The first step in the application is the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You’re automatically considered for the Pell Grant when you submit the FAFSA®. Find out if you’re eligible for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant, right now by taking the quiz. Also, learn more about the Pell Grant requirement below.
To be eligible for a Pell Grant, individuals must be enrolled or accepted into a participating educational institution. They cannot have earned a bachelor’s or another professional degree already, and they must meet all the other general requirements for federal student aid outlined below.
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General Eligibility for Federal Aid
Before you get to the specific requirements for a Pell Grant, you must meet the general criteria for federal student aid. Take the quiz below to see if you qualify for free Pell Grant money.
Those requirements are:
- For most programs, you must demonstrate and document a legitimate financial need.
- You must be a citizen or an eligible non-citizen — a U.S. National or a permanent resident, for example.
- You must have a valid social security number, unless you fall into one of the very few specific exceptions.
- If you’re male and between 18 and 25, you must register with Selective Service.
- You must be enrolled or at least accepted into an approved educational program or institution. If you’re enrolled, you must be taking a course load of at least half time and be in good academic standing.
- You must sign a statement certifying that:
- you are not in default on any federal student aid program
- you will only use your funds for education
- You must show that you are ready for higher education because you have completed high school, a GED, or a homeschool program of study.
Specific Eligibility for Pell Grants
Pell Grants are meant to help low-income students complete their first degree. That’s why, in order to qualify, you have to show that you have a legitimate financial need and don’t already have a post-secondary degree.
To determine your financial need, the Department of Education (DOE) looks at your family’s income and expenses. Income includes your own as well as your parents’ or guardians’, and it can also include things your family owns like savings and tangible assets like a house. Expenses take into account the number of people in your household, how many are in college or vocational school, and the annual Cost of Attendance (COA) for the school you want to attend.
Those calculations determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount the government believes you and your family can contribute to your education. If this number is below the level set annually by the DOE, then you qualify for the Pell Grant. For the 2017-2018 academic year, that level is $5,328, so if your EFC is less than that, then you qualify. Most Pell Grants go to families making between $30,000 and $60,000 annually.
Pell Grants play an important role in helping those at the lowest economic levels reach higher education goals. In order to be sure that the funds reach the targeted population, eligibility guidelines must be clear and specific. As you’re preparing for college, keep these rules in mind and take advantage of the Pell Grant program if you qualify.