Understand Federal Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants are another source of financial aid to help you pay for college. Unlike student loans, the money you get from Federal Pell Grants doesn’t need to be paid back. Pell Grants are usually reserved for undergraduate students.

Federal Pell Grant facts

  • Federal Pell Grants, the largest source of federally funded grants, are awarded solely based on your financial need (academic grades and extra-curricular activities aren’t a factor).
  • You must meet general federal student aid eligibility requirements to be eligible to receive a Pell Grant.footnote 1
  • The maximum Federal Pell Grant award for the 2024-25 academic year is $7,395.footnote 1

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What makes you eligible for a Pell Grant

Here are some basic eligibility requirements for a Federal Pell Grant:

  • You need to be eligible for federal student aid programs. All federal aid is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), so be sure to submit one. General eligibility for federal aid programs includes that you have financial need, are a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, are enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at your college or career school, and more.footnote 2
  • You’re an undergraduate student who’s enrolled full-time or part-time. Part-time students might not receive as much funding as full-time students, but your school can’t refuse your Federal Pell Grant funds because you’re enrolled less than half-time.
  • You might be eligible to receive a Pell Grant if you’re enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certification program.footnote 2

See more Pell Grant eligibility information.

How to apply for a Pell Grant

The Pell grant application process is the same as any federal financial aid process—you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The U.S. Department of Education determines your Pell Grant eligibility based on your answers on the FAFSA. Don't forget to complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible, beginning in December. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Getting your Pell Grant award

After you fill out your FAFSA®, you’ll receive financial aid offers from the colleges that you applied to and have been accepted to. Your financial aid offers will outline how much the school will cost and what kind of financial aid package you'll receive for one year. Your aid package will include any grants you’re eligible for (such as a Pell Grant), as well as scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans.

If you’re eligible, you can get your Pell Grant money in a few different ways. Your school can apply Pell Grant funds to school costs; pay you directly, usually by check; or a combination of both. The school must tell you in writing how much the award will be and how/when it will be paid to you. The school also has to disburse Pell Grant funds once a semester or twice during the academic year. Usually, the college first applies the grant or loan money toward a student's tuition, fees, and room and board, if the student lives on campus. Any money left over is paid to the student for other expenses such as books, living expenses, and transportation.footnote 2

Checking the status of your Pell Grant

To check your Pell Grant eligibility, you can check the status of your FAFSA by logging into your account on studentaid.gov.

Related topics

footnote 1. This information was gathered on 07/9/24 from https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/grants/pell.

footnote 2. This information was gathered on 07/9/24 from https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/grants/teach

footnote FAFSA is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.