There has not been a military draft in the United States since 1973, marking the end of the Vietnam War.
However, in 1980, a requirement for what is known as the Selective Service was reinstated by the federal government, applying to all men born on or after January 1, 1960.
What Is Selective Service?
The Selective Service System is used to register young men for a potential future armed service draft. While there is not currently a draft in place and the American military is all-volunteer, young men are still required by law to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Failing to do so by age 26 is a felony and can result in a number of penalties, including fines and jail time.
For male college hopefuls before August, 2021, failing to register for Selective Service could interfere with their ability to receive federal financial aid.
This is no longer true, and in addition, due to the passing of the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020, males no longer need to register for the Selective Service to submit the FAFSA.
Who Needs to Register for Selective Service?
With very few exceptions, every male citizen and immigrant (whether documented or undocumented) must register at the age of 18, with late registration accepted until the age of 26.
While the words draft and military may inspire fear in some, there is no need to panic; registering for the Selective Service does not mean you will be required to serve in the military.
In the unlikely event a bill is passed to reinstate the draft, males would then be selected by random lottery and birth year. Candidates would be examined mentally, physically, and morally by the military before being conscripted to serve.
Think of Selective Service as an emergency backup list should the draft be reinstated by Congress.
Active military personnel do not need to register with the Selective Service. Neither do women, US residents on student or visitor visas, or men who are hospitalized, incarcerated, or imprisoned (though they must apply within 30 days of their release).
Individuals who are assigned female at birth but now identify as male are also exempt, as are any individuals living in the US as part of a diplomatic or trade mission.
Men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday, and they must let the Selective Service know within ten days of any changes to the information provided in their original registration up until the age of 26.
How Selective Service Relates to Federal Aid
In order to avoid fines, jail time, and potential loss of privileges, it’s best to register as soon as possible.
In addition to losing out on federal aid, failing to register by age 26 can also make males ineligible for federal grants, certain federal job training, federal employment, or security clearances.
Some states also have sanctions for failing to register, which may include the inability to get a driver’s license in addition to fines and jail time. If your child is an immigrant, they may also lose their US citizenship status.
Filling Out Selective Service Registration
If your child is a US citizen and has a valid Social Security number, the registration form can be found on the official Selective Service Registration website.
This is also where they can confirm Selective Service verification if they think they’ve previously registered.
If they haven’t recently moved, they should receive a registration card on or around their 18th birthday. They can also register through their application for financial aid via the FAFSA by checking yes in the appropriate box.
They will see this as question 22 on the paper FAFSA form. Additional information can be found directly on the official Selective Service website in the registration information section.
Within 90 days, registrants should receive confirmation of their registration. If they do not, they should call the Selective Service.
It’s important to follow through on the Selective Service registration requirements in order to move forward with eligibility for scholarships and college admissions.
While this shouldn’t be a stressful process, it is an important step for your child to take as he prepares for college.
Remember that registration does not mean that your son is signing up to serve in the military, but it does mean he is abiding by the law.
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