Grants: the Other Way to Get Free College Money

Grants: the Other Way to Get Free College Money

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a personal finance writer and speaker with a background in financial literacy, student loans, credit scores, and investing. She's a three-time nominee and finalist for Best Personal Finance Contributor at the Plutus Awards. Zina paid off $28,000 in student loans in three years. Holding a bachelor's degree in journalism from Indiana University, she has worked for newspapers, magazines, and wire services. Her byline has appeared in Indianapolis Monthly, the Commercial Appeal, and the Associated Press, and as an expert, she's been featured in the Washington Post, Forbes, Fox Business, and Time. Additionally, Zina is a Certified Financial Health Counselor and Student Loan Counselor.

When it comes to financial aid, there are two types that tend to be seen as the most desirable: scholarships and grants. But while most people are familiar with scholarships, grants are less well understood.

In this article, we'll break down the basics of how grants work and go over some of the most common grants you may be eligible for.

What is a grant?

A grant is like a scholarship in that you do not have to pay it back. However, qualifying for a grant is usually much simpler than qualifying for a scholarship.

Grants usually have lower GPA requirements, but many have a financial need component. Unlike scholarships, they rarely require essays or recommendation letters.

Federal grants

To apply for federal grants, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most federal grants require that students show financial need to be eligible.

After completing the FAFSA, you may be eligible for the following federal grants:

Pell Grant

The Pell grant is the most common federal grant. The annual amount ranges from $650 to $6,895. The exact amount you receive depends on your family’s financial situation.

Grant eligibility may change from year to year because it’s a reflection of your most recent FAFSA. For example, if one of your parents loses their job, you may qualify for more aid because your FAFSA will show a lower total household income.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

The annual amount for the FSEOG is between $100 and $4,000. Unlike the Pell grant, FSEOG funds are limited and first come, first served, so students are advised to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. If you delay in completing the FAFSA, you may not receive FSEOG funding - even if you would otherwise qualify had you applied earlier.


The TEACH grant is given to students who are receiving a postsecondary teaching certificate or degree. The TEACH grant is the only federal grant available for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can receive up to $4,000 per year.

The TEACH grant requires that teachers work in a low-income school in a high-need field for four years after graduation. You have eight years to complete the requirements. If you do not meet the employment requirements within that time frame, the entire grant amount will be converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is given to students with a parent or guardian who was killed in military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11. To qualify, you must have been 24 or younger or enrolled in college at least part-time when they were killed.

Only students who are not eligible for the Pell grant may receive this grant. If you do not qualify for the Pell grant, you will receive the full amount, which is $6,895 for the year.

State grants

State grants are almost always only given to students attending school in-state. Most state grants are given to undergraduate students, but some may be available for graduate students. For example, Colorado provides grants to both undergraduate and graduate students as long as they meet financial need requirements

Some states only provide grants to students with demonstrated financial need, while others provide grants to all students who qualify based on GPA and residency requirements.

Some states have an unlimited amount of funding for college grants, while others only provide grants on a first come, first served basis.

Like federal grants, many state grants require that students submit the FAFSA to qualify. They may also have another application that students must complete to be eligible.

You may want to visit NASFAA to find information about your state’s grants. Make sure to note the deadline; it may be earlier than your school’s financial aid deadline. Also, if your state has a limited amount of funding, then you should submit the application as soon as possible.

Grant Eligibility

You must attend an accredited school to qualify for federal and state grants. You may search the DAPIP to determine whether your school is eligible.

Make sure to complete the FAFSA by the school’s financial aid deadline. If you’re an incoming student and are applying to multiple schools, pick the school with the earliest deadline and stick to it.

The grant amount may also depend on whether you’re attending school part-time or full-time. To keep your grant eligibility, you generally need to be making satisfactory academic progress (SAP). This usually entails having a 2.0 GPA or higher and actively working toward a major.

We make it simple and match you to college scholarships you qualify for.