Any student coming from a family with an income lower than $50,000 per year can take advantage of the Federal Pell Grant Program. All students can apply using the standard Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The process is really simplified since you can fill in and submit your application online. However, the entire system is complex. As a result, it is perfectly normal for students to have questions regarding the duration of the Pell Grant.
You apply for a Pell Grant per academic year. As a result, you will get a sum of money for an entire academic year. The confusion comes from the fact that the grant is not disbursed in one tranche. The amount available to each student is split so that there is an equal sum for each term. In most cases, the students attend a fall and spring semester. In turn, they get half of the money in the fall and the other half in the spring. You do not have to reapply to receive the part of the Pell Grant for the second semester.
Still, if you start school in the spring semester or if you return after a leave, you can still apply for the grant and get it for this term. It is also possible for you to receive the grant automatically the following semester, if they fall in the same academic year for you. If your case is specific, you can ask your school’s financial aid office for individual advice.
It is now possible for a student to get Pell Grant funding for their summer courses as well. If you plan to take classes in the summer as part of your degree, certificate or diploma program, you can include this information in your financial aid application for the respective academic year. You simply have to check carefully which academic year the summer courses fall in.
Generally, the application cycle for a Pell Grant for an academic year starts on January 1st and ends on July 30th of the following calendar year. For instance, you can apply for a 2011/2012 grant from January 1st 2012 to June 30th 2012. This means that you have to reapply for a Pell Grant every academic year, preferably before its start. The earlier you apply the better. In this way, you will be able to get the sum you are eligible for before the start or soon after the start of the first semester.
Students can receive a Pell Grant for up to 18 semesters. If your school does not use this standard system, then an equivalent is applied. This rule gives you the option to apply for, get and use the grant throughout all 4-years that you need to complete a bachelor’s degree. The situation with students pursuing an associates degree is slightly different. You can use a Pell Grant for the 2 years of study for completing the degree. If you decide to pursue a 4-year bachelor’s degree, you will be eligible for the scholarship for 2 of these 4 years.