How To Qualify for a Pell Grant’s Basic Eligibility Criteria

Calendar Icon Updated November 22, 2019
Pell Grants

Whether it’s grants, loans or work-study funds, federal financial aid requires students to meet certain eligibility standards.

The Basic Eligibility Criteria is a list provided by the federal government that includes general requirements that must be met in order to receive any sort of student aid funds. The list of criteria states that students must

  • Demonstrate that they have Financial Need. Financial Need is the difference between the Cost of Attendance (COA) at a school and the student’s Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), which is a measurement determined by the FAFSA.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.
  • Have a valid Social Security number. The only exception to this rule is students from the following: Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.
  • If you’re a male, be registered with Selective Service between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment at an institution for the purpose of obtaining a degree.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress once enrolled in college.
  • Fill out and sign the FAFSA’s certification statement, which says that the student is not in default on a federal student loan, does not owe money on a federal grant, and that the student will only use the funds provided for federal student aid for educational purposes.
  • Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent.
  • If a student is looking to become eligible for Direct Loan Program funds, he or she must be enrolled at least half-time. This does not apply to other forms of federal aid.

This list of Basic Eligibility Criteria applies to all forms of federal student aid, but must be paired with other requirements to receive Federal Pell Grant funds. To be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, a student must not only meet the criteria stated above, but he or she must also be an undergraduate or vocational student enrolled in a participating school. Students may use Federal Pell Grant funds at any one of the 5,400 schools on this list. Additionally, the student must not have yet earned any bachelor’s or professional degree.

Once a student has received Federal Pell Grant funds, he or she must remain eligible. This means continuing to meet the Basic Eligibility Criteria and filling out the FAFSA every subsequent year.

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Eligibility Team

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