The federal government awards Pell grants to undergraduate students based on financial need. Unlike loans, you never need to repay the money. However, you can only use Pell grants for expenses that are part of your cost of attendance, like tuition, room and board, fees and certain living expenses.

Pell Grant Expenses

Your Pell grant can't exceed your cost of attendance at school. However, if you pay some of those costs out of pocket, you can use any excess Pell grant money to offset those expenses. Your school may give you options as to how you receive the excess funds, including payment by check, crediting your bank account or another method. For example, say you receive a $5,000 Pell grant and your tuition is only $4,000. Your school can issue you a check for the last $1,000 that you can use to pay rent.