The federal government provides Pell Grants to help students pay for their college education. These are financial need-based awards that are not loans; they never have to be repaid! Applying for a Pell Grant is straightforward and free – don’t pay attention to vendors who make Pell Grants sound complicated and want to charge you for assistance getting one.

Review our Quick Six Checklist and you will know in less than five minutes if you may be eligible and what you should do next to apply. Check the box by each statement that applies to you:

[ ] 1. I am a United States citizen.

[ ] 2. I am an undergraduate student.

[ ] 3. I am part of a low-income family, and/or my family is currently putting my sibling(s) through college. (An important note here: if you are on your own and supporting yourself, file taxes as an individual, and expect no financial help from your family, the answer to this question is still important. It may not sound fair, but if your family has the financial resources to help you pay for your education the government assumes that they will.)

[ ] 4. I have completed and submitted my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application.

[ ] 5. I am female or, I am male and have registered with the Selective Service.

[ ] 6. I currently have a Pell Grant. (Note: Starting with the 2011-2012 academic year, students may have only one Pell Grant each year. This is a change from previous years.)

Did you check all the boxes except the last one? If so, you may very well be eligible (depending on your finances) and it is definitely worth applying to find out. In fact, if you checked statement #4, you have already applied! When you submit your FAFSA (remember, it’s free) you are automatically considered for a Pell Grant. The rest of the statements above will tell you if you are even an eligible candidate for the award.

The maximum Pell Grant for the 2011-2012 year is $5550 and the minimum is $555. The actual amount of your award will be determined by your application and your college costs. (Note: If you are Pell-Grant eligible and your parent or guardian died because of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2011, and you are under age 24 or were enrolled at least part-time when your parent or guardian died, then you will receive the maximum award.)

Act now to complete and submit your application. Whether you are eligible for a Pell Grant or not, remember that there are lots of places to look for help financing your education.