Pell Grants are one of the most sought-after forms of financial aid. They are awarded by the federal government and can be worth up to $6,345 for the 2020-2021 school year. Yet, there is a lot of confusion about who qualifies and for how much.
Let's dive into the top five myths about Pell Grants, so that you can get ALL the grant money you may be entitled to.
1. Myth: Pell Grants are only for the neediest students
It’s true that Pell Grants are based on financial need but award isn’t based solely on family income.
Other factors include things like:
- family income
- the cost of attendance as determined by your college
- the number of sibling/dependents in college in your household, and
- your family's assets.
2. Myth: Pell Grants are all or nothing
You might not get the full $6,345 available via the Pell Grant. But wait! That doesn't mean that you'll walk away empty-handed, either. You could qualify for $500 or $2,000—or really any amount up to the maximum award.
But know this: When it comes to college, any free money is good.
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 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. Perhaps you have transferred schools or moved to part-time enrollment.
Or, perhaps your family's financial situation changed. If a parent lost a job, there was a divorce, or a family member became disabled, your eligibility may change. That's why it's important to fill out the FAFSA every fall.
4. Myth: Pell Grants don’t have financial-need exemptions
Some student 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 the events of 9/11 may be eligible to receive the maximum Pell Grant amount, regardless of family income. For more on federal aid for service members and their families follow this link.
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 further reading, check out What You Need to Know About State Grants and Scholarships