How Do I Apply for the Federal Pell Grant?

Updated December 5, 2022 · 3 Min Read

One of the smartest moves a student can make is to find out if they qualify for a federal Pell Grant as part of their education financing options. Applying for scholarships is also recommended, especially if the student has shown past exceptional academic performance and can qualify for a scholarship. Not all students can get ... is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Basic Rules For Applying For A Pell Grant

One of the smartest moves a student can make is to find out if they qualify for a federal Pell Grant as part of their education financing options. Applying for scholarships is also recommended, especially if the student has shown past exceptional academic performance and can qualify for a scholarship. Not all students can get scholarships. However, some will qualify for federal educational aid. The idea behind the Pell Grant program is to offer help with education financing and to make a college education more accessible for those who can show financial need.

To apply for a Pell Grant, the first step must be to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA. The information supplied when filling out this form helps a student find out whether they are eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant.

Students who qualify for a Pell Grant can potentially receive up to $5,645 for the 2013-2014 school year. The amount fluctuates yearly, so it's good to find out what the maximum is for the year the student hopes to attend college. Other important things to remember are:

  • A Federal Pell Grant is not like a loan. It does not have to be repaid.
  • Amount received is based on the student's personal situation. Formula's are used that help decide the final Pell Grant amount awarded.
  • The amount of Federal aid received also depends in part on the cost of the school the student wants to attend.
  • Students status as a full-time or part-time student will also help decide the amount, if any, of the Pell Grant funding the student receives.
  • Students should normally plan to attend school for most of the academic year.
  • Students applying for a Federal Pell Grant must be enrolled in an undergraduate or vocational school that participates in the Pell Grant program.

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General Requirements For Eligibility For Federal Pell Grants

Pell Grants are normally only awarded to students who have not earned their professional or bachelor's degree. Some exceptions might be made on a case-by-case basis, especially in the case of teaching degrees. Students also need to meet the general requirements for eligibility.

There are several requirements that all students receiving Federal Pell Grants must meet and these include:

  • Students must be able to prove they have a financial need by submitting a FAFSA form.
  • Students have to be a United States citizen or an eligible non-citizen. This is defined as those who were born in American Samoa or on one of the Samoan islands, or someone who holds a residency card.
  • Students need to be able to show they are enrolled in a certificate or degree program at a vocational school, career school or at a participating college.

What Determines Whether A Student Is Awarded A Pell Grant?

The biggest factor determining whether a student receives a Pell Grant is the ability to prove financial need. Other things taken into account are whether a student is still financially dependent on their parents or is independent. The qualities used to decide financial need are:

  • Student's income and assets, if student is independent
  • Parent's income and assets, if the student is dependent.
  • Size of the students household and how many family members, not including parents, attend college. Students with a lot of siblings in college at the same time may qualify for more help.
  • To decide financial need, a determination is made based on the difference between the cost of attending school and the EFC, which is the Expected Family Contribution amount. School costs may vary depending on which school the student plans to attend, but the expected family contribution does not change.

The formula used to decide whether a student receives a Federal Pell Grant will differ depending on the student's personal circumstances. If a student is independent, whether the student has dependents of their own that they are supporting will be taken into account, or whether they have no dependents, for example.

Who Does Not Qualify For Pell Grants

Generally, those who do not qualify for Pell Grants include:

  • People who are presently in jail and who have had convictions for drug or other offenses in the past. Qualification is determined on an individual basis.
  • Some students with intellectual disabilities will not qualify. Again, this is decided on an individual basis.
  • Non residents of the United States

Other Facts That Are Good To Know Regarding Federal Pell Grants

There is no age limit for those who can receive Federal Pell Grants, so students going back to school at a later time in life also have a chance to receive aid. Once students are in college, it is best to do everything possible to stay qualified for Federal Pell Grant funds. This includes maintaining good grades and spotless academic performance. Students must continually make satisfactory grades and do well to stay eligible to receive Pell Grants. Students must also continue to fill out a new FAFSA form each year to find out whether they will be eligible for Pell Grant aid for the current year.

One more thing students should know is that there is a special program for students who have had a parent who was killed during service in Iraq or in Afghanistan, due to the United States response to the events of September 11, 2001. Students in this category can either be eligible for extra Pell Grant funding or for funds through a special Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.

How Are Students Notified If They Have Received Approval For A Pell Grant?

Once a student has applied for a Federal Pell Grant, they will either receive a report called a Student Aid Report, (SAR), or the school they are enrolled in will receive a report. The report sent to the school is called the Institutional Student Information Record, or ISIR. This lets the student know whether they are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant for the year, and what the amount is of their Expected Family Contribution.

It is good to check into all options when searching for funding for college. Students who are eligible for Federal Pell Grants should always begin by filling out their FAFSA form to find out their eligibility. The program began as a way to help more students have access to college education. It is very worthwhile to take the time to find out whether or not one qualifies for a Pell Grant.

Related: Best Value Colleges - What is the FAFSA?

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