Financial Fitness


Will the FAFSA get me drafted into the military?

Posted at 10:41 PM, Jan 10, 2020

If you want to access federal financial aid for college, you will need to register for Selective Service, which registers men and is responsible for running a military draft. The requirement is nothing new.

Submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid doesn’t mean you will be drafted into the military. But not completing the FAFSA to avoid Selective Service means you will lose out on financial aid opportunities.

Here are a few facts about the FAFSA and the Selective Service you should know.

Who has to register?Registration with the Selective Service System is required for more than just college financial aid applicants.

All males (according to their sex assigned at birth) ages 18-25 must register for Selective Service. You must register within 30 days of turning 18 if you’re a U.S. citizen or within 30 days of entering the country as an immigrant.

Is there an active draft?There is no active draft right now — the current military is all-volunteer. There hasn’t been an active draft by lottery since 1973, during the Vietnam War. The Selective Service System has accepted registrants since 1980.

To reinstate the draft, Congress would have to pass a bill, which would then need to be signed into law by the president. A random lottery system would then determine who is conscripted into military service. Those who are drafted would need to pass mental, physical and moral fitness tests before entering into the military.

Can you get financial aid without signing up for Selective Service?You can’t get federal financial aid without signing up for Selective Service. Technically, you could still apply for private student loans and scholarships that don’t require the FAFSA for eligibility.

But even if you don’t submit the FAFSA to avoid Selective Service, your college or state might require that you register with Selective Service anyway to enroll in school.

Before you make a decision, consider the drawbacks of missing out on FAFSA combined with the penalties of not registering for Selective Service.

What are the consequences of not registering?By not registering with the Selective Service System, you’ll be denied for any federal financial aid. But that’s just the start: You also face a felony charge, a fine of up to $250,000 and jail time of up to five years.

If you manage to get through college without aid and avoid any legal penalties, you still won’t be able to get a federal job or many state jobs, including government contract positions. If you’re an immigrant, you can’t become a citizen.

What would I give up by not submitting the FAFSA?If you don’t submit the FAFSA, you won’t have access to any federal financial aid, including Pell Grants, federal work-study and federal student loans. You will also be ineligible for certain scholarships, along with state and institutional aid that require the FAFSA.

Who is exempt from registering when submitting the FAFSA?Not all men must register for Selective Service when submitting the FAFSA. Exemptions include:

  • Women and transgender men who were assigned a female sex at birth.
    • Parents who apply for PLUS loans.
    • Men currently serving in the armed forces, except Reserve and National Guard members who are not on active duty.
    • Financial aid applicants who are under 18 when submitting the FAFSA.
    • Noncitizens who entered the U.S. after the age of 26 or who entered as lawful nonimmigrants on a valid visa and stayed in the U.S. until age 26.

How can I register?When you fill out the FAFSA, you’re prompted to register with the Selective Service System if you have not already done so (Question 22). You can also sign up on the Selective Service System website .

You’ll receive a letter in the mail with your registration card after signing up. You must register in order to receive financial aid. If your FAFSA is denied before you register for Selective Service, submit an appeal.

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Anna Helhoski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.