Pell Grants are need-based grants for low-income students to attend undergraduate programs at accredited colleges and universities. Unlike loans, Pell Grants do not have to be repaid. To apply for a Pell Grant, you have to complete the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) and include information about your income.
The maximum Pell Grant for the 2011-2012 school year is $5,550. The amount you actually receive is based on your financial need, the costs of attending your particular college or university, and your status as a full-time student. If your parent or guardian died because of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, you are entitled to the full amount as long as you are less than 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time at the time of death.
After you apply for the grant, usually as part of a larger financial aid package, your school will notify you of your eligibility and the amount of your award. You will receive a disbursement, either as a check or as direct payment to your school, at least twice an academic year if you are attending the full year. If your school uses semesters, trimesters, or quarters, you will be paid once each term.
Although Pell Grants are marked especially for undergraduate programs, some students may be able to get the grant for certain post-graduate teacher certification programs.
If you receive a Pell Grant, you are still eligible for student loans, work-study, scholarships, other grants, or other types of financial aid. Your Pell Grant will be a part of your financial aid package.
You are limited to 18 semesters of Pell Grant if you started receiving them any time after July 1, 2008. If your school is not on semesters, you are eligible for the equivalent period of time.