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Does the FAFSA sign you up for the draft?

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While filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) won’t automatically draft you into the military, you may see that Question 22 on the application asks if you’d like to register for the Selective Service System if you’re a male.

In 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act and, with it, gave the president the power to draft soldiers into the United States military. Registration for the draft halted for several years in the 1970s, but it began again in 1980 with the requirement for most males to register for the selective service once they turned 18 years old. While registering for the selective service used to be a prerequisite for federal financial aid, recent legislation has changed that requirement.

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

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

Thanks to the new law, male students no longer have to register with the selective service to qualify for Title IV aid (another term for federal financial student aid). The question does remain on the FAFSA, but applicants now have the option to skip over it if they desire.

Even in the past, the requirement wasn’t much cause for worry. The U.S. military has operated on a strictly volunteer basis for nearly 40 years; the last draft call occurred during the Vietnam War in 1972. Registering for the selective service won’t get you an automatic invitation to boot camp. In fact, a military draft would only occur if both Congress and the president authorized it — a scenario that’s highly unlikely according to numerous political, military and academic experts.

Who has to register for the selective service?

Most men in the United States between the ages 18 and 25 must register for the selective service. This requirement applies to both male citizens and male immigrants who are living in the country.

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 who are 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.

Unless you qualify for one of the exemptions above, enrollment in the selective service is mandatory. You must submit your registration within 30 days of your 18th birthday.

Nonexempt male immigrants between ages 18 and 25 will also need to 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 gives you an opportunity to submit your registration request online, outside of the FAFSA application.

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

Skipping Question 22 on the FAFSA doesn’t give you a license to skip signing up for the selective service. Federal law still requires most men in the United States to register for the selective service. If you fail to register for the selective service, your decision could result in some serious consequences, such as:

  • Inability to qualify for federal jobs.
  • Up to $250,000 in fines.
  • Up to five years of imprisonment.
  • Ineligibility for U.S. citizenship (for immigrants).

In the past, some states and schools have also required registration for the selective service when students enroll in classes. Time will tell whether these requirements will also be rolled back. In the meantime, there’s a chance that you might still need to register with the selective service before you can attend certain colleges and universities or to receive in-state tuition.

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 a number of valuable federal student aid programs that could help you cover the cost of your college education. Some examples include:

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 as well. But you may be able to qualify for private student loans and private scholarships without filling out the FAFSA.

The bottom line

There’s no need to avoid the FAFSA because you don’t want to register for the draft. As of the 2021-22 school year, male students can skip this question on the FAFSA if they choose.

Yet federal law still requires you to register with the selective service; by failing to register, you put yourself at risk for fines, jail time and a number of other unpleasant consequences.

Learn more:

Written by
Michelle Black
Contributing writer
Michelle Lambright Black is a credit expert with over 19 years of experience, a freelance writer and a certified credit expert witness. In addition to writing for Bankrate, Michelle's work is featured with numerous publications including FICO, Experian, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and Reader’s Digest, among others.
Edited by
Student loans editor