Pell Grants are funds provided by the federal government and administered by individual schools to needy students pursuing post secondary education. Because they are grants, you don't have to pay the money back. Pell Grants are also non competitive; that is, you don't have to have a certain grade point average, excel in sports or even be active in school or volunteer activities. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, you have an equal chance of obtaining Pell Grant funds as any other applicant. In most cases, graduate students are not eligible for Pell Grants; however, students who are pursuing a post baccalaureate teaching certification program may also receive Pell Grants if they are otherwise eligible for the program.
Apply for the Pell Grant by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), either on the Internet, by downloading and completing a PDF form to mail in or by requesting a paper form. Your eligibility for Pell Grant funds is based on your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. Graduate students almost always qualify to complete the FAFSA as independent students, which means that parent information or income is not included in computing the EFC. The maximum EFC for Pell Grant eligibility for 2012 is 5,273.
Pell Grant recipients must be United States citizens with valid Social Security numbers. Drug convictions and defaulted loans in the past can jeopardize Pell Grant eligibility, although in many cases, these issues can be resolved. The amount of Pell Grant money you recieve varies according to your EFC and the cost of attending the insitution of your choice. The maximum amount of aid for 2012 is $5,550. Students under age 24 or who were enrolled at least half time in school when one or both parents or guardians were killed in combat in either Afghanistan or Iraq receive the maximum amount.