Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.com » Paying for College

Apply for a Pell Grant

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Grants are the best type of financial aid a student can receive, as unlike loans, grants are gifts and do not have to be paid back. If you’re a student who needs some financial help to go to college, you should apply for a Pell Grant; it’s like free money from the U.S. federal government.

Pell Grants are Funds for Schooling

Pell Grants come in the form of money given to you by your school on behalf of the federal government. This money is meant to be used for educational expenses such as tuition and books, as well as college essentials like food, dorm housing, etc. The amount of money you receive when you apply for a Pell Grant varies each year. However, the maximum amount of money someone can receive from a Pell Grant during the 2011 to 2012 academic year is $5,550. You can receive Pell Grants for up to 9 years or 18 semesters, as long as you continue to be eligible.

Eligibility for Pell Grants

To apply for a Pell Grant you should first meet certain eligibility criteria related to your studies, school, and financial need. To start with, you should be an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree; you have already started your studies or you will start college in the next term. People who have already earned a bachelor’s degree are typically not eligible.

Next, you must be pursuing your studies at a Pell Grant eligible school. Input your school’s information into the Federal School Code Search function at the Federal Student Aid website (fafsa.ed.gov). If your school’s federal code is found, your school is eligible, and thus you are potentially eligible for a Pell Grant.

Apply for a Pell Grant

You don’t apply for a Pell Grant directly, per se. To apply, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is also known by its acronymn FAFSA. Through this application the federal government determines how much your schooling is going to cost and what financial resources you have available, and then adjudicates different ways to make up the distance between those two figures. If you have a demonstrated financial need, you will most likely receive a Pell Grant, while those who have less financial need will most likely receive an offer for student loans instead.

Complete a FAFSA for the Pell Grant

You need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is available online at fafsa.ed.gov or as a paper application from your school. The application will ask for information about your finances. In addition, it will ask for information about your parents’ finances, even if you do not currently receive money from your parents, as long as you are under 24 years of age. Anyone 24 years of age or above is exempt from needing to provide financial information about their parents.
To complete a FAFSA online you will need to start by providing some personal information as prompted and creating an account at the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid website (fafsa.ed.gov). You should then request a PIN, which will be emailed to you immediately. The FAFSA PIN is used in lieu of a signature for the online application.

The application will ask for information from your last tax return, if you needed to file one, as well as information about any savings, investments, or financial assets you may have. You will then have to provide the same information about your parent’s finances if you are under 24 years of age.

When you’re all done filling in the requested information, submit your application and then print the screen for your records. You will be contacted with the results of your application – how much financial aid you will get. Hopefully, that will include Pell Grants.

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