A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Pell Grants are awarded usually only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant.) Pell Grants are considered a foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other federal and non federal sources might be added.
How much can I get?
There are limits on the maximum amount you are eligible to receive each academic year and in total (aggregate Pell Grant limit). The maximum Pell Grant award amounts for the 2011-12 award year (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) and for the 2012-13 award year (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) are each $5,550. You may receive less than the maximum award depending not only on your financial need, but also on your costs to attend school, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.
Any Pell Grant eligible student whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept.11, 2001 will receive the maximum annual award. You must be under 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time in college at the time of your parent's or guardian's death.
Beginning with the 2012-2013 award year, you can only receive a Pell Grant for up to a maximum of 12 semesters or the equivalent.
If I am eligible, how will I get the Pell Grant money?
Your school can apply Pell Grant funds to your school costs, pay you directly (usually by check), or combine these methods. The school must tell you in writing how much your award will be and how and when you'll be paid. Schools must disburse funds at least once per term (semester, trimester, or quarter). Schools that do not use semesters, trimesters, or quarters must disburse funds at least twice per academic year.