How To Get a Pell Grant

pell grantsIf you are interested in receiving financial aid for college then you should start by finding out how to get a Pell Grant. The Pell Grant program is funded by the federal government through Federal Student Aid which is a division of the U.S. Department of Education. The amount of your grant is determined by your financial circumstances. Low-income students can qualify for a larger Pell Grant award than students who can afford to pay for college.

Federal Pell grant eligibility is based on the answers you submit on the Federal Aid for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) form. In fact, if you want to apply for a Pell grant then it is mandatory that you fill out the FAFSA form, which is available online and at all college financial aid offices. In addition to deciding your Federal Pell Grant eligibility, the FAFSA will be used when applying for other financial aid.

According to the Federal Pell grant eligibility section of the US Department of Education website, individuals who are undergraduate and vocational students either enrolled or accepted in participating schools may apply. That means that if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you will probably not be accepted. You also must be a U.S. citizen to apply.

As of July 2012, the Pell Grant award is limited to 12 semesters. You will be notified when you are almost at your limit or you can register for an account at www.nslds.ed.gov and you can find out how much of your award is still available. You must be enrolled in a full or part-time program and meet pre-determined academic standards that vary by school.

The Department of Education offers a tool called FAFSA4caster for people investigating how to get a Pell grant. It is a Pell Grant calculator as helps you estimate how much financial aid you will qualify for when it is time to apply. There is even a link to College Navigator, which gives you the current cost of tuition at colleges and universities.

While juniors and seniors in high school will find the FAFSA4caster extremely useful, the tool can help prospective students of any age to estimate federal Pell grant eligibility. Parents can plug in potential numbers to help create a strategy for college funding efforts. By using different income amounts it is easy to see how close you are to meeting Pell Grant requirements.

You don’t need to gather a lot of documentation in order to use the FAFSA4caster but it is helpful to be able to easily access bank accounts, paystubs, and tax records. After you enter your financial information and submit the form, you are given a worksheet. It includes the amount of money you are eligible to receive through Federal Work-Study, the maximum loan amount for which you are eligible, and your estimated Pell Grant amount. Remember, this is only a planning tool and the real numbers will be decided when you actually complete the FAFSA.

The amount you are given when determing how to qualify for Pell Grant awards is based upon a formula that includes a number of factors. The numbers that matter most are your household income and number of household members because these numbers are used to make up the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A student with a low EFC will be eligible for a higher Pell Grant. The EFC changed from 5273 to 4995 in 2012.

Some students wonder whether they should include their parents in their financial figures when filling out the FAFSA. The only way you can apply as an independent rather than a dependent is if one of the following is true:

  1. You are at least 24 years of age.
  2. You are enrolled in a masters or doctorate program.
  3. You are married.
  4. You have a child and provide over 50% of child support.
  5. You have a dependent (other than spouse/child) and contribute over 50% of their financial support.
  6. You are orphan/ward of court until 18.
  7. You are a veteran.

Those are the only factors considered. It doesn’t matter whether your parent doesn’t financially support you or that you don’t live in the same home.

You don’t need to pay back a Pell Grant award so it is one of the most sought after financial aid awards. Receiving a Pell Grant does not limit you from accepting additional financial aid so make sure to exhaust all of your resources when paying for college.

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