What are Grants for College?
College grants are a kind of financial aid that you don't need to pay back. You might use a grant to pay for tuition, books, housing and other school expenses.
Like a scholarship, grants for college are free money that you can use to fund your education. Unlike student loans which you have to reimburse, you only pay back a grant under a few conditions. For instance, if you withdraw early from a program or change your enrollment status.
What are the differences between grants and scholarships?
Both scholarships and grants are forms of gift aid. This means, it is money you can use for college that you do not need to earn or repay. Either a grant or a scholarship may help you answer the question “how can I pay for college without going into debt?” But the terms are not interchangeable.
Grants are usually awarded based on student financial needs. Popular grants that college students apply for are available through:
- Federal government
- State/local governments
- Colleges, universities, career schools
Scholarships are usually awarded based on student merit. Things like academic, athletic or artistic talents. Many scholarships are available through:
- Private or community foundations
- Non-profit and for-profit corporations.
Who Can Get Grants for College?
The number of students attending 4-year colleges and receiving aid is on the rise.
At last count, the federal government awarded $30 billion dollars in need-based grants. Recent figures show that 63.3% of college undergraduates receive grants. The average amount of grant money received by a college student is $7,400.
Eligibility to receive a grant for college tuition varies. But to qualify for federal student aid one needs to meet a few basic requirements. These are:
- Show financial need
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security number (with the exception of students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau)
- Be registered with Selective Service
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school
- Sign the FAFSA, committing to the terms
- Show you are qualified to obtain a college or career school education (E.g. show your GED or high school diploma)
Types of College Grants for Students
Grants for college are more often need-based but some are merit-based too. These grants may have a performance indicator. This might mean you need to maintain your GPA at certain level.
Merit-based grants often factor in an applicant’s grades, commitment to community service and leadership. Instead of your family income. Receiving one might add some prestige to your college transcripts. Your home state may have a variety of grants like this.
Federal grants that pay for college
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers a range of federal grants. These need-based grant programs provide free college money. They are usually for students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools. The amount of money each person receives may depend on:
- Your financial need (EFC)
- Cost of attending the college of your choice
- Enrollment status (full- or part-time)
- Length of Enrollment (full- or partial-year)
The EFC is your Expected Family Contribution. In other words, what you can afford to pay for college. State grants may boost your college fund too. This can help if your EFC is low, and your federal financial aid doesn’t cover your tuition.
To come to a number, an EFC asks for several things. Your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits. Benefits include unemployment or Social Security. It might also factor in in the size of your family and if more than one person will be attending college in the same year.
The four main types of federal grants that provide funds for college are:
- Federal Pell Grant. A grant usually awarded to undergraduate students so have not yet earned a degree
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). A grant some schools take part in that assist low income undergraduate students
- Teach Grant. A grant that helps pay for college if you plan to become a teacher in a high-need or low-income area
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. A grant for children of a parent/guardian who died in service in Iraq or Afghanistan
How do I apply for free grants to pay for college?
When looking for federal grants to pay for college, there are some steps to take:
- Fill out the FAFSA. Both federal and state governments give out college grants. To find out if you qualify and to become eligible, you need to fill out a standard form. This form is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The results allow colleges to figure out how much financial aid you qualify for. When filling it out, you’ll need your family’s tax returns, so plan ahead.
- Submit the FAFSA on time. One needs to file the FAFSA on or ahead of the June 30 deadline. But many states and colleges have earlier deadlines for financial aid. You can find your state’s deadline on the Federal Student Aid website. Check with your college to take note of theirs too. To remain eligible, every year you attend school, you’ll need to fill out a FAFSA, so mark your calendar.
- Wait for your financial aid letter. After you fill out your FAFSA and submit it on time, you wait for a financial aid award letter. These come from the colleges that accepted you. This award letter will tell you if you are eligible for any college grants or other financial aid. Like scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. You may accept all the aid offered to you but do not have to. In fact, it is a good idea to understand what the terms are so there are no surprises.
What other grants can I apply for?
Some organizations and corporations also sponsor grants. These grants often reward students who excel in high school and plan to study in a specific field. They may line up with colleges that have these programs. Or, allow a student to use the money at the college of their choice. Free college grant money may be available if you fall into one or more of the following categories too:
- Women. One example is the Career Development Grant. It is available through the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation (AAAUW)
- Minority groups. One example is the Wisconsin Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant. It is available through the State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board
- Foster care youth. One example is the VA Tuition Grant for Foster Care Children. It is available through the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia
State Grants that Pay for College
The Department of Education in your state may help you find grants to help you pay for college. Most states offer need-based college grants in amounts determined by your FAFSA. You may need to maintain a GPA, be a resident and/or pursue specific majors.
Top Grants for College
In addition to federal grants for college, many grants may be available within your home state. Here are the top grants that may help you pay for your college education.
- Athletic Scholarships
- College-Specific Scholarships
- Company-Sponsored Scholarships
- Grants for College
- Merit-Based Scholarships
- Military Scholarships
- Minority Scholarships
- Our Scholarships
- Religious Scholarships
- Scholarship Contests & Sweepstakes
- Scholarships by Major
- Scholarships by State
- Scholarships by Type
- Scholarships for Graduate Students
- Scholarships for High School Students
- Scholarships for Undergraduate Students
- Weird Scholarships
- $1,500 - I Have a Dream Scholarship
- $10,000 - Unigo $10K Scholarship
- $1,500 - Sweet and Simple Scholarship
- $2,500 - Superpower Scholarship
- $3,000 - All About Education Scholarship
- $1,500 - Fifth Month Scholarship
- $1,500 - Do-Over Scholarship
- $1,500 - Flavor of the Month Scholarship
- $1,500 - Make Me Laugh Scholarship
- $1,500 - Shout It Out Scholarship
- $2,000 - Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship
- $5,000 - Education Matters Scholarship
- $1,500 - Top Ten List Scholarship