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Home Scholarships College Grants How to Apply for Grants for College

How to Apply for Grants for College

Financial aid comes primarily in two forms: gift-aid and loans. Gift-aid typically does not need to be paid back and is essentially free money. Scholarships and grants are both free money and are considered gift-aid. Loans on the other hand, do need to be paid back, usually later, and with interest. The federal government and private institutions offer student loans, often with lower interest rates, making the overall cost typically less than a standard personal loan. 

When it comes to choosing how to pay for college, take advantage of any grants offered to you because this means less money out of your pocket will have to go towards paying for your education. Many grants are offered through the federal government. Completing the FAFSA can be a good starting place in helping you apply for and receive a grant to help pay for school.

Paying for College

The cost of attending college can vary widely from your local junior college to a prestigious private university. Only you know and understand what kind of financial impact each option may have for you but know that you may also be able to access free money to help ease the cost. 

More >>> Compare the Cost of Attending Different Colleges

The Differences Between Grants and Scholarships

There are a few additional terms you may run into when looking for scholarships and grants, “merit-based” and “need-based.” This is where you will find the main difference between a grant and scholarship. 

Grants—often considered need-based, are generally awarded based on the financial economic status of your family. Grant programs tend to award funds to low-income students who are looking to complete higher education. All federal grants, and many state, or institutional grants are determined by your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Check out Do I Have to Pay Back Grants? for more insights

Scholarships—can be need or merit-based.  Merit-based scholarships are often sponsored by private or public organizations, local schools or non-profit entities, businesses, and even your college or university. Scholarships can be awarded based on different skills, talents, abilities, or even academic scores. Some scholarships have an application with an accompanied required essay. Scholarship committees work to choose the student they believe is most worthy or qualified to receive the award money. 

Athletic scholarships are awarded by university-sponsored teams based on anticipated contribution to the team. Depending on the athletic association and division, the school and coaching staff will determine how much each sport can award players. Contact coaches to further discuss financial aid packages that may be available to you. 

Grant or scholarship amounts vary and can range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. This money can be used for school tuition, fees, books, housing, and other costs associated with attending school. 

Filling Out the FAFSA for Grants

When it comes to grants, you will want to fill out the FAFSA so your college or university can determine how much financial aid you are eligible for. Your grant eligibility will vary school to school. All schools have different costs, and those costs could affect your eligibility for a grant. Once you get your acceptance letter, you will get your financial aid award letter shortly after. Your award letter will let you know what grants and other types of financial aid you are eligible to use to help you pay for your upcoming academic year. 

Typically, you can expect to receive your financial award letters in March or April, around the same time many schools send out their acceptance letters. 

More >>> FAFSA Deadline Dates for 2022

Understanding your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The FAFSA uses the information you provide on your application and determines your EFC . The higher your EFC, the less financial need you have. If you don’t have much financial need, you may not be eligible for need-based grant funds. However, you may be eligible for some student loan options. 

Schools will send you financial aid award letters notifying you about what financial aid is available to you. Even if you don’t know where you plan to attend school, you can complete the FAFSA as soon as it opens! You should fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible to be able to access the most amount of money. If by chance, your financial aid award letter doesn’t include any grant funds, and you are having trouble paying your tuition bill, it may be time to have a discussion with your financial aid office to see if they can offer any additional funds. If there has been a major change to your financial situation since you completed the FAFSA, you may be eligible to request a financial aid appeal. 

Making Sense of Federal Grants

If federal grants are available to you, they should be listed in your financial aid package letter. These funds will usually be sent directly to the school, and your school will disburse those funds based on their disbursement schedule. Most often, grants are disbursed in two or more disbursements, one at the beginning of your school year and again around the midpoint.

MORE>>>When Will I Get My Financial Aid

Common federal grants: 

Pell Grants: these grants make up the largest and most common source of federal grant money. They are only awarded to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need. 

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): this grant is intended for undergraduate students from low-income households who also receive Pell Grants and are determined to have exceptional financial aid. Not all schools participate in the FSEOG. 

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: applicable to undergraduate and graduate students who agree to teach at a low-income school in a high need field for four years, in a TEACH Grant eligible program. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: available to undergraduate students  who had a parent or legal guardian pass away due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. You must have been either 24 years old or younger at the time of their passing or enrolled at least part time in college. 

What if I Do Not Receive Any Grants?

Depending on your school’s cost of attendance and the information you submitted on your FAFSA, you may or may not receive federal grant money. There is more money available other than just grants, such as work-study programs and scholarships, federal loans, and private loans.  Scholarships such as those available on can also assist in providing gift-aid with three $1,000 monthly scholarships and four $10,000 yearly scholarships. 

With some work searching and applying, reaching your college dreams is possible!

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