A Federal Pell Grant provides free financial aid to students. This program is needs-based, meaning money is given to students based upon their financial situation. Even if you think that you are not eligible to get for a Pell Grant, you should submit an application. The application you submit is called an FAFSA (it's available for free online) - and your circumstances and financial need may allow you to receive at least some amount of grant money.
- Free Money for college -- There is a huge difference between a Federal Pell Grant and a student loan. Federal grants are given to students based on financial need. Pell Grants are basically free money; in other words, they do not have to be paid back to the government. There are certain stipulations and qualifications that must be met, however, before a grant can be awarded. Federal student loans, like the Stafford loan, are also need-based, but these have to be paid back eventually. Still, federal student loans are usually interest-free.
- Meet the deadlines -- As with any other college application, you should apply for a Federal Pell Grant as early as possible. If you fail to post your application by the deadline, you will probably ruin your eligibility. Please be aware: the application you'll need is called the FAFSA, and can be obtained online for free.
- Essential documents -- The federal government awards grant money to students based on certain set criteria. You will need to have several official documents on-hand before you can begin the application process. Unless you are under the age of 24, married, or have a dependent of your own, you are considered a dependent of your parents or legal guardians. This means that you must be prepared to give information from your parents' tax forms, bank statements, and even driver's license numbers. You will also need to submit your own similar information as well. The federal government will use this information to determine your financial need - you may or may not meet the income qualifications.
- Student aid application -- You can request a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from the financial aid office of the institution in which you are interested, or you can request one from your local high school's guidance office. You can also fill out a student aid report online at the official website. The student financial aid application is an important step for determining whether you're eligible not only for the Pell Grant, but also Stafford loans - and many other funding options, including scholarships and government educational grants.
- Student Aid Report -- Once your student aid application has been reviewed, you will receive a Student Aid Report, which documents your financial need and will include information on how much money, if any, you will receive. The Student Aid Report will provide detailed information on how to claim your money.
- Part-time enrollment -- Finally, even if you aren't enrolling as a full-time student, you may still be eligible. While you may not receive as much money as a full-time student would, you should always apply. Federal Pell Grants can award as much as $5,350 per year!