The cost of studying in the US can be extremely jarring.
So if figuring out how to fund college in the U.S. is stressing you out, you are far from alone.
Fortunately, there are many options at the federal, state and private levels to help you piece together a multi-pronged approach to paying for college.
Here’s where the federal Pell Grant comes in.
Well, it’s one way you can alleviate the financial burden of college.
What is a Pell Grant?
For lower-income and middle-income students applying to college in the U.S., a Federal Pell Grant is a great option for financial aid. A Pell Grant is a need-based monetary award that the federal government offers to undergraduates and post-baccalaureate students in qualifying programs to promote access to higher education.
A major plus is that these Pell Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be paid back.
For the 2018-2019 award year, the maximum Pell Grant is $5,920, which you can use at almost every university, including the Ivy Leagues.
You can use your Pell Grant for up to 12 semesters (6 years) as long as you keep your grades up and fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year.
Even Barack and Michelle Obama had to take out loans to afford their education so if you have the opportunity, do it.
Pell Grant Eligibility
There are a few (relatively simply) hoops you must jump through in order to be eligible for a Pell Grant.
Before you start complaining, let’s take a look at the Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
+ Have a high school diploma, GED, or approved homeschool diploma.
+ Have an acceptance letter and/or enroll in an eligible degree program.
+ Have a valid Social Security Number
+ Correctly fill out FAFSA and mark that you do not currently owe any money on a student loan and that you’ll only use federal aid to pay for your education.
+ Maintain “satisfactory” grades at university.
+ Be either a US Citizen or US National or have a green card or have an arrival-departure record or have a T-Visa or have battered immigrant status.
+ If you are a male student between 18-25 years old, you must be registered with the Selective Service.
The only requirement that isn’t that obvious is registering for the Selective Service, so make sure to do that before you apply.
Another important thing to make note of is that regular international students are not eligible for Pell Grants or any federal aid. That being said, if you are an international student, you are still eligible for financial aid through your university, which can be extremely lucrative.
How to Qualify for a Pell Grant
As we spoke about above, you’ll need to fill out FAFSA in order to qualify for a Pell Grant. In fact, you are automatically considered for a Pell Grant simply by filling out your FAFSA.
Your FAFSA will determine the amount of money you’ll receive based on three factors:
1. Expected family contribution (EFC): Your EFC is calculated through your parents’ income, your income and assets vs. your expenses. If your expenses are much higher than your income and assets, the value of our Pell Grant will be higher. Kapish?
2. The cost of attendance at your chosen university program
3. Your enrollment status as a full-time or part-time student
Once you figure out how much money you’ll get through the Pell Grant, your university determines when and for what purpose (tuition, room, board etc.) your grant can be used for.
Want to know more about affording top US colleges? Check out the video below!
Pell Grant Requirements
You can use the grant all year round.
As of 2017 you can actually use your Pell Grant for Summer courses as well as spring and fall courses.
Taking summer-school courses can actually help you graduate earlier (and therefore save money).
Thank the Pell Grant Gods for allowing you to take advantage of awesome opportunities year-round.
Federal Pell Grant: Final Thoughts
Although the Pell Grant may not be enough to cover your whole tuition, any bit of aid you can garner will at least lift some of the financial burden of college off of your (and your parents’) shoulders.
Luckily, the Pell Grant can be combined with a number of other scholarships, loans, and grant options to increase your aid package and help with overall study costs.
If you’re eligible for the Pell Grant, take it and run.