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What is a Pell Grant?

Federal Pell Grants are the largest source of federally funded grants, so chances are good that if you are eligible, you’ll receive some federal aid.

They do not have to be paid back, and they are awarded based on your financial need (academic grades and extra-curricular activities are not a factor). The maximum award for the 2016-2017 academic year is $5,815.2


Who is eligible to apply for a federal Pell Grant?

The U.S. Department of Education determines your eligibility based on your answers on the . You must also meet general federal student aid eligibility requirements.3

Complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 of the year before you plan to start school.

Eligible students for a Pell Grant

  • Students pursuing their first undergraduate degree
  • U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens
  • Students with a high school diploma, GED, or can demonstrate the ability to benefit from the program offered

Ineligible students for a Pell Grant

  • Owes a refund on a Title IV grant
  • In default on a Title IV loan
  • Male who has not registered with the Selective Service
  • Currently incarcerated (in jail)

Basic requirements for a Pell Grant

  • Has completed and submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Is an undergraduate student who’s financially eligible and has not earned a bachelor’s degree

The FAFSA is necessary to be eligible for ALL forms of federal financial aid, including grants, work-study, and federal student loans.

Learn More  


Next steps

Consider other valuable resources of free money for college.

Learn about finding scholarships for college

Learn about additional federal financial aid to help pay for college


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1 No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. See official rules at SallieMae.com/SweepstakesRules.

2 This information was gathered on May 31, 2016 from https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/ about/announcements/pell-2016-17

3 This information was gathered on June 16, 2016 from https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/pell