A Federal Pell Grant is what every incoming student wants: a student loan that never has to be repaid. Gift loans are the best way to pay for college. However, Pell Grants are not as beneficial as a scholarship that pays tuition outright. A Pell Grant will only be $4,000–obviously a hefty sum, but it still might fall short of all college expenses. For this reason, Pell Grants are often combined with other types of financial aid opportunities.

Like most financial aid programs, families must prove financial necessity. For the Pell Grant, the family income must be below $50,000. The majority of Pell Grants–over five million Grants given yearly–are for families with incomes in the $20,000 range. By and large, Pell Grants are for students with a larger financial need than others. In addition to financial need, students must need to prove residency in the state where they are applying, as well as prove U.S. citizenship.

Pell Grant

Pell Grant

Determine eligibility

For Pell Grants, there is a strict formula used to determine eligibility. The four factors determined are: the cost of attendance, family income, family size, and if the student is full or part time. This formula will decide not just if the grant will be awarded but for how much. Students from larger families and lower incomes will be awarded higher Pell Grants.

One of the advantages of the Pell Grant is that students can use the grant at any college. A misconception about Pell Grants is that it can only be used at state universities. The truth is that a Pell Grant can go towards an education at a college clear across the country. Students from lower-income families often go to colleges close to home, so this one reason for the misconception. Once a Pell Grant has been awarded, a student can put that money towards any college education where Pell Grants are permitted.

Applying for a Pell Grant

The advantage of filling out the FAFSA application is that it covers so many different areas of financial aid—loans, work study, and Pell Grants. In order to apply for a Pell Grant, the student has to file a FAFSA application. These can be filed electronically or by mail. Generally, submitting a FAFSA electronically is much faster. In addition, it is possible to check the status of your FAFSA application online. You can also contact the Pell Grant board directly, located in Washington, D.C. The FAFSA board will then determine if the student is eligible for a Pell Grant, in addition to other types of financial aid.