Pell Grant Review

Three students thinking about their future.

Figuring out how you will pay for college is stressful and exhausting. There are many funding opportunities, and it’s difficult to determine what you qualify for and how to apply. The Pell Grant, a federally-funded grant, is an excellent source of money for students with high financial need. In order to get the Pell Grant you must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We recommend completing the FAFSA ASAP so you don’t have to worry about it later.

Over 8,500 students attending PSU received the Pell Grant in 2016-17 academic year.

So, what is a grant? Unlike loans, grants are not expected to be paid back. That’s free money to help you achieve your education goals! And unlike other federal student aid, the Pell Grant can be used to cover more than just tuition and fees, like books, transportation, housing and other living expenses.

How to Apply

First, complete the FAFSA! Remember to add PSU as one of your colleges when you fill out the FAFSA (if you’ve already submitted it, you can go back in and add us).

The amount you can receive with the Pell Grant is based on financial need, cost of enrollment, and the length of time you will be in college. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2018-19 academic year is $6,095 (this amount changes each year). If you’re not ready to complete the FAFSA, you can still estimate your Pell Grant award with the FAFSA4caster.

Check out our blog post dedicated to demystifying the FAFSA.

Eligibility

The Pell Grant provides funding for students to get their education. Here are the eligibility factors:

  • Financial need: Financial need is calculated based on cost of attendance and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is not a number you have to come up with on your own—it’s calculated when you fill out the FAFSA. Once you complete the FAFSA, it will tell you (and PSU, if you add PSU as one of your schools) if you are eligible.
  • Enrollment: You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment at a participating institution—PSU is one!
  • Student status: You must have earned a high school diploma, completed an approved home-school education through the high school level or earned a GED. You must also be an undergraduate student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s, associate or professional degree.
  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.

* Undocumented students cannot receive federal grants, but they can receive state grants by filling out the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).

Other Ways PSU Is Making College Affordable

Pell Grant eligible students may be able to defer their application fee, meaning they can apply to PSU and pay the fee on their first tuition bill. Students who are Pell Grant eligible are often eligible for other funding programs through PSU, including:  

  • Four Years Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for the first four years for income-eligible Oregon freshmen.
  • Transfers Finish Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for income-eligible Oregon transfers.

Our goal is to have students graduate on time with as little debt as possible. So if you qualify for the Pell Grant, don’t forget to check out other scholarships we offer.

You can always contact us for more information about the Pell Grant and other sources of funding.

Demystifying the FAFSA

Figuring out how you’ll pay for college can be overwhelming. Turns out, there’s a lot of money available for your higher education. The best place to start on your financial aid journey is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). It’s best to go straight to the source when you want the facts, so we’ve compiled a few resources from the experts to help you learn more about your financial aid options and get some answers about the FAFSA.

Get an Overview of the FAFSA

The FAFSA Process

Completing the FAFSA is the first step in accessing the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid. To help you with your FAFSA, they have created a handy guide that walks you through each part in the process.

Get More Answers from Federal Student Aid (An Office of the US Department of Education)

To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA. If you’d like more information first, Federal Student Aid can help. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.

Follow Federal Student Aid on Twitter and Facebook to get important updates and answers to frequently asked questions.

Fill out the FAFSA

PSU Introduces Four Years Free

At Portland State, we want you to graduate on time with as little debt as possible. Allow us to introduce Four Years Free. If you are an eligible Oregon resident, we will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees.

Eligibility

  • Current resident of Oregon
  • Graduate from an Oregon high school
  • Admissible to PSU as a first-year freshman for the fall 2017 term
  • Have a 3.4 cumulative unweighted high school GPA
  • Eligible to receive a federal Pell grant as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Enrolled full-time at PSU, 15 credits per term

Covered Costs

If you qualify, you must apply for federal and state grants. The program covers remaining standard tuition and mandatory fees after financial aid is applied.

Application Deadlines

  • Apply to PSU by May 1, 2017
  • Submit all required admission materials
    • Official high school transcripts
    • SAT or ACT scores
  • Submit the FAFSA by February 1, 2017
    • PSU FAFSA school code: 003216
    • Accept all state and federal grants awarded

Four Years Means Four Years

Students who receive the Four Years Free award can keep receiving it throughout their undergraduate education (up to 12 consecutive terms of enrollment) by maintaining a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA, remaining eligible for the Pell Grant and completing the FAFSA application each year by Feb. 1.

View frequently asked questions.

Also…Full-time freshman can take advantage of our Four-Year Degree Guarantee, a unique program that ensures you get the counseling and classes you need to complete your degree in four years—or we’ll pay your tuition for any remaining courses. Learn more about how the Four-Year Degree Guarantee works.

We’re Here to Help You Create Your Scholarship Strategy

scholarship blog post

We know you’ve got a lot going on. With homework, after school jobs, extracurriculars, friends and family, (maybe a Netflix binge or two) it can be hard to imagine that you’ll have time to apply for college.

In an effort to make life easier for you, we put together some tools and tips to help you get started on your Portland State University admission and scholarship applications with as little stress as possible, leaving you with plenty of time to watch televis-, uh, get caught up on school work.

What do I need to know?

The deadline to apply for PSU Scholarships is December 1.

  • Scholarships are opportunities for free money you can use to pay for college. Scholarships can come from many different sources. 
  • There are many different scholarship types. Some scholarships are merit or skill-based, while some depend on how you are involved with your community, and some are based solely off financial need. It’s important to search for scholarships that most closely match your strengths and interests.
  • It’s a good idea to apply early. Many scholarships have early application deadlines, with most opening in the fall and closing quickly for next school year. This means that scholarship applications need to be submitted nearly a year in advance of when you plan to start school. The earlier you apply the more likely you are to get more money, and who doesn’t want more money?

What do I need to submit?

For most scholarships you will likely need to complete three to four components:

  1. Scholarship Application – This form is for your personal information, things like classes you are taking, grades, where you’re from, etc.
  2. Responses to Essay Questions – This is your chance to introduce yourself and highlight your experiences and achievements.
  3. Letters of Recommendation  Most students submit at least two from key influential professionals in your life that can speak to your character and accomplishments and want you to succeed. Got questions about asking for Letters? We can help!
  4. Interview – Some scholarships request an interviews with students. Check out our tips below on how to prepare for your scholarship interview and impress the committee. Remember to smile big!

How do I find scholarships?

map
Search for them! There are TONS of people and organizations just waiting to give you free money, you just have to find them first. To help, we have a great tool to
search for scholarships. You can narrow your search using:

  • Categories – Scholarships are often assigned category. This option allows you to identify and search the categories that you feel are most relevant to you.
  • Keyword(s) – Your school may assign a keyword to a scholarship (things like your major or test scores). This option allows you to search that keyword field.
  • Description and Scholarship Name – You can simply search the description or name of scholarships to see if they contain words that you might deem suitable (e.g. Biology).

Tips for Searching for Scholarships


Get Search, Application or Essay Help

PSU Scholarship Workshops 

Open to all students, the Office of Financial Aid holds Scholarship Workshops every Fall term to help students create effective scholarship applications.

Check out their presentation from the most recent set of workshops.

All workshops are held on campus at the Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. Visit the PSU Writing Center website for more information and to schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor

Scholarship Interview Tips

  • Practice in as realistic a setting as possible.
  • Arrive on time, dressed appropriately.
  • Answer questions truthfully, decisively, positively, and with relevant information. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know” when you need to, and try to be ready for unusual questions that may be designed to see how you react.

How to Write a Request for a Letter of Reference

reference

Some scholarships require letters of reference, which means you will have to reach out to some people in your life who know about your work ethic and personal achievements. If you’ve never done this before then it can be a daunting task.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on getting that perfect letter:

  1. Identify influential professionals in your life that challenge and inspire you.
  2. Ask them if they would be willing to write you a letter of reference for your scholarship application. (See example email message below. Use this reference request draft to reach out to them.These people may be high school counselors, mentors, academic advisors, coaches, teachers or college professors, leaders in a faith community or staff in a community or volunteer organization. These people should NOT be family members or personal friends of yours.
  3. If the scholarship you are applying for has specific requirements, ask your reference to highlight how you meet those requirements. Remember, the people writing your letter want you to succeed, and would love nothing more than to rave about your accomplishments.

Take a deep breath, and let’s write an email. It’s not scary, we promise.

Email Subject: A request for a letter of recommendation  

Email Body:

Dear [Name],

I am applying for the [scholarship name] scholarship and I am contacting you to request a letter of recommendation in support of my application.

I have included an updated resume that will give you a better idea of the classes and activities that I have been involved with.

I am hoping that you could focus on different aspects of my background, character, academics, and activities so the scholarship committee will get a broad sense of my life, skills and achievements.

Thank you for considering my request for a letter of recommendation. Please let me know if I can provide you with any other information about my recent activities or this request. Your support means a lot!

This letter is due on [date]

[Tell them how to submit the reference letter]

Thank you again!

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Don’t forget to attach your resume! Including your resume allows your reference to write specifically about you and how great a fit you would be for the scholarship. There is no such thing as too much detail.

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

PSU_Spring2015-12

Starting an essay for a scholarship application can be difficult. We’ve created a strategy to help make it easier and move along faster! Let’s get started:

Write Your Profile: Write a short description about you. Explain why you’re great. Include your strengths, accomplishments, goals and unique characteristics. This may seem obvious but it can be one of the toughest parts to put into writing. It’s incredibly important for you to talk about yourself using a clear story. This will shine through in your essay and help you find relevant scholarships unique to your strengths.

Develop an Outline: This is the foundation of your essay. Preparing your outline before you get into the meat of your story will help you visualize your story from start to finish before putting too much time into writing the specifics. This will help the writing move forward with purpose!

Fill In Your Outline: This is the hard part. If you have a good outline, it will move along much faster. Use the outline below and fill in the gaps. Elaborate on your story, provide examples of your achievements and experience that are fluid and concise. A great writing resource is the Purdue OWL Writing Guide

Beginning | Hello!

Begin your essay by addressing the scholarship committee directly. Don’t go generic here! Be as specific to the scholarship name or agency as you can. A direct address with a specific scholarship or agency name will personalize your essay and level up your application!

Dear [Scholarship name or agency] committee,

Thank you for taking the time to read my application. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and present my accomplishments.

Remember, your essay is your chance to introduce yourself and make a first impression so make sure that your essay is clear, concise and quickly gets into your story. Read your essay out loud. If you’re not past your greeting and introduction within a few seconds, circle back to edit.

Middle | The body of your essay: Your story

Take a 1-2-3 approach to crafting your story:

  1. Past: What experiences, challenges, influences, passions, goals brought you to this point in your academic and life journey?
  2. Present: You are here! But why? Why PSU/Your Major/This School/Community etc.
  3. Future: Put it all together: Where are you headed? With your past experiences informing your current goals, where are you headed? What’s the next big step?

End | That’s a wrap!

Close your essay by explaining how this scholarship will help you achieve your goals. Don’t go generic here, list specific goals that will help you get to where you’re trying to go.

You only need to craft one solid, core essay. Once you build your core essay, you can use it for multiple scholarship applications with simple updates.


Get Search, Application or Essay Help

Sign Up for a PSU Scholarship Workshop

  • Thursday, October 20, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Friday, October 28, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Monday, November 07, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. For more information, review our tips for a successful session. Schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor