Can Students Get Social Security Benefits?

Female student standing in college and looking away.
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Social Security is best known as the public benefits program for retired Americans, but younger folks — including students — can also receive benefits if they meet certain criteria.

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According to the Social Security Administration website, the children of retired, deceased or disabled beneficiaries who remain full-time students at age 18 are entitled to benefits until they reach age 19 or complete their secondary education (grade 12 or below), whichever happens first.

Benefits are not restricted by the type of school, as long as it is grade 12 or lower (college students are not eligible). This means benefits are available to students who attend public, private, alternative, home and online schools. The main requirement is that you attend full time.

In general, the SSA considers a student to be in full-time attendance if they meet the following requirements:

  • Attends an elementary or secondary level school, as determined by the law of the state or other jurisdiction where the school is located.
  • Is enrolled in a day or evening non-correspondence course at least 13 weeks in duration.
  • Is scheduled to attend at the rate of at least 20 hours per week.
  • Carries a subject load considered full-time for day students under the school’s standards and practices.
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To receive benefits, you must complete page 2 of form SSA-1372-BK (Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance) and have a school official certify your information. After that, you will leave pages 4 and 5 (Notice of Cessation of Full-Time School Attendance) with the school official, and then return the completed and certified pages 2 and 3 to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.

If you change schools, you’ll need to complete a new SSA-1372-BK and repeat the above steps or risk losing your benefits. You must also complete a new SSA-1372-BK and follow the same steps if you don’t graduate on schedule.

Students can receive benefits during the summer — even if they aren’t attending school — if the time they are not in school is no longer than four months; they were in full-time attendance immediately before the summer break; and they intend to return to elementary or secondary school immediately after the break.

Benefits typically end the month preceding the month you turn 19 years old, or the first month in which you are not a full-time student, whichever comes first. Your benefits might also end if you marry, stop attending school, reduce your attendance below full-time, are convicted of a crime or are paid by an employer to attend school.

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When one of these things happen, you need to contact the SSA immediately. You must also contact the SSA if you move or change your mailing address and/or experience a change in estimated earnings from your work.

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You can contact the SSA by calling or visiting your local Social Security office. The agency’s toll-free number is 800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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