If you are a student attending post-secondary school you have likely heard the words “FAFSA,” and “Pell Grant.” Why? Because every student who visits the student aid office as part of their enrollment process is encouraged to complete a FAFSA application to determine their eligibility for the Pell Grant. So, every year, you fill it out, and depending on a number of factors, you find that you either are or are not eligible for this type of student aid.

But what does it mean?

FAFSA is the application you complete for the Pell Grant. It is an annual application so you will likely do many of these throughout the course of your educational journey if you are seeking any kind of financial assistance. FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Pell Grant is the largest federally funded student aid program in the entire country. It has been around for more than forty years. The intention of the program is to help offset the cost of post-secondary undergraduate education for lower income families to allow more students the opportunity to attend college.

Even if you think you won’t qualify it is worth your time to fill out the FAFSA to find out if you are eligible for any amount of the Pell grant. You might find that you are eligible for partial aid or be surprised to find out that you are eligible for more that you thought. The minimum amount of aid that is allowed is $639.00 per year, and the maximum amount is $6435.00.

Another important reason to fill out the FAFSA and apply for the Pell Grant every year is that they redetermine your eligibility each year based on the most recent financial situation of the entire household. Most household incomes fluctuate and change over time, and as such, they will consider and reconsider these changes to continue to help more students to qualify. The grant is awarded on an annual basis. Additionally, if a household’s income significantly decreases for any reason during the year that the student is receiving aid, they can also file an appeal to see if they are eligible for additional funding. Conversely if a student decides to drop any of their classes that their eligibility was determined based off of, they could potentially lose their eligibility as well.

The FAFSA and more information on the Pell Grant can be found online but is also readily available at each individual school. All schools have a student aid office that specializes in helping students find sustainable solutions to be able to afford their post-secondary education. Their job is to make them aware of all programs that are available to them both publicly and privately and to assist them in making the best choices for their financial situation that will allow them to accomplish their educational goals. For more help on completing the FAFSA application and applying for the Pell grant, student should definitely reach out to their student aid office, and be sure to do this every year.