Will protesting gun violence affect my college financial aid?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve definitely heard about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who are dominating headlines and guiding the national conversation about gun control.

These brave school shooting survivors are organizing in a remarkable way, and planning “March for Our Lives” in Washington, DC on March 24. Additionally, students all over America are planning to walk out of their classrooms and take to the streets on Wednesday March 14, demanding gun policy changes so that kids can feel safe in their schools.

Not everybody is a fan of this march. Several school principals and educators have been threatening to punish, or even suspend, students who participate in the march.

But here’s some good news: high school doesn’t last forever.

And many colleges are actually huge fans of the walkout.

As it turns out, a lot of colleges want to encourage you to exercise your first amendment rights. Many have released official statements saying that they’re totally cool with you skipping class to “march for your life.”

Some even encourage it. Take a look at what Brown University had to say:

There’s even a giant list of statements from colleges so you can check your university’s stance before you decide to walk out. (So far, no one’s reported on any schools actually condemning the march, but you might want to double-check your school’s website to see if they’re taking a side — just to be safe.)

But beyond admissions, some students are still a little nervous.

If you get in trouble with your high school or college for protesting gun violence, will it affect your financial aid?

That depends.

If you filed the FAFSA® and are receiving your financial aid from the government, it won’t be affected at all. All state and most federal aid from the FAFSA® is need-based, not merit-based. It’s determined by calculating the total cost of attendance at your college and your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. So if you’re already eligible for financial aid, your individual actions won’t affect how much aid you receive.

If you’ve received college money from your school or a private scholarship from an organization, they most likely won’t have any way of knowing what you’re up to on a day-to-day basis, so you’re probably in the clear. But you might want to use this moment to reflect on whether your values and that institution’s values are aligned.

And when you think about it, making the choice to ditch a day of school to participate in democracy is a pretty great scholarship essay topic. Just make sure the organization administering the money would care.

If you’re not sure about whether or not you’ll walk out of class on March 24, just know your financial aid will most likely not be affected either way.

Worry less about what uptight administrators might say and focus more on what makes you feel like a good person. No matter which decision you make, in the grand scheme of things, you’re gonna be just fine; take it from the American Civil Liberties Union: