Don’t Miss Out on Federal Pell Grants

Financial Aid5 minutes

Millions of undergraduate students receive Federal Pell Grants every year to help pay for college or career school. But many people miss out because they don’t think they’re eligible or don’t know how to apply. Don’t let this be you! Read on to learn what you need to know.

What is a Federal Pell Grant?

A Federal Pell Grant is a type of grant that provides funds to help pay for college or career school. Pell Grants are typically awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need. Unlike federal student loans, Pell Grants don’t have to be paid back except under certain circumstances.

Millions of Pell Grants are awarded each year to eligible undergraduate students who submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

Pell Grants have been around for more than 50 years—the program started in 1972 to address the growing need for financial assistance for undergraduate students. Since then, millions of Pell Grants have been awarded to eligible students who submitted the FAFSA® form each year they attended school.

How much money could I get from a Federal Pell Grant?

Every year, the federal government updates the maximum Federal Pell Grant award amount. For the 2023–24 award year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $7,395. These funds can be used to pay for school-related expenses at eligible two-year community colleges, career schools, online schools, and four-year colleges and universities. You can receive Pell Grants for up to 12 full-time terms or about six years.

Some students may be able to receive up to 150% of their Pell Grant award if they attend an additional school term. This is often called “year-round Pell.” For example, if you were awarded a $3,000 Pell Grant, you’d likely receive $1,500 in both your fall and spring semesters. But you may qualify for another Pell Grant of up to $1,500 if you enroll at least half-time during the summer semester.

Who is eligible for Federal Pell Grants?

Any undergraduate student, regardless of age, who hasn’t earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree may be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant if they have financial need and meet a few basic requirements.

Don’t let the term “financial need” make you assume that you won’t qualify for Pell Grant funds. Your financial need is based on more than just your (or your family’s) income—the federal government and your school will consider your cost of attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to calculate your financial need.

If you already filled out the FAFSA form, you can find your EFC on your Student Aid Report. If you haven’t submitted your FAFSA form yet, you can calculate your EFC by using the Federal Student Aid Estimator.

Once you know your EFC, check out the table below to get an idea of how much in Pell Grant funds you may qualify for. Note that this table assumes you’re enrolled full-time in an undergraduate program and that your COA is $7,395 or more.

2023–24 Federal Pell Grant Award Amounts Based on Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) 2023–24 Federal Pell Grant Award
0 $7,395
1–500 $6,945–$7,345
501–1000 $6,445–$6,845
1001–1500 $5,945–$6,345
1501–2000 $5,445–$5,845
2001–2500 $4,945–$5,345
2501–3000 $4,445–$4,845
3001–3500 $3,945–$4,345
3501–4000 $3,445–$3,845
4001–4500 $2,945–$3,345
4501–5000 $2,445–$2,845
5001–5500 $1,945–$2,345
5501–6000 $1,445–$1,845
6001–6656 $767–$1,345
6657 or higher 0

Can you show me an example of students who are eligible for Federal Pell Grants?

Take a look at the image below to see how much Federal Pell Grant money each of these undergraduate students will receive. All three students are attending a school with a COA that’s $7,395 or more, but each student’s particular situation—such as family size, family income, and number of students in college—is different.

Students receive different Pell Grant awards depending on their family’s information. Try the Federal Student Aid Estimator for an estimate of the student aid you may be eligible to receive.

I’m still not sure if I’m eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. What should I do?

Even if you’re not sure if you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, don’t make any guesses. Find out for yourself by filling out a FAFSA® form.

When you submit all the required information on your FAFSA form, the federal government and the schools you listed on the form will calculate your financial need for you. If you’re accepted to the schools, you’ll receive student aid offer letters that list the types and amounts of student aid that are available for you, including a Pell Grant if you’re eligible.

You have nothing to lose by submitting your FAFSA form, but not doing it could mean you’re passing up an opportunity to receive free money for school—up to $7,395, the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023–24 award year. Missing out on thousands of dollars in Pell Grant funds may negatively impact your ability to afford and attend school, which could limit your future career options.

If you choose to attend a community college and receive a Pell Grant, you may find that it covers a large portion of your costs. Another option is to search for schools that help pay for education costs for Pell Grant recipients. Some schools, including four-year colleges and universities, will even cover any remaining yearly tuition and fees.

Even if you’re not sure if you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, don’t make any guesses. Find out for yourself by filling out a FAFSA® form.

Filling out the FAFSA form isn’t as hard as you may think. Set yourself up for success by following these simple steps to complete the FAFSA form.

Remember: The FAFSA form is always free. If you need help, reach out to your current or prospective school’s financial aid office or contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center.

Learn more about Pell Grants—including how Pell Grants get disbursed (paid out) and what to do to maintain a Pell Grant—by visiting our webpage on Federal Pell Grants.