What If I Don't Qualify for a Pell Grant?
The government has set up the Pell Grant program to help students in lower-income families attend college, but there are many students in the situation where their parents are unable to help them pay for college, but they will not qualify for a Pell Grant. This usually happens if the parents make above a set amount each year. The amount does not change based on family size and other conditions. One of the questions is based on age and even if you are completely independent and your parents no longer claim you on their taxes, you may not be able to qualify for a Pell Grant.
If you find yourself in the situation, where you are responsible for paying for school on your own, but you will not receive any help from your parents or from a Pell Grant, you do still have options available to you. It just means that you will need to come up with additional money to cover your expenses during the school year.
It can be frustrating to realize that you do not have this help even if you are completely on your own financially, but you should not let it stop you from attending school. It is important to realize that the maximum amount you can qualify for is $5920.00 in 2017. You should be able to find additional ways to raise that much money to cover college expenses.
Apply for Needs-Based Scholarships
Begin by applying for need-based scholarships through your college and university. You can speak to the financial aid office at your school and explain the situation. There may be additional money available for situations like this at your college. They may also be more lenient than the FAFSA form in not including your parents’ income in these situations.
You can also apply for national needs-based scholarships. Look through your job, and through your parents' employers to see if those organizations offer scholarships. Local community groups often offer scholarships. Even though the amounts may be smaller, the scholarships can add up and help reduce the amount that you need to earn or borrow in the future. Make a goal to apply to a set number of scholarships each year.
Choose an Affordable College
Consider attending a more affordable university. Although private universities offer great programs, there are plenty of excellent state universities that can provide you with a quality education at a much more affordable price. Switching to a school with in-state tuition will likely save you more than you would have received in Pell Grant money. It is worth shopping around and considering the cost of tuition when choosing your school. This does not mean you have to go to community college first if that is not the right fit for you.
Look into summer school sessions as another way to save on your tuition. Some schools will offer lower tuition rates in the summer to encourage students to graduate on time. The workload may be different in the summer, and so it is important to research the classes and professors carefully when you sign up. Some professors are much more relaxed, while others are not. Merit-based scholarships may be easier to qualify for in the spring and summer terms too.
Apply for a Student Loan
Apply for student loans. You can still apply for a Pell Grant because it is the same way that you apply for federal student loans. You can apply for loans and then decide not to use them if you do not want to. This allows you to have access to the money if you need it. It may be a good idea to do this at least your freshmen year because you will not know the type of job that you will be able to find and maintain while you are in school. Try to avoid taking out private student loans, because the repayment terms are more difficult and the interest rate is higher.
Find a Good College Job
Make the most of your job in college. If you are on your own when it comes to paying for college, you will need to work to help cover the costs. Not all jobs are created equal, and you need to make sure you are earning as much as possible in the hours you set aside to work. Off-campus jobs often pay higher than what you can earn as a freshman, but that may change when you are qualified to become teaching or research assistant. Working in the summer and saving can also help with expenses. During the summer, you may need to work multiple jobs to help you save up enough money so that you can manage while you are in school.
Keep Your Living Expenses Low
Cut your other expenses while in school. You can cut your living expenses and stick to a tight budget in college, which can make school more affordable. You want to graduate with as little debt as possible. You may want to consider living at home if that is an option. If you do this, your parents will still be able to claim you on their taxes, but the savings will be more than what you would receive as a Pell Grant.