Federal aid is a great way to help you pay for your college education if you meet the established criteria and are eligible to receive money to put towards your college expenses. In order to determine your eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant, you have to file an application called the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA).
The Federal Pell Grant is given based on financial need. If awarded any monies, the funding must be used towards specific educational expenses. A student who has been this money does not have to pay any of the award back as the Pell Grant is not a loan, but a grant.
In order to be considered eligible for the Federal Pell Grant, a student has to first meet the following criteria:
• Not have already earned a bachelors degree
• Be matriculated in a degree program
• Only U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens are qualified to apply for this grant
• Have a high school diploma or GED
• Demonstrate financial need
The FAFSA application is a necessary document that needs to be completed by all students to determine qualification for the Federal Pell Grant. Once you send in your application, your financial information will be evaluated and you may be eligible for free money under the grant program based upon the information you have provided. In order to determine financial need, the U.S. Department of Education uses a formula to determine eligibility to receive the Pell Grant. If the student is under the age of 24, parental income and assets are considered to help make eligibility determination.
Once the application has been reviewed and financial information examined you will be sent a document outlining an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount. This is the amount of money you, or your family depending on your age, is projected to contribute towards your college education.
Today’s students can enjoy the ability to submit the FAFSA application online; while a paper format is available, for the last several years most colleges have been encouraging the electronic method to file. This cuts down on paperwork and also expedites the process and your application will be examined and evaluated much quicker this way.
When I used to work in admissions/registrar at a college, the financial aid department explained that when students file the FAFSA online it easily shaves at least three weeks off the waiting period. If you have ever registered and had your tuition bill coming due, you know how valuable any amount of time is; the quicker you can get paperwork processed the better.
For first time applicants the application is a bit time consuming and confusing, but many colleges offer financial aid workshops to help students understand how to file the application, and can provide assistance with any questions or issues that may arise. Check with your college to see if this service is offered.
To file your FAFSA, visit the official website, but beware of other lookalike sites. There are many other websites which will help you file your application, but they charge fees to do this. The FAFSA is a free application and you should never have to pay money to file.
An advantage is once you have filed FAFSA for the first time, and if you do this from the FAFSA website, subsequent applications are easier to file. All you have to do is simply update the forms with your current information and send it in. The annual deadline falls on June 30 annually.
If you qualify, Federal Pell Grants are a fantastic opportunity to help assist you in meeting your higher education costs.