Guide to Student Grants – How and Where to Find Them
Figuring out how to pay for college can be a challenge, especially if your parents can't help out financially. Luckily, there are options besides student loans. You may qualify for student grants, which are monetary awards that do not need to be repaid. The monetary awards from student grants are required to be used to help fund education at a college or university. Usually, grants are based on need rather than merit. So, how and where do you find grants?
Types of Student Grants
Overall, there are a few types of educational grants that aim to help students attend college or university. The most well known programs are federal grant programs. Other common grant programs include state run grant programs, college specific grant programs and private grant programs.
The most popular federal grant programs include the Pell Grant program, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant program, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant program and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program. Since most grants are awarded based on financial need, the best way to determine which grants you qualify for is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. These grants can be worth thousands of dollars. You can find more information about each federal grant program at the Federal Student Aid website.
State grant programs vary by each individual state. Some states use the FAFSA or a state specific form to determine grant eligibility. However, states may set their own deadlines for turning in the FAFSA or their state form, which may be earlier than the federal deadline. Additionally, some states have grant programs that award funds on a first-come first-served basis. Turning in your application as early as possible could help you secure more aid to attend college.
The best way to find state grants is to find your particular state's financial aid office and inquire about the availability of and process of applying for state grants. For instance, the Florida Student Financial Aid website details their state specific scholarships and grants as well as the process of applying for the awards.
College Specific Grants
Each individual college may run their own college specific grant program. Funding for these programs varies by school. Some schools may have many grants to offer while others have no grants to award at all. The best way to find these grants is by inquiring with the financial aid office at each school which you are considering attending. Make sure to ask about the process for applying for college specific grants. Some colleges may simply use the FAFSA form while others may have a different process which you must follow to apply for the awards.
Private grants are usually some of the more difficult grants to find. However, these grants offer a wide variety of possibilities for students. Private grants can come from public, private and even not-for-profit organizations that wish to help further the education of a specific group or field of study. A few examples of ways grants can be awarded, in addition to need, include a student's future career, course of study, ethnicity, gender, disability status or medical status.
To find these grants, you will have to do a bit of research. Use the internet to search for any particular qualities you may possess that could lead to a being awarded a grant. Searching only takes a few minutes for each in-depth characteristic, so search as many characteristics that you think may qualify you for a grant. Additionally, student financial aid offices at colleges may be able to point you in the direction of some of these grants if you ask and they are aware of them.
Additional Funding Options
If you can't obtain all of your funding through grants, you may want to consider federal or private student loans. You will have to repay student loans, unlike grants. However, using student loans along with grants for the right education can pay off with increased earnings in your career. Just make sure you compare all of your student loan options and shop around for the best student loans rates. A better student loan offer could easily save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of the loan.