Can Students Get Social Security Benefits?

Female student standing in university and looking away.

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Social Security is best known as the public benefits program for retired Americans, but younger people — 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 study full-time by age 18 are entitled to benefits until they are 19 years old or have completed their high school education (grade 12 or lower), depending on which comes first .

Benefits are not limited by the type of school, as long as it is a grade 12 or below (students are not eligible). This means that benefits are available to students attending public, private, alternative, home and online schools. The main requirement is that you are present full-time.

Generally, the SSA considers a student to be full-time if they meet the following requirements:

  • Attends an elementary or secondary school as determined by the law of the state or other jurisdiction where the school is located.
  • Is registered for a non-correspondence day or evening course of at least 13 weeks.
  • Is scheduled for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  • Carries a subject load that is considered full-time for day students according to school standards and practices.

To receive benefits, you must complete page 2 of the SSA-1372-BK (School Attendance Student Certificate) form and have a school official certify your information. After that, leave pages 4 and 5 (Notice of Termination of Full-Time School Attendance) with the school official and return the completed and certified pages 2 and 3 by mail or in person to your local Social Security office.

If you change schools, you must complete a new SSA-1372-BK and repeat the steps above, otherwise you risk losing your benefits. You must also complete a new SSA-1372-BK and follow the same steps if you fail to graduate on time.

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Students can receive benefits during the summer – even if they don’t go to school – if the time they are out of school does not exceed four months; they were there full-time just before the summer holidays; and they plan to return to primary or secondary school immediately after the break.

Benefits generally end in the month prior to the month in which you turn 19, or the first month in which you are not a full-time student, whichever comes first. Your benefits can also end if you get married, stop going to school, attend school less than full time, are convicted of a crime, or are paid by an employer to attend school.

If any of these things happen, you should contact the SSA immediately. You should also contact the SSA if you move or change your mailing address and/or experience a change in estimated earnings from 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 has also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a BA 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. Born in North Carolina and also writing fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” came 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 by Atmosphere Press in 2021.

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