Applying for Scholarships Along With the Pell Grant

Written by Michael Bennet

Students often ask me about whether they can get both a Pell Grant and a scholarship during a particular award year. While this question seems to be fairly simplistic and obvious, the answer isn’t because it can sometimes be yes, and it can sometimes be no.

Remember that the Pell Grant is based almost exclusively on financial need, and that financial need is a product of the following equation:

  • Financial Need = Cost of Attendance (CoA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Scholarships essentially reduce the level of financial need due to the fact that they are monies that don’t have to be paid back like student loans.

They are taken into account this way, and if there is no financial need, then there will be no room leftover for the student to demonstrate that they need additional money for college. This is particularly evident with most full and Presidential scholarships, as they fully negate a student’s financial need.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as getting a full scholarship can eliminate the need to apply for other additional types of aid, although I don’t recommend this even if a student does receive a full scholarship. Regardless, the important point to keep in mind is that scholarship aid can impact the amount of Pell Grant funding a student may be able to receive, and may even cancel out a student’s Pell Grant eligibility.

Moving Forward

If you are a student there are a few different ways to approach getting both a Pell Grant and scholarship award. If you are getting a Presidential, or full scholarship of some kind that is going to pay for all of your education related expenses then you will not be able to qualify for a Pell Grant for that particular award year. This is because you will have no financial need, and the Pell Grant is based primarily upon financial need.

Other partial scholarships can also affect your ability to get a Pell Grant, although they typically won’t negate your eligibility status completely. Rather they may prevent you from receiving the full Pell Grant amount, as they may cut into your financial need before your Pell Grant aid will. So if your financial need was set at 6,000 dollars, and you were going to be receiving a 3,000 dollar scholarship, it would be impossible for you to get the full Pell Grant amount of 5,550 dollars even if you were able to qualify this amount.

Ultimately your scholarship would reduce your level of financial need by 3,000 dollars, and you would be able to then get a Pell Grant in the amount of 3,000 dollars when all is said and done. This is of course provided that you actually qualify for that amount, and are able to receive federal student aid for that particular academic year.

Your school’s financial aid department will be able to go over your entire award package with you so that it becomes clear exactly what types of aid that you will be receiving for that academic term. Just remember that partial scholarships can work just fine with the Pell Grant, and rather it is full scholarships that can negate your ability to qualify for federal student aid, including the Pell Grant.