a government building with a dollar background. This represents how to get a grant
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A Complete Guide on How To Get Grants for College

02.10.2022 • 10 min read

Nick Griffin

Subject Matter Expert

An overview of grants for college, what they are, types of grants, differences between grants and scholarships, and how to find and apply for them.

In This Article

  1. What Are College Grants?

  2. Types of Grants for Students

  3. How To Apply for a College Grant

  4. Finding State and Federal Grants

  5. Do Grants Have To Be Paid Back?

  6. Will Grants Be Enough To Pay for College?

Imagine you’re out on a walk and you come across a magic lamp.

As you rub the lamp in anticipation, a genie pops out to grant you 3 wishes.

Being a college student, one of them will undoubtedly be to have all your student loans disappear.

The good news is you don’t have to find a magic lamp to escape college without much debt. You might be able to achieve this magical feat simply by getting grants.

What Are College Grants?

Grants are gifted money you receive to go to college. This money does not need to be paid back, at all.

Grants are different from scholarships, which are merit-based—being particularly good at ‌‌one area.

Usually, to receive grant money you have to demonstrate financial need based on the information you report on your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

‌By filling out the FAFSA, you can earn thousands of dollars in grant money. Federal grants, state grants, and institutional grants all use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility.

Grant awards are put toward college costs first – tuition, fees, campus housing, and meal plans. Any remaining grant money is paid out to the student.

By applying for grants, you can save money in college and not take on a mountain of debt to head down your chosen path.

Types of Grants for Students

It’s necessary to be familiar with the types of grants you are being awarded. Some grants may have certain criteria built into them, such as maintaining a specified GPA or enrollment status.

Most of the time, grants are not guaranteed for more than one year. A student will need to fill out the FAFSA ‌each year they are in school to continue receiving grants. Again, this depends on the types of grants you are awarded.

The following is a general list of the most common student grants:

Federal Pell Grants

The federal government awards grants based on financial need and the cost of attendance reported on the FAFSA. Pell Grants are awarded to full-time undergraduates and award amounts can be as high as $6,495 per year for up to 12 semesters.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

Many participating schools offer these grants for low-income students who have exceptional financial needs. If your school participates and you qualify (based on your FAFSA), you can receive as much as $4,000 per academic year.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

These federal grants pay up to $6,495 per year for a student’s education who has had a parent killed because of military service in Afghanistan or Iraq since 9/11/2001.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

Undergraduate and graduate students ‌intending to become elementary or secondary teachers can receive grants through the U.S. Department of Education. These grants currently pay $4,000 per year for students to work in this high-need field. You must become a teacher after graduation or all the gift money is converted to a federal loan, meaning it needs to be paid back.

State Grants

Many states offer grants to students based on several criteria, such as financial need, intended major, or career path. Filling out a FAFSA and talking to your school’s financial aid office can open up a plethora of grant opportunities.

Private Grants

Several private organizations and nonprofits offer grants and scholarships to students based on their chosen career path. Eligible students can be awarded these funds to help move them into a specific industry or profession.

How To Apply for a College Grant

Since you know by this point ‌you want to go back to school, applying for grants is a straightforward process. Because most grants are government, need-based grants, you can apply for thousands of dollars in grant money through the FAFSA.

You may wonder if you can get more than one grant for college.

You ‌can and should apply for several grants outside those connected to the FAFSA.

Take these steps to‌ identify other grant opportunities ‌you could be eligible for:

1. Fill out a FAFSA as soon as you can

This application will tell both federal and state governments your financial need and automatically see what grants you qualify for.

2. Make an appointment with your financial aid office at school

They will tell you about other grant and scholarship opportunities available and show you how to apply. This great resource ‌is often underutilized.

3. Fill out a CSS profile through CollegeBoard

This free application asks several additional questions to the FAFSA, and hundreds of schools use the results to see if students qualify for additional grants outside the federal government.

4. Look into scholarships and work-study through your financial aid office

Millions of dollars are available to students each year who fill out college scholarship applications. Your school likely has a database they subscribe to for searching for and applying for scholarships you qualify for.

5. Decide how much ‌money in student loans you need to take out

After you receive all financial aid information—scholarships, grants, and loans—make the best decision for your personal situation. Many different types of student loans are out there; do your research before signing.

6. Continue to apply each year

Since financial information changes based on your lifestyle, you may qualify for grants ‌you did not receive the year before. Continue to reapply and check for any money available to you.

Finding State and Federal Grants

Looking for both state and federal grants is easier than most students think. ‌Many resources are available to find the funds you need to go to college.

Each college (even community college) has a financial aid office, usually part of business services. This office helps students find the money they need to stay enrolled. They will look at the information on your FAFSA to determine if you qualify for any known grant opportunities.

Some grant opportunities to explore include:

Armed Services Grants

These are available to veterans of all branches of the armed services and current active duty and reserve members. These funds, such as the GI Bill could pay for tuition, fees, room, board, and additional college-related expenses.

Degree-Related College Grants

Depending on the program ‌you are enrolling in, there may be grants available to you ‌which are merit-based or contingent upon work in a certain location post-graduation. Several private and non-profit grants are in this category as well.

College Grants for Minority Students

To remove minority gaps in certain industries, several states have increased college grant funding for minority students. Based on your ethnicity and program of study, there may be money available to help pay for college expenses.

Fulbright Scholarships

Funded by the US Department of State, Fulbright Scholars receive federal funding to come to school in the US as well as for US students to study in other countries. Thousands of students in several disciplines earn Fulbright Awards each year.

Professional Associations

Depending on where you are going to school and what field you are interested in studying, there may be several grants available to you. For students interested in going into a health field, you may qualify for the National Health Service Corps Grants or the American Nurse Practitioner Foundation Grants. A number of loan forgiveness programs exist out there for after you graduate.

Do Grants Have To Be Paid Back?

The nice part about grant money is ‌most is gift money without strings attached. Meaning you can spend your time focusing on your studies and not worry about paying back these funds.

‌A few exceptions exist with certain grants:

  • If your enrollment status changes, such as moving from full-time to part-time or withdrawing from college altogether.

  • Changing majors and your degree path was tied to the funding you received. An example would be getting a grant for nursing, then switching your major to education.

  • Have your GPA drop below the required minimum to receive the grant. Not fulfilling your obligation post-graduation. For instance, you received a TEACH Grant but did not get a job in education after graduating.

Most of the time, if you are expected to pay off the grant you are no longer eligible for, it will roll into a low-interest federal loan. A student in this situation may also be able to create a repayment plan with the grant issuer, should it be a private entity.

Will Grants Be Enough To Pay for College?

Grants are a wonderful option to pursue to help pay for college, but they are often not enough. You should apply for both grants and scholarships to reduce the amount of borrowed money you will need to pay for school.

Making sure you have adequate time to apply for and hear back from many financial assistance opportunities is ‌important. Start early, fill out your FAFSA, and find a good budget for college students by talking to others about how they managed to pay for their education.

Even if you have to take out private student loans to pay for college, remember, ‌going to school is an investment in you. By graduating, you will be more marketable in your chosen field and will make connections to propel you forward toward living the life you want.

A great way to reduce your college expenses is to consider Degrees+ Powered by Outlier.org. For only $149 per credit, you can earn an associate degree from the comfort of your own home.

Not only is Degrees+ affordable, but ‌also of the highest quality. Courses are taught by instructors at Golden Gate University using Outlier’s award-winning online platform.

All credits earned through Degrees+ are accredited and transferable should you wish to use your credits toward a bachelor’s degree in the future.

Students who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant could have all of their college expenses covered when enrolling in a Degrees+ associate program. Students enrolled through Outlier should fill out a FAFSA to see if they qualify for federal grants and student aid.

By combining the low cost of Degrees+ with grant funds you can achieve the financial freedom you dream of having after college.

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