Should I Apply for a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a grant from the United States government to help those with lower incomes to attend college. The Pell Grant does not need to be repaid, since it is a grant. This means that you should apply if you think you are eligible, since it is one way to pay for college without working. The Pell Grant does have specific guidelines you need to follow in order to be eligible, and your college must meet the standard qualifications set forth by the federal government for accreditation. Most universities and community colleges meet these requirements.

What Is a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is money from the United States government that will help cover tuition and other costs associated with college. The Pell Grant is an income-based gran which means it will look at your income and your parents' income levels. You can be eligible for a Pell Grant for up to six years. One Pell Grant is given for each academic year. Generally, colleges will divide that money over the number of semesters or quarters that you attend school for the year. The college you attend will receive the money and use it to cover tuition. Additionally money will then be distributed to you after your tuition and fees are covered. The process works in conjunction with how you would receive federal student loans.

Applying for a Pell Grant

The application for a Pell Grant is the Free Form for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can fill this out online or submit a paper copy. You can print out a copy at the website, or you can request a copy from your guidance counselor or financial aid officer. The applications for the next year are due on June 30 each year. You must reapply each year to get the grant. If you are under the age of twenty-four you will need to use your parents tax information.

Qualifying for a Pell Grant

A Pell Grant is given based entirely on whether or not you meet the income eligibility guidelines. They look at several factors, so it does not hurt to apply for the grant, even if you do not think you will qualify. It is the same application that you would use for student loans, but you do not need to take out the loans if they are offered to you. Your Pell Grant eligibility can be affected if you do not make progress towards your degree or if you drop out of a semester of school without a valid reason. If you fail too many classes your eligibility for future grants may be affected. 

Using a Pell Grant

It is fairly easy to access the money for your Pell Grant. The government will send the money directly to your college. They will apply it towards any tuition or fees that you owe. If qualify for a scholarship that covers all of your tuition costs, you should be able to receive the entire amount of your Pell Grant in a check or directly deposited into your account. Some schools will do this on the first day of classes, while others may require you wait until after the drop day deadline has passed. Some colleges have switched to debit cards. The debit cards may have a per fee transaction, and it would be best to do one transfer to your ban account at the beginning of the semester, and then budget your money out accordingly.

Pell Grant Rules

If you drop out during a semester you may be required to pay back a portion or all of the money that you received from the Pell Grant. You may also become ineligible for a Pell Grant for a period of time and until you show that you are making adequate progress towards your degree. Beginning in 2011 you can only qualify for one Pell Grant a year, and you are limited to twelve semesters or six years of Pell Grant awards. The award amount in 2017-2018 is $5,920 total, but you can divide that up over two semesters to cover the cost of your tuition.

Other Funding Options

There are other funding options available to help you pay for school, and you should consider them even if you don't qualify for a Pell Grant. You should look for scholarship both through your college and private scholarship options. Student loans are another option, but should be a last resort. If you do take out student loans, you should carefully budget your money and limit the amount you borrow as much as possible.You should carefully monitor your spending in college. The other possibility is to work while you are in college. This can give you valuable experience, when it comes to finding a job later, and keep you from graduating with thousands in debt.