Many potential college students learn about college from television. They view college as a season full of fun, romance, parties, sororities, and, if there’s time, a few classes.
While secondary education may work this way for some individuals, most college students are faced with constant worry about how they are going to pay for rent, food, textbooks, and classes. They often work part-time or even full-time jobs and spend their spare time studying.
Doesn’t sound much like a television college student’s life, does it?
Many students become overwhelmed with the reality of college life and the costs associated with earning their degrees. Some will postpone or even drop out when money becomes too tight. Because of this, the federal government has made an effort to encourage education by offering the Federal Pell Grant.
Understanding Pell Grants and How They are Distributed
Federal Pell Grants are a form of federal funding that is used to help you pay for your higher education. These grants can be used at more than 5,400 colleges nationwide, but can only be used for one college at a time.
Once a student applies for a Pell Grant, the U.S. Department of Education decides whether the student is eligible or not. If the student is eligible for the grant, the funds are transferred to the financial aid office of the college the student will be attending.
The school will then either pay the student by check or the financial aid office will combine the tuition costs and apply the grant to the total cost of tuition.
If the second form of distribution is used, any leftover funds will be disbursed to the student by the school. Leftover funds especially come in handy to students, as they can be used for anything from rent to the purchase of a new laptop.
Pell Grant Eligibility Criteria
Pell Grants are open to both undergraduate and graduate students. However, the following criteria will be considered:
- Your financial information. Pell Grants are only available to students who have a financial need for them. Your income, or your parent’s income if you are still consider to be a dependent, will be looked at to determine if you really need the assistance.
- The number of classes you will be enrolled in during the semester.
- The costs of the college you will be attending.
Pell Grant Funding Amounts
Once you qualify for a Pell Grant, you can receive up to $5,550 for the 2011 to 2012 school year. The exact amount will be determined by the eligibility criteria.
For instance, you may receive will receive more funding if you are attending college full-time, rather than part time. Students who are eligible for funding and have had a parent or guardian pass away as a result of military service after September 11, 2001 in Afghanistan or Iraq are automatically eligible for the full award. Because the Pell Grant is a grant, you will not be required to repay the money you are given.
A Pell Grant may not cover your entire college tuition. An Expected Family Contribution or EFC may be required, depending on your financial status. The EFC determines how you or your family will be able to pay for college.
It is based on the number of family members you have, your income, and the number of individuals in your family attending college at the same time. For the 2011-2012 academic year, families who earn $30,000 to $31,000 a year can qualify for an automatic zero EFC.
How to Apply for a Pell Grant
Applying for a Pell Grant is relatively easy. Your first step should be filling out a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. To do so, you will need to have your driver’s license, social security number, current tax returns, bank statements, and proof of your United States citizenship.
This application can be filled out on the internet at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Hard copies can also be obtained by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.
Are you ready for college?
If you are worried about how you are going to afford your education, start the Federal Pell Grant application process today. The application is free and you can obtain a large portion, if not all, of your tuition with this option.