FAFSA Break Down: Pell Grants

By filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), prospective and current students can deduce their eligibility to receive help from the government to pay for their higher education. There are several different grants, loans, and programs that can be awarded to help students pay for their higher education. If you are a student who requires financial aid, you might receive a Pell Grant. What exactly is a Pell Grant? Let’s break it down.

Who: Pell Grants are available to undergraduate students who have not yet earned their Bachelor’s degree and do not currently owe money towards any other student loans.

What: These grants do not have to be repaid. Pell Grants are often used as the foundation to a student’s financial aid; additional forms of aid can be applied along with Pell Grants. As of July 1, 2012 the maximum amount a student can receive for one award year is $5,500; students can continue to receive aid up to 12 semesters. The amount awarded per year varies depending on the EFC (Expected Family Contribution as calculated by the FAFSA), the cost of the institution, and whether or not the recipient plans to attend full-time or part-time.

The scheduled award is the max amount of money a student receives in one award year (July 1st – June 30th).  You may not use 100% of this scheduled award amount each year if you are a part-time student. If this is the case, it’s possible that the leftover percentage can be applied to subsequent semesters until you reach the full 600% you’ve been given. The 600% comes from the 12 semester maximum; each semester accounts for 50% of your scheduled award.

Where: There are roughly 5,400 colleges and universities where you can use a Pell Grant.

How: Schools can either apply the funds directly to the student’s costs or pay the student by check. Sometimes, colleges and universities will utilize a combination of these two methods. Either way, the school must outline in writing how they plan on paying the student, the amount the student will receive with each payment, and when the payments will be made. Schools must pay the student once per term. Basically, if your school is on a semester schedule, each semester you should receive a Pell Grant payment. If for some reason your school does not have a semester, trimester or quarter system, you will receive payments twice per year.

When: Applications begin rolling in on January 1st for that year’s academic school year. So, if you need financial aid beginning in September of 2013, you can send in your FAFSA on or after January 1, 2013. Remember that the funds are limited and given out on a first come, first serve basis. Deadlines for FAFSA submissions vary by state. Double check with your academic adviser to find out your state’s FAFSA deadline. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to two months for your application to be processed!

Learn about more ways to find money for college at Cappex.

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