The Pell Grant is available to undergraduate students in the United States who have demonstrated financial need. It is awarded to students by the financial aid departments of Title IV eligible colleges, both public and private. The grant can cover any college expenses, from tuition and books to living expenses. Only United States citizens can apply for the Pell grant.

Enroll in a degree, certificate, or other professional certification program at a school that accepts Title IV funding. Schools must be accredited by one of the regional accreditation bodies recognized by the United States Department of Education to accept federal student aid.

Fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is completed online via Prior year’s tax returns are necessary for this application.

Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of less than $4,000. This information is determined by the FAFSA. According to the College Cost Reduction Act of 2009, independent students with no dependents who make less than $7,000 per year will receive the maximum Pell amount. From there, the amount is reduced in proportion to income.

Avoid drug convictions. Those who have been convicted of drug related crimes are automatically ineligible for the Pell Grant.

Maintain satisfactory academic progress. Each school determines what this means differently, but generally, a “C” average is required for Pell eligibility.


Just because you are under 24 years old does not necessarily mean you must claim your parents’ financial income on the FAFSA. Many financial aid departments will allow students to claim independent status if they can prove they have lived on their own for a year.

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