Scholarships are given out for numerous reasons, but one of the largest reasons is how badly you need the money.
The biggest need-based grant or scholarship is the Federal Pell Grant. Unlike federal loans, there’s no need to pay the money back. After the money is distributed to the school there’s not a reason for you to pay anything back to the government to replace the grant. It’s important not to confuse the Pell Grant with student loans. Student loans are required to be paid back, but grants are money given to you without the expectation to repay them.
Usually, the Federal Pell Grant will go to students in need. Those with a high expected family contribution will be ineligible for the Federal Pell Grant. Also, the grant can only go to undergraduate students who don’t have a degree already. Additionally, it is not possible to receive the Pell Grant if there is criminal activity, such as being incarcerated or having an involuntary civil commitment after completing incarceration.
If you fit the criteria to receive the Pell Grant, there is a maximum of $5,815 to get during the 2016-2017 school year. This is not the guaranteed grant, however. The government will look at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. From there, they will look at the financial need and cost of attendance at the school you hope to go do. After this, they will see if you are a full-time or part-time student. Lastly, they take into consideration how long you plan to be enrolled in school (a full academic year versus a semester makes a difference).
If you obtain the Pell Grant, you cannot receive it for more than twelve semesters. If you reach the limit of twelve semesters, you will no longer get the grant. Twelve semesters equate to roughly six school years. An ‘ideal’ bachelor degree program takes four years. If this limit is close to being reached, you will be contacted and aware that the deadline is coming up.
One way to increase the amount of the grant is if your parent(s) died in Afghanistan. If they died before you (the student) turned 24 or if you were enrolled in college part-time before their death, you are eligible to receive a grant. However, this only applies to soldiers that served and died in Iraq or Afghanistan – other wars are not included in this additional Pell Grant.
If you are eligible for the Pell Grant already, the expected family contribution will be put to zero. This will allow you to receive a larger Pell Grant than you would have if your parent did not die. If the expected family contribution is too high to qualify for the Pell Grant, there is another Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Your school will be the one first receiving the grant. The first place it will go is towards your tuition and fees. Then, it would go to the cost of room and board. After this, if there is extra money left over, it will be paid for you for any other miscellaneous expenses. You may get an option of how the remaining money is to be left over, including if it’s by check or a credit to your bank. There may also be other methods to receive the money.
No matter what, if the government deems you as eligible to receive the grant, the money will be applied to the school first. From there, they will decide what to contribute it towards. This money will generally be paid to the school the same time as your student loan would be submitted. If it is your first year in college, the money is typically distributed within thirty days of the beginning of the first semester.