What is a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a need-based, federally sponsored program for students seeking a Bachelor’s degree. Some graduate level programs are also eligible for Pell Grants, but this is a very limited field. The maximum reward for a Pell Grant is $5,500 per year, but the amount is dependent on financial need and other factors, such as the cost of attendance. Unlike a loan, the Pell Grant does not need to be paid back. Another factor that makes the Federal Pell Grant unique is that unlike other financial aid funding, a school does not have to decide which students to award the money to: Every student who is eligible for Pell Grant funding will receive the money.

Federal Pell Grant Eligibility

You must fill out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to determine Federal Pell Grant Eligibility. Your school must be approved to accept Pell Grant funds, and if you meet financial requirements, you will be notified by your school. This notification must be in writing and will include your reward amount.

Federal Pell Grant Eligibility is based on financial need, the cost of attending school, and your enrollment status. Financial need is a set formula determined by Congress and is used by schools across the country; however, because the cost of attendance varies from school to school, your eligibility may change depending on your chosen school. Additionally, you must be working towards your first Bachelor’s degree or select post-graduate certification (e.g. teacher’s certification) to be eligible for Pell Grant funds.

How to Apply for a Pell Grant

The first step to applying for a Pell Grant is to fill out the FAFSA form. This form can be completed and submitted online or printed from the website and mailed in. The form is lengthy, but if you are prepared should not take too long to complete. You will need income information for yourself and your parents/guardians if you are under 23. The best source of this information is the completed tax forms from the previous year.

On the FAFSA form is a section to select which schools will receive your information. Enter the school you will be attending (or your top choices if you have not decided) in the appropriate section.