How To Apply For A Pell Grant
If you’re not unlike most undergraduate students who are in search of financial aid you want to know how to apply for a Pell Grant. Applying for a Pell Grant is actually not that difficult, and after reading this article you will hopefully not be asking yourself, “how do I apply for a Pell Grant?” anymore. When you are ready to apply for a Pell Grant you first need to understand that you don’t directly apply for a Pell Grant on an individual basis, and instead you apply for one the same way you apply for the vast majority of federal financial aid that is out there—by filling out a FAFSA. The FAFSA, or free application for student aid, is the government’s universal application for federal aid, and by filling one out in a complete and accurate manner you will automatically be putting yourself in the running for a Pell Grant.
Filling Out A FAFSA
Filling out a FAFSA isn’t that complicated, and you should expect to at least set aside an hour or two of your time if you are filling one out for the first time. You can fill out a FAFSA either online, or in its written form. I recommend that you fill one out online, as it is much easier to do and more efficient when compared to its written counterpart. If you do decide to apply via a written application you can get a copy from your school’s financial aid office, call the number 1-800-4-fed-aid, or request one be sent to you via the government’s FAFSA website, http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. This is also where you can apply for a Pell Grant online, and if you do decide to apply online you must first go through the process to get your PIN. Your PIN is a number that will allow you to sign your application electronically, and to get a PIN you simply need to go onto fafsa.ed.gov and follow the appropriate steps that are appropriately outlined.
Whether you apply online, or via a written application, you must have certain kinds of information by your side when you apply to make the process go by much faster. These are the most important pieces of information you should have nearby when you fill out your FAFSA, and if need be you should have the accompanying documentation by your side to speed the process up significantly.
*Social security number
*W-2 forms, and federal tax returns from previous year
*If dependent, your parents tax documents
*If married, spouse’s tax documents
*Current untaxed income statements from previous year
*Investment records and statements
*Alien registration card, or permanent resident card (if not a U.S. citizen)
*If applicable—business and farm records
Having the aforementioned information at-hand will greatly hasten the process of filling out your FAFSA, and will ensure that you can complete the task with relative ease. The earliest you should fill out your FAFSA for the upcoming fall semester should be January first, and the latest you should wait to fill it out should be around March first. The actual deadline for applying for federal aid is June thirtieth, so you can wait but it is not recommended as most schools begin sending out award letters in early Spring.
Determining Your Pell Grant Eligibility
Now that you know how to actually apply for a Pell Grant, you must first get an idea of what it takes to become eligible to receive the award. The Pell Grant is a financial aid instrument that was designed to benefit students coming from lower-income families who need additional money to attend college. Financial aid is therefore the most crucial determinant you need to pay attention to if you want to qualify for the Pell, and a major percentage of your Pell Grant eligibility is thus calculated by way of this factor.
The way it is taken into consideration is via your EFC, or expected family contribution. Your EFC should have been calculated upon completion of your FAFSA, and within your SAR, or Student Aid Report, you should have been notified of what it was exactly. Your SAR is generated upon completion of your FAFSA, and contains a variety of information about your status in accordance with a list of other relevant items that have to do with your FAFSA. If you look in your SAR and see that your EFC is at, or lower than 4,617 then you should be happy, as this is the maximum cutoff threshold to become eligible for the Pell Grant.
Satisfying the federal Pell Grant Requirements
Getting your EFC under the cutoff threshold is perhaps the most critical obstacle in becoming eligible for the Pell Grant, and the remaining things you need to pay attention to are the assortment of Pell Grant requirements that you must satisfy to make yourself officially eligible. These are really no different than the many Pell Grant qualifications that most financial aid advisors talk about, and you either get a pass or fail on each of these. You cannot fail any one of the subsequent requirements if you want to become eligible to receive the Pell, so it is vital that you go over all of these before you get too excited about receiving aid by way of the Pell Grant.
*If you are a male ages 18-25 you should be registered with the Selective Service
*You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or eligible non-citizen
*You must have a valid social security number
*You may be ineligible if you have served jail-time in the past
*You may be ineligible if you have a drug-related offense on your record
*You must have a high school diploma, GED, or have passed an “ability to benefit” test
*You must be enrolled at one of the 5,400 participating postsecondary institutions from around the country
*You must be working towards your first bachelor’s degree, although certain professional graduate programs may qualify
*You must be making satisfactory academic progress in your degree-oriented program as defined by the school you are attending
*You must not have defaulted on any sort of federal aid in the past
*You must not have an outstanding Pell overpayment
*You must not be on full-scholarship
If you can satisfy all of these Pell Grant qualifications then you should become eligible for the Pell Grant as long as your EFC is lower than the appropriate threshold. Your SAR should indicate your eligibility status after you fill out your FAFSA, and just remember that just because your eligible for the Pell Grant does not guarantee that you’ll receive any aid. The maximum award for the 2010-11 school year is 5,500 dollars, and most students who become eligible to receive aid only obtain about 2,500 dollars per year.
You will be notified by your school at some point during the spring about your award status, as most colleges send out there financial aid award packages during this time. That is pretty-much it, if you have any more questions about how to apply for a Pell Grant you should contact your school’s financial aid office directly, as they can give your more specific answers where such information is needed.