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Applying for Grants

Like college scholarships, grants are free money awards that do not need repayment. Since most students qualify for grants, do your research and find out what you are eligible for. This will help keep your student loan debt manageable. Grants vary from hundreds of dollars to full-rides, so take advantage of grant opportunities. Apply early to maximize your opportunity for financial aid.

Know the Basics

The first step to applying for grants is completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which determines what the government expects from you financially. The results of your FAFSA is on the Student Aid Report (SAR), which describes what government, state, and institutional grants you are eligible for. Some state-sponsored and college-based grants require additional applications grant funding. Most have academic requirements. Pay attention to the directions of each award so you don’t submit an incomplete application. Funding levels of federal grants change annually, so do not miss the deadline. If you miss the deadline you will not get a grant. Apply early to avoid this issue.

Am I eligible?

Both student and parent income is considered with deciding financial aid amounts. Students with most financial need are eligible for the most federal funding. For example, most Pell Grant money goes to students with a family income below $20,000 a year. Those eligible for Pell Grants are also eligible for other grants, including the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant. Most colleges have extra funding available for low-income students.

Most grants are need-based, but there are grants that focus on student-specific characteristics. Popular grants are broken in 3 categories: federal, state and collegiate. Some private organizations and local groups also have funds to support higher education. Students who need to go to graduate school for their jobs have a lot of grant options. Most states offer grants to students based on specific criteria, such as race/ethnicity, area of study, or career path. Grants are very specific, so focus on grants that you most qualify for. Read the fine print. Some grants have conditions such as working in a specific field, specific location, or for a certain company for a specific number of years. Research every grant opportunity to maximize your chances of winning a lot of money.

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Last Reviewed: February 2020