For many students, financial aid is the key determining factor in whether or not they are able to attend college. With the availability of private student loans diminishing, and jobs for students less available than in the past, receiving financial aid is often the only hope of financing a college education. Fortunately, the Pell Grant is still available to many students, and a large percentage of applicants are approved. The key to getting a Pell Grant is to fill out all the paperwork, and get your materials in as early as possible.

The appropriate federal Pell Grant requirements are fairly simple, and they first begin by mandating that you must be working towards your first bachelor's degree, and you need to be enrolled as a full-time college student. This means that applying for the Pell Grant should be one of the last steps in your college application process, as it's not time to apply until you've committed to the college of your choice as a full time student.

The first step is to complete the FAFSA form. At the time you do this, you don't need to know where you're planning to go to school or even if you're 100% sure you're going to college. The FAFSA tells the government and the schools you're interested in approximately how much aid you'll need to attend college. Most students fill out this form during the winter before the beginning of the upcoming school year, as it's the first step to receiving financial aid. The FAFSA will ask you for photocopies of important records, such as your parents' W-2 forms, records of any money you're earning (if you have a job), and your driver's license/state ID. Many students wait too long to fill out the FAFSA paperwork and then feel overwhelmed, so just take it one step at a time.

If you have satisfied the various Pell Grant requirements, you will then receive an SAR report at some point about a week later on after you have filled out your FAFSA. This will break down how much aid you're eligible for, and if you qualify for the Pell Grant, it will tell state explicitly that fact. Once you see that you qualified, it is then simply a matter of waiting until you receive an award letter from your college a few months later. Within that award letter will be a detailing of the amount of money you may be able to receive by way of the Pell Grant, and just make sure that you send back your confirmation by the appropriate deadlines if you want to keep your award.