Eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant should be established before any time is spent in the collection of all the necessary information that you are going to have to provide. There are many issues that can affect your outcome, and if you are in any doubt about them, then you should seek an interview with your school counselor or the financial aid office.
Before any grant money is paid, you will be required to complete a FAFSA form which certifies that you are going to be using the Federal Pell Grant solely for educational purposes. You will also be required to certify that you are not in default of any other Federal student loans or grants. Generally though, to meet Federal Pell Grant eligibility, the undergraduate student must be enrolled in an approved course, and must be working towards their first bachelor's degree or professional certificate.
Students will also need to show that they are making satisfactory progress with their studies. The Federal Pell Grant eligibility is generally based on the following criteria:
1. Most importantly, you must be in a situation of financial need. Most Pell Grants are paid to students with family incomes of less than $20,000, however there are often exceptions to this.
2. You must either have a high school diploma, GED, or show that you will be able to benefit from the tuition or program that is being offered.
3. You must have a valid Social Security number.
4. The student must be a US citizen or permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen.
The student must also be able to live and attend school legally in the US. Once eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant has been established, the student can then begin the application process. This begins by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. This can be done online, which streamlines the whole process. Even so, the Federal Processor needs to data match your application with records of various federal agencies.
Your financial aid office will then be notified of your results usually within a couple of weeks. Then however, you will be required to submit the necessary documentation to your financial aid office, which may include things such as:
1. Federal tax returns, actual or estimated.
2. W-2 information.
3. If applicable, verification of untaxed income e.g., veteran's benefits, Social Security.
4. Bank statements, investment and mortgage information.
5. Business records.
The whole process allowing for any problems, may take around 8 weeks or even longer, so it is important that you apply at least 10 weeks before the beginning of the semester. The Federal Pell Grant can be applied for each year, providing the eligibility requirements are still met. There is no limit to the number of Pell Grants that a student can receive, however only one award per academic year will be granted. Once received, the Pell Grant is not considered an income or an asset, so it will not affect those that are eligible for the Supplemental Security Income program or the Social Security Disability Insurance program.