Many students rely on financial aid to afford the cost of college tuition, housing, books and other essentials. However, one youthful mistake could be the end of this important financial support. Whether students are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or wondering if their charges will cause them to lose their scholarships, it is important to know the impact that criminal charges can have.

The FAFSA asks about a criminal record, but only some crimes make you ineligible for federal grants.

Applying for the FAFSA involves answering a question about your criminal history. However, with a few exceptions, most criminal offenses do not limit your access to federal student aid. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) may both be available to you.

Some sexual offenses and drug crimes, on the other hand, will prevent you from receiving federal financial aid through the Pell Grant. Not only will these offenses make you unable to receive these funds, you may also be required to return any money that you receive after your conviction.

Even if these charges don’t cause you to lose federal grants, you may face consequences from your school.

While the guidelines for federal grants are consistent no matter which state you are in, school- and community-sponsored scholarships can vary. Depending on the sponsor, your scholarship might have requirements for behavior, and the criminal charges you face could make you ineligible for that scholarship in the future. If you are one of the thousands of students receiving an athletic scholarship, you may also be unable to continue as a student athlete and become ineligible as a result.

It is possible to regain your eligibility for federal grants after drug charges.

Your loss of federal grants after a criminal drug offense is temporary, and at the end of this suspension you would become eligible for grants again. You may also be able to enter an approved rehab program in order to make you eligible again.

Do you want to know how criminal charges will impact your student aid? Discuss your case with your attorney, your parole officer and the admissions office of your school. They can tell you more about the impact that a conviction will have and the options available to you.