How to Apply for a Pell Grant

Three Parts:Filling Out the FAFSAMaking Filing the FAFSA EasierDetermining Eligibility

One of the most well-known need-based grants is the federal Pell grant, which is awarded on the basis of financial need. The best part of a Pell grant is that, unlike student loans, it does not have to be paid back. Like other financial aid from the federal government, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for a Pell grant.

Part 1
Filling Out the FAFSA

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    Create a FSA ID. The first step in filling out the FAFSA is creating an ID. The FSA ID works much like other websites, in that you'll use a username and password to log into the FAFSA website. To set it up, you go to the FAFSA website and click on "Start a New FAFSA." On the next page, click "Enter your (the student's) FSA ID." Under that option, it will give you a link to click to create a FSA ID.[1]
    • You'll need to first enter your email, a username, and a password, as well as state that you are over 13-years-old.
    • Next, you'll provide some biographical information, including your address, phone number, and date of birth. You'll also need to enter your Social Security number.
    • Finally, you submit the information. Once you've submitted, you'll need to verify your email address by clicking on a link they send to your email.
    • The FAFSA ID has replaced the use of a pin number on the website.
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    Start the application. Once you've got a FSA ID, you can start a new application by logging in and clicking on "Start a New FAFSA." If you've filled out the FAFSA before and you have a return log-in, you'll have the option of just updating your information from the previous year.[2]
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    List your schools. You must list the schools you want your financial information sent to. You will need to look up the school code for each school, though the FAFSA will help you find this information. You can list 10 schools at the time you fill out the form, though you can add more later if you need to do so.[3]
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    Answer dependency questions. To officially determine your dependency status, you will need to go through the FAFSA's questions about dependency. It will ask you basic questions such as your age, whether you have children, and whether you are married. Just answer "Yes" or "No" to each one.[4]
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    Fill in you and your parents' information. If you haven't already, you'll need to fill in or update your biographical information. You'll also need to provide the information you've gathered on your parents, including their Social Security numbers and their driver's license numbers.[5]
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    Fill in financial information. The FAFSA will ask you about your finances and your parents' finances. It will also ask you about any assets you have. You need to fill this information in to the best of your ability. The FAFSA will also prompt you to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to bring in information from the IRS. You don't have to use it, but it can make the process simpler.[6]
    • The IRS Data Retrieval Tool can keep you from making mistakes, but it means you will have needed to file your taxes already for the year.
    • The FAFSA will also ask you about what's in your savings and checking accounts.
    • Don't forget you will need this information for your parents as well, if you're classified as a dependent.
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    Submit your application. When submitting, make sure to use your FSA ID to do it so it will go faster. Click "Submit," and wait for the confirmation page on screen, which will also be sent to your email. However, you should still print the confirmation page you see, as it has extra information on it.[7]

Part 2
Making Filing the FAFSA Easier

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    Determine if you are dependent. When you fill out the FAFSA, you can file as a dependent, where you must also use your parents' income to determine aid, or an independent, where only your income is determined. However, you don't get to choose which you file as. Rather, the FAFSA will ask you a series of questions to determine if you are a dependent or independent student.[8]
    • To file independently, you must be over 24-years-old or working on a postgraduate degree, with a few exceptions.
    • You can also file as an independent if you have children yourself, you're married, you're an orphan, or you are active duty military. You may also be considered independent if you are an emancipated minor.
    • Other reasons for filling independently are considered on a case-by-case basis, but it is fairly difficult to gain independent status.
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    Pull together the information you'll need. You need some very specific information and documents when filling out the FAFSA. It's better to have them all together before you begin, so you're not constantly leaping up to go get something else.[9]
    • As stated, you'll need your Social Security number, but you'll also need your parents' Social Security numbers, as well, if you're filing a dependent. In addition, you need your driver's license and your parents' driver's licenses, if you have driver's licenses. If you are not a citizen, you'll need your Alien Registration number.
    • You'll need your tax information, including your 1040 forms, as well as information on non-taxed income. However, the FAFSA will also allow you to pull in your tax return from the IRS using a the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If you're not a citizen, you'll need tax forms from your home country. If you're filing as a dependent, you'll also need this information for your parents.
    • You'll need any information on other assets owned by you or your family, including business assets, farming assets, and stocks and bonds, but not including your house.
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    File early. You can file your FAFSA as soon as you have your tax information. It's important to do it early. Some financial aid runs out, and whoever files first gets the aid. Therefore, it's important to file as soon as you possibly can.[10]
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    Get help when you need it. When you get stuck, look for the "Help and Hints" on each page. They can help you get moving again when you don't know how to answer a question. You can also get live help by finding the "Help" section of the website and finding the "Chat With Us" option, only available during business hours. Sometimes your school's financial aid office can also help.[11]
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    Save as needed. As you fill out your FAFSA, you may need to save your work and come back later. The FAFSA has a save key so you can do just that. You can also save the application so other people, such as your parents, can open it elsewhere.[12]

Part 3
Determining Eligibility

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    Know what types of education are eligible. Pell grants are only available for undergraduates. Therefore, you won't receive a Pell grant if you are completing a postgraduate degree, such as a master's or a doctorate. You can be at a traditional 4-year school or a vocational or trade school to receive Pell grant.[13]
    • You also aren't eligible if you've already earned a bachelor's degree. You must be working on your first bachelor's degree.
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    Enroll or plan to enroll at a school. To receive financial aid from the government in general, you must be enrolled at an eligible university. In other words, you must be in school to receive financial aid, as financial aid is for the purpose of finishing a degree.[14]
    • However, you will fill out your FAFSA before you start school. You must fill out the FAFSA the January or February in advance of the fall you plan to go to school.
    • Most universities and community colleges are eligible, as long as they are properly accredited.
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    Have citizenship or be a qualified non-citizen. To receive federal aid, you need to be a citizen of the United States. The exception to this rule is that you can have a green card and still be considered an eligible non-citizen. Both of these statuses qualify you to receive general financial aid.[15]
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    Understand how your amount will be determined. The amount you receive, if you receive any Pell grant, will be based partially on you or your family's financial need. However, it will also be based on how much your school is, as well as whether you plan to go full or part time.[16]
    • Your financial need is determined by a formula that the government uses to figure out your family's estimated contribution. The formula starts with a percentage of your family's net income with expenses taking out for living and taxes, as well as a part of your family's net assets (the formula only uses a part of your assets, leaving some as a "protection allowance").
    • The formula takes into account your family size and the number of kids in the family going to college at the time.
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    Know the maximum. At most, you will receive $5,775 per year as a Pell grant, at least in the 2015-2016 year, and most people will not be awarded the full amount. Pell grants will likely not cover all of your schooling, with the possible exception of a community college or vocational school.[17]

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Categories: Budgeting and Financial Aid for College | Money Grants