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5 Pell Grants Myths That Could Be Separating You From Your Grant Money

Pell Grants are one of the most sought-after forms of financial aid. They're awarded by the federal government and are worth up to $6,895 for the 2022-2023 school year. Yet, there's a lot of confusion about who qualifies and for how much. 

Let's dive into the top five myths about Pell Grants so you can be sure you're getting all the grant money you're entitled to. 

1. Myth: Pell Grants are only for the neediest students

It’s true that Pell Grants are based on financial need but the award isn’t based solely on family income. 

Other factors include things like:

  • the cost of attendance as determined by your college
  • the number of siblings/dependents in college in your household
  • your family's financial assets.
Consequently, many students from middle-class families still qualify for Pell Grants. The only form you need to apply for the Pell Grant is the FAFSA. Bonus: Filling out the FAFSA is also the required first step to qualifying for any other kinds of federal financial aid (as well as some state- and school-sponsored aid. So it's worth spending the time to submit a FAFSA even if you think you aren't likely to qualify for a Pell Grant — there are still plenty of other aid options out there for families at every income level. 

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2. Myth: Pell Grants are all or nothing

You might not get the full $6,345 available via the Pell Grant. But that doesn't necessarily mean you'll walk away empty-handed, either. You could qualify for a partial grant of a few hundred or even a few thousand  — any amount up to the maximum award. 

 When it comes to college, any amount of free money is a good thing.

See also: What Is the Pell Grant Lifetime Limit? (And Does It Apply to Me?)

3. Myth: If you qualify once, you’ll qualify every year

Pell Grants are awarded one year at a time, based on your finances and the cost of attendance for a given year. That means you must reapply every year.

Your eligibility may change from year to year for several reasons. Common reasons your eligibility would change are because :

  • you've transferred to a new school
  • you changed to part-time enrollment
  •  your family's financial situation changed, (such as a parental job loss, divorce, or serious medical illness)

Whether you qualified for a Pell Grant the first year or not, it's important to fill out the FAFSA every fall to ensure you get whatever aid you are entitled to. 

4. Myth: Pell Grants don’t have financial-need exemptions

Some students may be eligible for larger Pell Grant awards because of non-financial circumstances. 

Children of service members who died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11 may be eligible to receive the maximum Pell Grant amount, regardless of family income. Learn more here regarding federal aid for service members and their families.

5. Myth: You can’t qualify for a Pell Grant after your 4th year of college

Pell Grants have a maximum availability of up to 12 semesters of college. This helps if you’re a double major or just taking a bit longer to graduate. In other words, you don’t have to complete college in four years.

For information on other kinds of financial aid options, check out our guide to state grants and scholarships

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