Points to Keep in Mind When Applying

Written by Michael Bennet

Preparing yourself to apply for the government Pell Grant involves the submission of the FAFSA, or Free Application for Student Aid, in accordance with being able to satisfy the litany of eligibility requirements that will not only make you eligible for the Pell Grant, but for other kinds of federal student aid as well.

While most government Pell Grants are given to students with the highest levels of financial need, virtually every student who completes the FAFSA is at least put in the running for this award.

This is because there is no separate application for the Pell Grant, and rather the FAFSA is the only application that needs to be submitted in order to gain a positive Pell Grant eligibility status.

I recommend to students that before they prepare themselves for the FAFSA, that they should at least gloss over the eligibility requirements for the Pell Grant, and federal student aid, as this can give them a much better idea of what their chances are at receiving such aid. The best way to approach this is by grouping each eligibility requirement into one of three categories.

Category One: General Federal Student Aid Requirements

The general federal student aid eligibility requirements have been covered already on this site, and are the benchmark criteria that all students must satisfy in order to become eligible for not only the Pell Grant, but for most other kinds of federal student aid as well.

Most of these are yes or no qualifiers that are reliant on your citizenship status, and other personal information. They don’t exist exclusively for any particular award instrument, so don’t think that you only have to satisfy a select few of them because you are only interested in getting the Pell Grant, no, you have to satisfy them all in order to become eligible.

Category Two: Pell Grant Specific Eligibility Requirements

The second category of Pell Grant eligibility requirements are exclusive only to this award instrument, and no other type of federal aid. There are only two items here, and they include the following:

  • The student must not be serving time in a state, or federal penal institution.
  • The student must not have already earned their first bachelor’s degree. The main exception to this rule is if the student is pursuing a degree that may lead to licensure, or certification, such as a pharmacy or dentistry degree.

Category Three: Financial Need Requirement

The last, and most important category of eligibility requirements for the government Pell Grant involves financial need, and a student’s ability to demonstrate an appropriate level of need in order to qualify for the Pell Grant. This is measured primarily through the expected family contribution, which must fall below 5,081 in order to become eligible for the Pell Grant program.

EFC is calculated via a number of predefined formulas that utilize some of the information that you provided during the submission of your FAFSA. The main factor is your family’s income, with lower income levels resulting in lower EFC values and higher levels of financial need.