Pell Grants

What is a Pell grant?

A Pell grant is money given to you by the federal government to help pay for the cost of postsecondary education (meaning schooling after you got your high school diploma or GED.) This can include textbooks, campus housing, other fees, and more. Unlike loans you very rarely, if ever, will have to pay back a Pell grant. Pell Grants are almost always only available to undergraduate students.

How do I get a Pell grant?

To get a Pell grant you must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.  It is important to do this every year. You may be able to get thousands of dollars a year to help pay for things the tuition waiver does not cover such as books and other fees you might have to pay for school. 

When could I have to pay a Pell grant back?

While Pell grants can be a very helpful resource to help you attend college, they can also cause issues if you do not meet all of the requirements and have to pay the money back. The most common reason for students to have to pay back their Pell grants is if you do not meet the credit requirement. This can happen in a number of ways:

  • You withdraw from school or from one or more classes
  • You fail one or more of your classes
  • You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid

It is not likely you will have to pay back your Pell grant if you (1) stay enrolled for the whole the time that the Pell grant covers which usually one or two semesters, (2) you do not switch between being a full-time student and a part-time student, and (3) you pass your classes.

A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: If you do have to pay back your Pell grant, schools may not let you take more classes until you pay.

How do I fill out the FAFSA?

You must fill out the FAFSA in order to attend school. Look out for Question 52!

Question 52 of the FAFSA will ask you “At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?” If you spent any time in the foster care system you need to answer ‘yes’ to this question. 

A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: Make sure to check with your school to find out when FAFSA is due!


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