The fact that you don’t have a lot of money doesn’t have to stand in your way of a college education. Contrary to what you may believe, college isn’t only for people with a huge bankroll. If you or your parents can’t stroke a check, there are options like a federal student loan and a private student loan.
Of course, with any type of loan, you have to take repayment into consideration. Most federal and private lenders will defer repayment until at least six months after graduation. And although this is convenient while you’re in school, a student loan can result in costly debt after graduation. In some cases, it can take 10 or more years to repay the debt. There is, however, another option. If you’re an undergraduate with a financial need, you may qualify for a Pell Grant.
This is a federal grant that doesn’t have to be repaid. If you qualify, you can use this grant to finance your education and pay for other college expenses, such as rooming, board and books.
Who is Eligible for a Pell Grant?
Unfortunately, not all undergraduates who demonstrate a financial need will qualify for a Pell Grant, as the eligibility requirements are very specific. To determine whether you can use this grant to finance your education, ask yourself the following questions.
- Am I a U.S. citizen? This federal grant is only available to U.S citizens with a valid Social Security number. However, certain non-citizens may be eligible for grant funds, including permanent U.S residents, U.S nationals and refugees.
- Have I enrolled in the Selective Service? If you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25, qualifying for a Pell Grant requires enrollment in the Selective Service.
- Did I graduate high school? To be eligible for a federal grant, you must have completed high school or obtained a GED.
- Do I have a criminal record? A past criminal history may not automatically disqualify you. However, circumstances surrounding an incarceration or other criminal charge are taken into consideration. Depending on the violation, past jail time or a drug charge can be a disqualifying factor.
- What is my history with financial aid? If you have defaulted on a student loan debt in the past, you may not be eligible for a Pell Grant. Additionally, because Pell Grants are reserved for students who demonstrate a financial need, you may not qualify for this grant if you’ve been awarded scholarship money.
- Does my school participate? Not all colleges and universities participate in the Pell Grant program. To learn whether your school participates, contact the college’s financial aid department.
If you’re considering a Pell Grant to finance your college education, understand that many graduate programs do not qualify for this type of funding. For this matter, a Pell Grant is best if you’re working towards an undergraduate degree. Qualifying for a grant can make college a reality and alleviate a major financial burden upon completion of your degree.
To learn whether you qualify for a federal grant, fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the first step in the aid process, and completion of this form determines if you’re eligible for a Pell Grant and other types of financial aid.