Pell Grant Application Process

You may be surprised to learn that the Federal Pell Grant application process doesn’t start with a Pell Grant application – it starts with the FAFSA. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for a number of different federal, state, and school financial aid awards, including Pell Grants. Because the lion’s share of federal money goes to the early applicants (and because states and schools make financial aid decisions very early in the year), you would be smart to submit your FAFSA in February.

Your Pell Grant application and your FAFSA are one and the same. Once you’ve submitted your FAFSA, it will take a few weeks for it to be processed, while the U.S. Department of Education calculates your financial aid eligibility and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Pell Grants are need-based, so if your EFC falls below a certain number, you’ll be automatically eligible for a Pell (assuming you meet all other eligibility requirements). This is how your FAFSA became your Pell Grant application.

Once your FAFSA is reviewed, the Education Department will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR) telling you what kind of financial aid you qualify for, and how much. If you qualify for a Pell Grant, it will be documented in your SAR. The report will also give you detailed instructions on how claim your Pell Grant, although typically, you don’t have do anything. The Pell Grant money is usually sent directly to your school, which will apply it to your tuition. If there is money left over, the instructions in your SAR will explain how to claim it from your school.

Overall, the Pell Grant application process is pretty easy…as long as you submit a FAFSA! (Thousands of qualifying students don’t – but that leaves more money for you.)  See the Pell Grant page for more information and detailed eligibility requirements.

50 comments to “Pell Grant Application Process”

  1. HI my name is adila
    i’m starting my Bsn in nursing and i applied for fafsa and i was advise that i am not qualified for a grant. because of my taxable income and taking class out of the state of new jersey, i dont understand i need some financila assistance how care you help with a not so good credit rating

  2. Hi Adila,
    Take a look at our new article, Bad Credit Student Loans, in the Student Loan section. Although is not a financial advisor of any kind, it seems unlikely that you would not qualify for an unsubsidized Stafford student loan, even if your taxable income is too high for a subsidized Stafford loan or a Pell Grant. Read more about Stafford loans on the Department of Education website, and also check the Department’s scholarship database. Good luck – the U.S. certainly needs nurses!

  3. Hi my name is Cecelia

    I submitted my ” Fafsa” June 1st 2009. It was processed and my efc is 0. I qaulify aid. I orginally had a defautled student loan 23 years ago that has been paid in full. I had to have the Depart. of education fax a letter over to my shcool stating my old loans are paid in full. That was done, however on the NLSDS it still states I have loans in default . I have spoken to my FA counselor to clear up any discrepancys. My question is how long does it take to receive funding.. Last year it appeared to be much faster than this year. I started school July of 2008.. ALL of my funding was here by July28th, I am still waiting for my pell grant. I have Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans that have already been disbursed. I am not understanding the delay. Is it due to what the NSLDS has listed?? How long does it take to fix that matter. This is very old.

  4. Cecelia–

    How frustrating! You are certainly not alone though; we’ve heard of many people who are expecting their financial aid on a certain schedule, but have not yet received it. Because of the additional paperwork needed in your specific situation (in this case, the proof that the default student loan has been taken care of), there may have been a delay in rewarding you the money.

    I encourage you to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID. Or, if you’ve done that, contact the financial aid office at your school; they may have certain distribution calendars that you may not be aware of.

    Good luck!
    Community Manager

  5. I’ve been attending community college for a year and a half now, ad i have never received a pell check. earlier today a couple of my friends were speaking about what they received and they all work, or have parents that make a decent amount of money. My mom doesn’t even work, and she has me as a dependent on her taxes. I don’t understand why i do not receive a check. my EFC is 0, ad even with the financial aid i receive i still have to put money into cover my tuition =/. Any idea whats going on? I’m becoming frustrated because it does not seem fair.

  6. Hi Jessica–
    This sounds like a case for your school’s financial aid office! If you filled out a FAFSA this year, your financial aid administrator should be able to tell you how much of a Pell Grant you qualified for and where that money went. In the meantime, you prompted me to write a whole post on your question. I hope my latest post, How to Find Out What’s Going On With Your Pell Grant, is helpful. Thank you for contributing to!

    Best wishes for success in school,
    The EducationGrant Editor

  7. Thank you so much :) I think we figured it out. I checked deeper into it and found out my FAFSA is undergoing the verification process and they need a lot more info! Im not sure if I should give them this info now or just wait till next year. But thanks again!

  8. How can I go about getting assistance with a loan to go back to school. I don’t have my GED and would like get it on line and don’t have money to pay.

  9. Hi my name is Betty
    I enrolled at Grand Canyon University online classes. I recently finished my first eight week class. I am in the 2nd 8 week class. I have a problem finding money to complete the classes. The financial advisors at Grand canyon told me to call Great Lakes to have $450.00 moved from unsubdized to subdized to received my loan money from Fafsa. They said, they could not do that unless I paid $3,000 in interest rate. I took out a hardship deferment. I was told that the federal government would pay the interest while I was in a deferment. I really don’t understand or know what to do next. Can you help me. I am desparate.

    Betty F.

  10. Hello, Betty,
    I”m sorry to hear about the trouble you’re having with both money and assistance. It must be so frustrating to feel like you don’t have enough information to know what to do next. I checked the federal Student Aid website (where you filed your FAFSA), which advises that you talk to your school first and then your loan servicer (in your case, Great Lakes), both of which you did. It sounds like you should probably talk to Great Lakes again and tell them you need more detailed assistance from a counselor willing to walk through your options with you. Otherwise, try calling the federal financial aid site at 1-800-433-3243. They may be able to tell you exactly what you need to say to Great Lakes in order to get more help from them, or to give you an update on what’s happening with your forbearance. The Great Lakes website says, “Great Lakes provides financial, educational, and operational support at every stage of the educational journey.” I hope you can persuade them to live up to that. With best wishes, The EducationGrant Editor

  11. i want to go to a havoc school called act in new mexico . can i get a pell grant for that school?

  12. Hi Sam,
    The best thing to do is call the school and ask their financial aid office if they participate in the federal financial aid program. If they do, then they can walk you through the financial aid application process. If you qualify for a Pell Grant, it would be sent to your school after they help you submit the financial aid application. Good luck! The EducationGrant Editor

  13. Hi, im 19 i have just got out of foster care and am a single mother trying to get a house for me and my son im needing this money to help with renting a place getting my son what he needs and fixing my car i would also love to further my education i really need this money and really need do do something with my life thanks for taking the time to read this hope u consider me !

  14. Hello Reader,

    Thank you for reading the EducationGrant Blog. We strive to provide financial aid information, news, and research resources. For advice regarding your personal situation, you should always speak directly with a counselor in your school’s financial aid office. It is the financial aid office’s job and responsibility to explain and help you understand all your college costs and financial aid options. Best wishes for your college success, the EducationGrant Editors

  15. my comment is I was wondering if I was able to receive a grant to finish off my high school diploma I can’t affrord to pay for my school because I don’t make a lot off money at my job. I make only enough to try to keep a roof over me and my brother head. thanks so much April

  16. i applied for a pell grant in november of 2009 and i had to make corrections on the 18th of november now i went to the school two days ago 1/28/10 and they say they have had my pell grant since december but it will take a process of 4 to 6 weeks to get it why is that? i mean if they already have the money. with that being said i had to drop my classes because i cant pay for them or my books can someone please help me understand why i have to wait until the summer term to get it when i applied in the fall. thanks Amy

  17. i really need help to further my education and do something with my life before im to old.

  18. I’m 24 single, and I made 23,000 last year. I did NOT qualify for pel grants. They said I made to much, but I could barely make it last year. Not to mention I work be working during the year I’m in school full-time. I was wondering what is the cut off. Is it like 15,000? I had a guy come in my work that said he made 35,000 and still qualifies for grants. IT’S NOT FAIR!

  19. Hi Kristy,
    Thanks for visiting EducationGrant! Now more than ever, nontraditional students are going back to school and earning an education – it is never too late to go back to school! :) For information and help with paying for school, visit our financial aid section: You will need to fill out a FAFSA form (financial aid application) in order to receive grants or financial aid. Visit for more information. There may also be scholarships you can apply to as well, for more financial assistance. Look into available scholarships from the school you are interested in attending.

    If you are unsure of where to start, look at OnlineDegreeFinder for available degree programs that are out there: What do you want to go back to school for?

    We wish you all the best in your school search! Remember to not miss financial aid deadlines! Send in your application early!
    EducationGrant Editor


  21. Hi Brynetria,
    If you are looking to go back to school, you will need to fill out a FAFSA form (financial aid application) to apply for financial aid or student grants.
    You should also apply to any scholarships that you qualify for.
    Remember to get your financial aid applications in before the deadline!
    Best of luck,
    EducationGrant Editor

  22. Hi my name is trichelle im a single mother thats tryin to go back to school in get money to help take care of my children to put them thru school in put them in daycare.

  23. Hi my name is Mary. My husband and daughter went to the college of her choice last night and filled out the financial aid form. I have been laid off since January 2009 from a part time position that I held for 3 yrs 9 mos with a low income. My husband works at a town job and doesn’t make a very high income either however, he is retired military and has a small income from the government. After filling out the paperwork, all my daughter will be allowed in federal aid is $1600, she will have to take a loan for $27,000 and us for $41,000. We are told we have to pay $400 per month for the next three years (she can get her bachelors in three years). We do not have this kind of money, per month and can by no means put our family in this financial burden. Do you any ideas where else we can apply for grants, scholarships, anything. We want our daughters’ dreams fulfilled but not at the expense of havinga $70,000 debt when she gets out of college.


  25. Hi. My name is Candi. I am wanting to go back to school and get my high school diploma. I was very advanced in school and dropped out because of my pregnancy. I am a single mother of 2 girls. I was wondering if there is any assistance out there to help me with schooling. I want to get my diploma and go to college so my girls and I can have a better life.

  26. Hi Candi,
    Thanks for reading! We think it is great that you want to go back to school to further your education – so you and your children can have a better life!
    You should talk with your high school’s guidance department to figure out a plan so you can go back to school and earn your high school diploma. Your high school guidance counselor may also have information on GED’s (high school equivalent) if they is something you are considering.
    Best of luck!
    EducationGrant Editor

  27. Hi,
    Thanks for reading. While does not give out grants, we hope to provide you with information to make the application process successful and easy for you.
    Please visit for more information as well.
    Best of luck,
    EducationGrant Editor

  28. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for reading. I would do some research and apply for any and all scholarships possible. Look for scholarships available through your town, state, any religious organizations you may be involved in, and extracurricular activities your daughter may be in, any sports scholarships, any major companies or corporations that are in the same field that your daughter is studying in, scholarships available from the school she is planning to attend, etc. Don’t give up! Applying for scholarships is time consuimg and tedious, but any additional amount of money will help! There are also student loans available:, as well as grants:
    If you are still worried about being able to afford things, reach out to a financial aid advisor, loan officer, or someone at your bank who may be able to provide you more information.
    We wish you and your family the best of luck!
    EducationGrant Editor

  29. hello i submited my fafsa form before my college deadline(March 1st) however i got a letter in the mail a few days ago saying it was an error on it and i had to re submitt it all over again! which was pass the orginal deadline for the college! did i lose out on getting aid?

  30. I’m a single mom with a special needs daughter . and i would like to get my high school diplomia . but I don’t have the money to pay for online classes.
    am i eligiable for a pell grant .

  31. please help me i found a collage to do my ged course and my 2 year human resoure mangement class it ashworth collage i have the amount i need to start my course please call me tell me what i have to do next thank you my phone # is 281 339 1361 please call thank you or send me a phone # and i will call you thank you

  32. Hi,
    You will need to contact whoever is offering the GED program, so you can set that up.
    Once you have done that, you will need to contact Ashworth college and sign up for your class.
    Best of luck,
    EducationGrant Editor

  33. Hi,
    EducationGrant does not give out Pell Grants – we provide information so that our readers are informed on all financial aid topics. Make sure you fill out an application for financial aid – the FAFSA form. You will find out if you are in fact eligible for a Pell Grant.
    Best of luck,
    EducationGrant Editor

  34. Hi,
    Im in an associate program where i have to do different classes each 8 weeks for each semester. So for this Spring semester, i signed up for 8 hours credit for the first 8 weeks (jan- mid march) and had 50% of the Pell grant, I just signed up for another 5 hours credits a few days ago for the second 8 weeks (mid march – may).
    My question is will the remaining 50% of Pell grant pay for the 5 hrs credits i have just signed up?

  35. I was wondering since I qualified for 5300 last year and 5500 this year in pell grants why did my schools only take out a few hundred dollars out of each years grant to pay for my class and then I also received a stafford loan. What happened to the rest of my pell grant money and why did I get a loan if I had all that extra money?

  36. Hi, Thanks for reading!
    I would consult your financial advisor regarding the amount of money you received from your Pell Grants.
    EducationGrant Editor

  37. Hi my name is dana i was on a softball scholarship and did have a year of college but had to go back home and lost my scholarship due to me being pregnant i want to get back on track and go back to school its hard to get a job when i have no money for day care i really hope there is something out there for me!

  38. Hi, my name is Paula. I didn’t fill out a FAFSA for my son for the 2009-2010 school year (which is now already over) until just a couple days ago. I did it just for the heck of it. My son had been going to college for several years and never qualified for anything other than school loans so I figured it was a waste of time. Well, my daughter was getting ready to re-enroll in college (2010-2011 school year) this fall and needed to get the FAFSA filled out to see if she could get help. I told her to go ahead and fill one out for her brother too. Then I said, go ahead and do last years too since its still available to do online. Well, the results came back and it said that my son was/is eligible for $2900 in Pell Grant money for the 2009-2010 school year. Since he already went to school full time and completed both of those semesters, is he still able to get that money??

  39. My pell grant for 2010-2011 school year was processed in March. I take classes continously, totalling 24 credits each semester. Why hasn’t my pell been used first instead of the student loans? How long does it take to get to my school?

  40. hi, I want to know if is possible to have a scholarship for single mother from Honduras, Central American,

    because I want to study in USA english and Social Work and I am a single mother,

    thanks for any information

  41. Hi…I’m looking for all the help I can get to go back to school. I’m a single mother of two little ones. My daughter is 18months and my son is 7months….so i definitely have my hands full. Please send any information. Thank You!!

  42. I am a young single mother of 2 who wants to go back to school to help land a good paying job so my children will never have to struggle..I know I need to fill out a FAFSA but where can I find one that I can submit online to be able to help me attend schools online since I have very minimal income?

  43. Does the gi education stipend or monthly payment and her disability payment count as income on the fasfa? This is non taxable and we are not sure what really counts as income.

  44. Hi I was just wondering since I am a single mother of two children, if there are any grants out there for me to go back to school? I am reciently layed off from my job and want to get into my career field of chioce,… Seriously looking into the medical field. Maybe sonography or xray tech. Thank you so very much!

  45. i just finished filling out the application a couple of days ago and was just wondering how long it usually takes to be processed.

  46. hi i was wondering if i applied for a pell grant i got awarded 5500 for fall and spring but i didnt attend the fall semester but i am attending the spring full time will i still get the money from the fall semester?

  47. how can i lower or get help paying my student loand , im a single motherof two ,i dont work , im a full time student and live with boyfriend how help me but after i get out of school i will have my associate and need to start working and dont think i can be hable to pay my loand . Is their any help fpr me out their.

  48. I applied on the FAFSA website and when I was finished, it told me that I was approved for so much of a grant and also said that I was pre-approved for a subsidized loan. Does this mean that I could get both?

  49. hi, im a single mother 20 years old, im trying to find out how to apply for a pell grant but i cant find the application, maybe its my computer im not sure.

  50. Hi i would like to apply for a pell grant for my son for college what do i do

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