In the past, registering for FAFSA meant that you must also sign up for the draft. Submitting the FAFSA no longer requires  Although registering for selective service is no longer a barrier to receiving financial aid, male students are still required to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Unless there is a change in legislation, students will no longer be able to register for the draft through the FAFSA.

Will filling out the FAFSA get you drafted into the military?

Up until recently, most males who filled out the FAFSA had to register for the selective service if they wanted to be eligible for federal student aid. As of December 2020, Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act (part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021), which introduced some changes to the application process.

Under the new legislation, students of the male gender are not required to register with the selective service to receive financial aid, also known as Title IV aid. The question has also been removed from the 2023-24 FAFSA application.

The U.S. military has based military recruitment on a strictly voluntary basis for the past 40 years. The last time men were drafted to war was in 1972 for the Vietnam War.  Therefore, registering for the selective service does not mean you will automatically be drafted into the military. A military draft can only occur if the president and Congress authorize it. However, according to political, military, and academic experts, this scenario is highly unlikely.

Who has to register for the selective service?

By federal law, nearly all men 18 through 25 who are US citizens or immigrants are required to register with Selective Service.

Just because a man registers does not mean he will be drafted into the military. If a crisis were to occur that required a draft, men would be called through a random lottery number. Several other requirements must be met before being drafted into the military, including mental and physical health and fitness levels. If these requirements are not met, you could be deferred or exempted from military service or transferred to another branch.

Not everyone needs to register for the selective service, however. The following groups do not need to register for the selective service:

  • Females.
  • Men on active-duty status in the U.S. military.
  • Military officer procurement students at approved institutions (the Citadel, Texas A&M University, University of North Georgia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).
  • Midshipmen and cadets in the Coast Guard or approved service academies.
  • Legal nonimmigrants who hold current nonimmigrant visas.
  • Seasonal agricultural laborers.
  • Physically or mentally handicapped individuals confined to a home, hospital or institution.
  • Individuals who are currently incarcerated.
  • Patients who are hospitalized or institutionalized for medical reasons.
  • Transgender individuals who are born female and have changed their gender to male.

What happens if you don’t register for the draft within 30 days of your birthday?

You do not have to enroll if you qualify for one of the exemptions. However, if you do not qualify for an exemption, enrollment in the selective service is mandatory.

You must submit your registration within 30 days of your 18th birthday. Failure to register with Selective Service violates the Military Selective Service Act, and you may face a conviction resulting in imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of $250,000.

Nonexempt male immigrants between ages 18 and 25 must register within 30 days of entering the country. However, if you apply for the FAFSA before your 18th birthday, you do not have to register for the selective service at the same time.

You can learn more about the Selective Service System on the Selective Service System website. The same website also allows you to submit your registration request online, outside of the FAFSA draft application.

What happens if you don’t register for the selective service?

By federal law, nearly all men who meet the criteria must register for the selective service. Failing to register could result in serious consequences, such as:

  • Inability to qualify for federal jobs and some state jobs.
  • Up to $250,000 in fines.
  • Up to five years of imprisonment.
  • Ineligibility for U.S. citizenship (for immigrants).
  • Inability to qualify for state-funded student financial aid in some states.

Certain states and schools may require men to register for selective service when students enroll in classes or as a prerequisite to receiving in-state tuition. It is unclear whether these requirements will also adapt to the new legislation. For now, male students will still need to register before attending certain colleges and universities.

Can you still get financial aid if you don’t fill out the FAFSA?

If you opt not to submit the FAFSA, you’ll miss out on several valuable federal student aid programs that could help you cover the cost of your college education such as:

Furthermore, some scholarships may require you to complete the FAFSA as part of the application process. The same may be true of certain state- and school-issued student aid options. However, you may be able to qualify for private student loans and private scholarships without filling out the FAFSA.

The bottom line

Although the FAFSA no longer requires males under the age of 26 to register for the draft to be eligible for federal financial aid, you may still be required to do so by federal law. Unless you qualify for any of the exemptions, failing to register can put you at risk for fines, jail time and several other long-term consequences.