What is the Pell Grant?

In short, a Federal Pell Grant is free money. OK, it’s a little more detailed than that…The “free” financial aid money is awarded to students to help fund their college tuition. So the best part about a Pell Grant? Students don’t have to worry about paying back the funds.

Why don’t we have to pay back a Pell Grant?

The funds are usually awarded to low-income undergraduate students as a means to make college and university-level education more accessible. Students who need financial aid can apply for a Pell Grant and use the money toward room and board, tuition, transportation, school supplies, textbooks, fees, and more.

What determines Federal Pell Grant eligibility?

To be eligible for the Pell grant, a student must:

  • Be a current undergraduate or vocational student
  • Be enrolled in or accepted to be enrolled in a participating college, or be a post-baccalaureate student in certain teacher certification programs
  • Have not previously earned a bachelor’s or professional degree

Check the full list of Basic Criteria for Federal Pell Grant eligibility here

How do I apply for this federal student aid?

If you haven’t already guessed by now…you’re going to need to fill out the FAFSA to determine Federal Pell Grant eligibility. Luckily, we’ve created this easy-to-follow guide on how to apply for financial aid. For another helpful resource, check out the list of FAFSA deadlines here.

Once your financial aid is evaluated, this information will be shared with the colleges and universities you select in your application. Each college’s financial aid office will go on to determine your financial need, and your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant.

Student researches Pell Grant with Going Merry

What about the Pell Grant money? Is there a cap on the funds?

A few factors will come into play here: Your Financial Need, your school’s Cost of Attendance (COA), and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your estimated Financial Need is calculated as the COA minus EFC, which helps determine how much Federal Pell Grant aid you’re eligible to receive.

Understand EFC for FAFSA with Going Merry

In some situations, a student may receive up to as much as 150 percent of the student’s Pell Grant award for the award year, often referred to as “year-round Pell.” This could happen in a situation where a student is enrolled in both the fall and spring semesters. The student receives the Pell Grant award for $2,000. The student would most likely receive $1,000 for the fall semester, and $1,000 in the spring semester. Some circumstances might allow the student to receive $1,000 for the summer semester as well, resulting in 150 percent of the student’s Pell Grant award.

Regarding a cap – the maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,195 for the 2019-2020 award year, which includes any lucky students awarded the “year-round Pell.”

How and when will I receive the funds?

Keep in mind, schools follow the Federal Pell Grant Payment and Disbursement Schedules to distribute the funds. The schedules depend upon the student: full-time, half time, etc. to help determine how much money each student will receive.

Your college will determine how the grant will be paid. They may apply the funds directly to your school costs, pay you the funds, or combine the two options.

Students may only use funds from their Federal Pell Grants at one participating school at a time. Any funds leftover may be used for school-related expenses, such as textbooks, room and board, etc.

Check out the list of participating schools that accept Federal Pell Grants.

High school student applying for Pell Grant

Is there anything I should ask my high school counselor?

Yes! We recommend checking with your counselor on the following items:

  • How many credits will I need to complete each school year to remain eligible for funds?
  • Do I need to maintain a specific GPA to keep my Federal Pell Grant?
  • If I withdraw a class, change my major, or use transferred credits (link to transfer article), will that affect my academic progress?

Keep it simple.

At Going Merry, we like to make things easy for you. We know you’ve got enough on your plate: homework, clubs, college essays, and now federal student aid? Plus, you might still have a financial gap, after your federal and college grants. Check out independent scholarships to help fill that gap. But don’t waste time with other sites. 

Streamline your scholarship application process with Going Merry. Sign up for a free profile today and get matched with thousands of scholarships. We’re your one-stop shop for all things scholarships and federal student aid!

Kelly Lamano

Though always a creative, Kelly's momentum into the world of writing and publishing arrived when she attended college. She quickly learned the financial value - and cost - of honing her craft, and sought scholarships that would be crucial to not only funding, but fueling her education. She wants to help new students thrive with Going Merry's easy scholarship finder. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast, Print and Online Media, and a minor in Spanish from Florida Southern College.

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