 

You don’t show financial need

Part of students’ financial aid reward is based on demonstrated need. For federal financial aid, your need is calculated based on the information provided in the FAFSA about you and your parents’ income and assets. Even if your parents don’t complete the FAFSA, there are still ways for you to fill it out yourself.  

This information is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If a student’s EFC is high, they may not receive need-based financial aid including: 

A student’s EFC can change from year to year if their family earns more or less money. Therefore, if you qualified for need-based aid one year, you may not the next year and vice versa. 

See also: FAFSA 101 guide

Non-need-based financial aid

There are types of financial aid that are not need-based, and any student who is eligible to complete the FAFSA can receive them. The types of non-need-based federal financial aid are:

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct unsubsidized loans can be taken out by undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. However, these loans do accumulate interest while you’re in school, so it might be best to make payments when you can throughout the semester. 

Parent PLUS Loans

This type of loan concerns parents that prefer to take out loans in their name for their child’s education. There’s no borrowing limit for this type of aid, but interest rates tend to be higher. 

Graduate PLUS Loans

Loans in this category are usually taken out by graduate and professional students. The limit for the loan depends on your school’s cost of attendance, and you aren’t required to pay it back until six months after graduation. 

If you didn’t qualify for need-based federal aid, consider taking out Direct Unsubsidized Loans or private student loans to fill in the gaps for funding your education. You can also apply for outside scholarships and grants, which don’t have to be repaid. 

See also: What does my FAFSA EFC number mean?

You’ve borrowed the maximum amount

There is an annual limit on the amount of federal student loans one can borrow. The limit depends on your year in school and whether you are in undergraduate or graduate school.

YearDependent undergraduate studentsIndependent undergraduate students
First year annual limit$5,500; no more than $3,500 subsidized$9,500; no more than $3,500 subsidized
Second year annual limit$6,500; no more than $4,500 subsidized$10,500; no more than $4,500 subsidized
Third year and beyond annual limit$7,500; no more than $5,500 subsidized$12,500; no more than $5,500 subsidized
Total undergraduate loan limit$31,000; no more than $23,000 subsidized$57,500; no more than $23,000 subsidized

Graduate/professional students can borrow up to $20,500 annually. The total amount of federal student loans a graduate/professional student can borrow is $138,500. No more than $65,500 of Direct Subsidized loans can be borrowed.

Students who have already borrowed up to the annual or total limit will not be eligible to receive more federal student loans until they pay some back. Additionally, there is an annual maximum Pell Grant amount. The limit for Pell Grants in 2021-2022 is $6,495.

See also: What is the maximum amount of student loan money you can borrow?

Your GPA is too low

Students must be in good academic standing to receive federal aid. The required GPA varies from school to school, but typically students need a 2.0 or higher. If your grades fall below the minimum GPA, you could lose eligibility for financial aid.

See also: What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship?

You aren’t enrolled in enough credit hours to get financial aid

Another academic requirement to receive aid is the number of credit hours a student takes. Students who wish to receive federal financial aid need to be enrolled at least part-time, as defined by their school. If a student fails or withdraws from classes and drops below part-time, they will not be eligible to receive aid.

See also: How does withdrawing from a class affect financial aid?

You have loans in default

This is less likely to be the case for undergraduate students who haven’t entered repayment on their student loans. However, if you have federal student loans that are in default, you are ineligible to receive additional federal aid. Contact your loan servicer to get back into good standing and regain eligibility.

See also: Student loan default: How to get out of it

Other options

Many students depend on financial aid to help pay for college. If you don’t receive enough or any financial aid, there are other options. Consider applying for a private student loan, looking into college alternatives, or searching for scholarships!

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Completing the FAFSA is the first and most important step to ensuring that you receive financial aid 
  • Some financial aid is dependent on demonstrated need, so your family’s income could potentially make you ineligible for need-based aid 
  • Fortunately, there are aid options that aren’t dependent on need. For example, some scholarships are merit-based or depend on athletic ability
  • If you’ve reached your maximum loan amount, it’s likely that you can’t receive additional federal aid 
  • GPA is a big factor in receiving scholarships and other financial aid, so be sure to stay on top of your grades
  • Colleges usually require you to be enrolled in a certain amount of credit hours in order to receive aid 
  • If you have loans in default, your eligibility for aid is called into question, but there are still plenty of other options to consider
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about not receiving financial aid

What are my financial aid options for college?

Loans aren’t your only option to pay for college, and they are better used as a last resort for any of your remaining balance. Students can apply for scholarships and grants to get gift aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. There are also jobs that offer tuition reimbursement to help their employees fund their education.

How do I fill out the FAFSA if my parents are divorced?

If your parents are divorced, FAFSA can be a lot more complicated. More than likely, you’ll only have to fill out the form according to one parent’s income, which is usually the one you spend the most time with. If you want more information on filling out the FAFSA, check out this guide!

What does a loan in “default” mean?

A loan in default means that you haven’t been able to make a payment for a certain time frame as indicated in your loan agreement. Loans can also be declared default if you’ve missed a payment. Defaulting can impact your credit, so be sure to make a repayment plan for any loans you take out.

What if I’m unhappy with my financial aid offer?

After receiving your financial aid offer, you might feel that it’s insufficient to your overall financial need. Fortunately, you can write an appeal letter to request consideration for additional aid. There are also outside scholarships, grants and loans available.

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