How to Get Grants for College

The cost of an education continues to climb, however, grants are a great way to offset a portion of your college-related expenses, and in some cases can actually cover the entire cost of an academic year.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of college-bound students from all walks of life are awarded college grants from a variety of sources. Like scholarships, grants are essentially “free” money and are not required to be repaid. However, they are somewhat different than scholarships in that they may not be directly related to merit, but rather based on just who you are.

For instance, you could obtain a scholarship based on your academic success in high school, or your athletic success as part of a high school sports team. A grant, on the other hand, might be awarded because you are a woman, or the daughter of a firefighter, or because you are African-American.

Grants are also available to encourage students to pursue degrees in a specific field such as teaching or nursing. While academic merit may be a factor in an organization’s ultimate decision, having less than stellar grades doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t qualify for a grant. The trick is to find the grant(s) that is best suited to your economic situation, your age/gender/ethnic background, and your chosen course of study.

Applying for Grants

Of course, the most important thing to remember about getting a grant for college is to actually apply. Before you can apply however, you need to do research. Research is a key element for getting a grant for college, as you want to make sure you are applying for the grant(s) that are best suited to your individual needs.

For many adults, grants may be necessary to go back to school after raising a family, serving in the military, or becoming displaced in the workforce due to a layoff. Timing is another key element. Because there is a limited amount of funding for both private and government college grants, and there is significant competition for available funding, timing is extremely important. You need to make sure you are submitting your grant application package(s) in concurrence with the stated deadlines.

Grants are available for State colleges and universities, as well as accredited technical and vocational schools. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is the nationally recognized accreditor for more than 800 institutions in the United States, as well as schools in more than a dozen foreign countries.

The ACICS is s recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Schools accredited by ACICS that are grant-eligible include institutions that offer certificate or associate degree programs in fields such as pharmacy technology, veterinary technology, health care management, and computer technology.

Types of Grants

There are numerous types of grants available, offered by both the private sector (most often via a non-profit foundation) and the government sector. Grants are available for young students that are continuing on with their education after high school, as well as older students that may be returning to school after raising a family or being laid off from their job.

Federal Grants: Federal grants are available based on financial need, merit, or a combination of both. Pell Grants are the most common type of grants available through the government and are available based on financial need. You must be a U.S. citizen to qualify for a Pell Grant, and must be pursuing your first undergraduate degree, or an approved postgraduate certificate, such as a teaching certificate.

Both full-time and part-time students are eligible for Pell Grants. Unlike many scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid, there are no academic requirements, making these types of grants particularly attractive to those that may not have had such a stellar grade point average in high school. You can only receive the Pell Grant for up to 18 semesters or the equivalent.

The funding for Pell Grants is allotted by Congress, and has been hotly debated in recent years, due to the overall downturn in the economy. For the 2010-2011 school year, the maximum annual Pell Grant award was $5500. More than eight million students received an award, with the average amount per person being $4,115. In 2012, a major change is in the works that will tie Pell Grant awards to the Consumer Price Index, resulting in an anticipated 15% decrease in the maximum available award.

An additional federal grant, known as the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) is also available, and is awarded based upon financial need. Federal grants that are awarded based on merit include the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program, the National Science Scholars Program, and the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program.

Institutional Grants

Colleges and universities often have their own grants designed to help students with tuition and other costs associated with getting a degree at their specific institution. They may be funded by an alumni association, private benefactor, or a variety of other sources. These types of grants may be based solely on financial need, or may have merit requirements to be eligible. There is no standard institutional grant award amount.

Students hoping to attend a particular college and needing financial aid should contact the school to find out the availability and requirements for their available grants. Institutional grants can cover a diverse array of studies.

For instance, Arizona State University offers a grant for their Jewish Studies program, while the University of North Carolina offers grants specifically for students interested in their School of Public Health. Institutional grants may also be available for children of student and faculty alumni.

Military Service Grants

A variety of federal, state and private grants are available to those that are currently serving in the U.S. military, as well as those who have been honorably discharged. In 2012, federal monies have been earmarked for military members who served specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9-11-2001.

In some cases, a grant may be available to a person based upon the branch of the military they served in, as well as a specific university. Such is the case for the military service grants available to Illinois National Guard members wishing to attend Illinois State University.

Private Grants

Private grants can include awards that are specific to an industry, profession or association. For instance, the National Society of Accountants offers grants for students who plan on majoring in Accounting, and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) offers grants to high school students who are members of a State chapter, and are wishing to concentrate their studies in agriculture-related fields.

Minority Grants

Minority grants include awards that are available based on a student’s ethnic or cultural background. Students that are African-American, Mexican-American or are members of a Native American tribe are a few examples of those that may be eligible for college grants which are available each year from funds designated for specific ethnic groups.

These types of grants can be federal, state or privately funded. For instance, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has been providing assistance for more than 65 years to students wishing to attend any of its 39 member historically black colleges and universities.

How to Apply

For the vast majority of available financial aid programs offered by federal, state or institution-based programs, submitting the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) application is the first step (and the most critical.) You can complete the application online or pick up a FAFSA booklet at most high school and college campuses. For high school, applications are usually handled through the school’s counseling programs. For college, financial aid offices are dedicated to assisting students with grant, scholarship and loan applications.

Take the time to thoroughly read the instructions associated with any application process. For FAFSA applications, directions for filling out and submitting the application, deadlines, and other pertinent information are available online as well as in the printed version. Before you start the application process, you’ll need to have several pieces of information readily available.

If you are applying for a grant based on your family’s income, you’ll need to have social security numbers and financial information (including tax returns) for your parents or spouse. If you are applying as an independent (someone who is not including family income for consideration), you’ll need your financial information only. Transcripts from high school or post-secondary institutions may also be required.

Completing the FAFSA

When you are completing a FAFSA application online, you have the option to save your work as you go so as to not lose any valuable information you’ve entered thus far, should you encounter a power outage or computer malfunction, have to stop to find additional information, or other time-related constraints. Just log back in when you have a stable connection or have additional time to commit to the application process, and proceed from the point where you left off.

Fill out the grant application or FAFSA completely and honestly, making sure to submit the final application package within the stated guidelines. One of the most common reasons for having a grant application rejected (or underfunded) is due to incomplete or incorrect information. Failure to comply with the time requirements could result in your application being automatically denied, forcing you to wait till the following year to resubmit.

Students can expect to receive the results of their FAFSA application within 2-4 weeks.

Grants that are privately funded may use an FAFSA application, their own similar application, or require additional information to complete an application package. Once submitted, it may take longer to receive your results than the FAFSA standard of 2-4 weeks, but any organization that offers college grants is required to clearly state all requirements and details related to their individual application process.

Where to Get Help Finding Grants or Completing Grant Applications

Attempting to get grants for college can seem extremely overwhelming, however, there are dozens of ways to find assistance in selecting grants to apply for, as well as completing the actual grant application process. For high school students, career and guidance counselors that are employed by the high school or district are an excellent place to start.

In general, colleges and universities have financial aid offices that are staffed with individuals that can help you navigate the grant process, and may be able to offer advice or resources that can be helpful for getting college grants in general, not just grants specific to their institution. Friends and family that have successfully completed their own grant applications are also a source worth utilizing. In addition, there are dozens of books and online resources available to those willing to take the time to read through the information.

Websites with More Information

Grants.gov is the first place to look for more information on federal grants.

The FAFSA online application is available at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/, as well as a vast amount of additional information on all types of financial aid that is available through the federal government.

ACICS Directory of accredited institutions

Directory of State-based College Scholarships and Grants

Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund awards financial aid to women who are 35-65 years old, U.S. citizens, and considered low-income

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30 Responses to How to Get Grants for College

  1. John Fears says:

    Im attending Westwood College in Midtown Ga, it has been said that our school prices has gone up once again, Im currently unemployed at the moment and have no other way to cover the cost for school and am doing so well up to this point and cant afford to be kicked out for not enough funds to cover me. Please consider helping me obtain funds for me to continue my education. Thank you

    • Will says:

      Go to the government website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

      All you need to have is your tax information and the school you are applying to.

      Fafsa is files every year. It offers people grants: free money, and loans: have to be paid back, to get an education. The earliest you apply the better.

      I have been in college for 5 years now and have gotten a lot of help with this. Send me an e-mail if you need more info. computer1animation@hotmail.com

  2. dawn calfa says:

    I am interested in how to go about to apply for a student grant or financial aid for my son. He has decided to go to college after taking a year off from graduating high school. Can you please give me some information on how to get started and what I need to do to apply. Thank you.

  3. Jeffrey Belton says:

    I am a 52 year old African American born and raised in New Jersey. In dire need of and education and possessing about 30 college credits. How or what do I do the get a Scholarship of Grants to complete my Education? Is there anywher you can direct me to at his time.

    Sincerely Yours ,
    Jeffrey Beltn
    142 Rosa Parks lvd.
    Paterson , New Jersey 07501
    973-523-9798

  4. Kenisha s.barkers says:

    I really am looking forward to going back to school for nursing itz my goal and itz my first time

  5. Autumn Ellison says:

    Hello, my name is Autumn Ellison. I am in need of grants and scholarships to pay for school. My mom is single and is in need for fianacial help to put me through college. Every little bit helps. Thank you.

  6. Hammed Shokunbi says:

    I will love to school in grant

  7. Juma Ruben says:

    Im Juma Ruben aged 21 years old, a South Sudanese by nationality, went to Uganda since in 2003 for , but unfortunateky with no one to help me in my studies. However, i have struggled to pay my slef from primary up to secondary level in which i have completed last year 2010.
    And am surppose to join university this year but for me to raise some money for going to university, has become very hard for and i will be very glad if my request is put under your consideration and help me to proceed with my studies.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Hello my name is stephanie, im 23 years old! i have been in the dumps in life and am trying to rebuild my life back up! i got my son taken away a few years ago to his dad and i’m trying to go back to school so that i can afford to get him back and get our life back in order the way it was! I currently applied at ashton university online! and im having trouble with the finances and i am currently unemployed! can someone please help me i would really appreciate it thank you!

    email me at steph052088@yahoo.com!

    sincerely,
    stephanie

  9. Sylvester Adjokatse says:

    i am from ghana and i want to continue my education i have struggled to pay my slef from primary up to secondary level in which i have completed last year2008 but
    money to university, has become very hard for and i will be very glad if my request is put under your consideration and help me to proceed with my studies. thank you.

  10. sr. ireen c.m.musonda says:

    am a zambian religious nun working in the remotest mission as enrolled nurse 11 years in servince,have been accepted to do a degree in nursing school opens on 9th jan 2012,tuition fee is $1200 per year the school is lusaka apex medical universty please help me

  11. Wendy Martin says:

    Please if anyone knows how to find a laptop for College Free PLEAE let me know. My husband and I have been laid off for over a year. My oldest daughter is living with us she is eighteen and working part time ..school full time, My husband is working part time and school full time and I am taking 5 classes a semester and trying to take care of the house, run them back and froth to work. When we are not in school we are running everywhere, I am so tired of trying to do homework, losing sleep all the time because I never have enough computer time. We can’t afford a new laptop or even a desktop. We have lost our house and are living in governmaent Housing, but no food stamps. Yes we pay a third of our income on our RENT, It is so hard if anyone knows of a way to get some extra help PLEASE contact us. We are trying so hard to better our lives, by improving our education Thank you so much! Have a great day!

    wendy_overton@yahoo.com is my e-mail address

  12. nadia says:

    I filled out all the info on FAFSA site, but they are asking for a fee of $100 which I cannot afford to pay. Can anyone give me some advice on how to go through with this process without paying so much fee.
    thanks for your support

    • Lucy says:

      If you are getting charged a fee, you went to the wrong site called fafsa.com. That is not the correct site- they are a service company that helps with fafsa applications only. You need to go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov which is the actual federal site to apply for aide.

      Fafsa is free to file and is usually processed within a week if you set up an electronic pin to file with.

  13. Ritu says:

    Hi, I am ritu from nepal.I am currently studying my bachelor in nursing and facing financial problem to complete it. I wonder if i could get any aids so that i will be able to complete my course. I will be glad enough for any help. Thanking all with great hope.

  14. Aychurok says:

    Hello . My name is Aychurok . I’m a fist year, at the english language of faculty,i want to study one of U.S.A’s collages, can u r help me to study one of U.S.A’s collage?

  15. Elio E Varona says:

    I’m 40 y/o and I just started studying Nursing, and I really need to find some grants and scholarships in order to pay my monthly school tuition. Please let me know about. My class lasts for 2 years and 3 months.

  16. Raquelle says:

    Hi my names raquelle i am currently a student in college and im trying to go forth with my education. i am studying to become a healthcare administrator. this has been my life long dream. i am a determined freshman fresh from high school and ready to take on huge accomplishments in my life. the only problem i face is with my finances. it it really hard to pay for school coming from a low income. so i would love to be approved for grant sand scholarships to pay for school. i promise to follow my dream when approved. so thank you very much for a chance to voice my situation.

  17. Andi McCaw says:

    I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Photography. Sadly though I am about to lose my funding and therefore have to drop out without my degree. If its at all possible, I’d like to get any assistance that I can.

  18. Emmanuel says:

    I would really love the humble government to help me in my pursuit to acquiring a complete Bachelor degree.

  19. Stephanie says:

    I’ve graduated high school in 2010 and am suppose to be going to Wayne State University in August. I live with my parents as of now and my father is not budging to file taxes because he owes. Well I know in order to get a little extra help, I need his tax information. I have a job but it’s part-time and doesn’t pay well. I definitely will not be able to make tuition in time. I barely get by on my paycheck as it is. Is there any way to get extra help without having my fathers tax information? Kinda sad he won’t help his own daughter…

  20. Butame Jean Claude says:

    I STRONGLY DO NOT BELIEVE IN GETTING GRANTS BECAUSE BEFORE DYING MY PATERNAL GRAND FATHER TOLD ME NOT TO BEG FOR FISH BUT TO INSTEAD PRACTICE HOW TO DO FISHING,I WISH I AM GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO STUDY IN THE U.S.A.

  21. keiana trejo says:

    hi i want to go to college (:

  22. Ernest Weaver says:

    Hi
    I’m a single minority father from Florida with a 19 year old daughter who would like to attend college in Ga. I’m desperately in need for some type of financial help or Grants so she can attend college this August we applied for Sallie Mae loan but was denied do to my credit and FAFSA would not cover everything could someone lead me in the right direction for grants.
    Thanks

    • Alonzo King says:

      My name is Alonzo King, I am currently enrolled at Renton Tech. This year I will be striding to achieve my associates degree. I gladly use some assistance from the government due to my lack of income. I will be a father next year in would love to succeed my career goal for me and my family.

      Thank you

  23. Ogulo James Emmanuel says:

    Hullo,

    Am from Uganda, Eastern region. I finished a higher diploma in Building and Civil Engineering in June 2012.
    Am looking for a scholarship/grant to help me attain degree in Civil Engineering course in one of the accredited Universities in Uganda starting August 2013 .
    I will be grateful for your help. God bless.
    Mobile:+256-772-824247.

  24. Joe Wilyard says:

    I am Writing to ask for help with my sons girlfriend. She came from LA with alot of hardship from her home life. Mom was not the best of moms. Casey (my sons girl) had a 3.2 gpa in high school. Casey wants to be an rn. Casey filed out the fasfa and her mom lied on it. It cost Casey her FASFA. Now she needs a loan for 6k. I am on disability and do not have the credit to help Casey. OR I WOULD. I am trying to sell my motorcycle to help but it won’t be in time(FEB. 4th 2013) nor will it be enough. Casey is all that and more. Casey is kind and smart with reachable goals. Please if you can help. contact us at my email @joewilyard@aim.com you wont be disappointed.

  25. Michelle Vanek says:

    I’m looking for scholarships and grants to help me with school. I think I would probably qualify for a few. I just need to know where to start. I’m a mother of six my husband got hurt and is unable to work so I will be the main bread winner. Times Native American or American Indian I just say Indian I’m also of Alaska native descent. Anut and all info would be greatly appreciated.

  26. Amani Mwaipaja says:

    My name is Amani Mwaipaja from Tanzania, I am currently enrolled at Atlantic International University for Bachelor of Sport Management This year . I gladly use some assistance from the government,Non Government organization , Company and an individual who will be able to assist me on fees. due to my lack of income doesn’t satisfy for for fees payment . I will be glad enough for any help. my email address mwaipajaamani@ymail.com

    Thank you and be Blessed

  27. Jon Schmidt says:

    Hello, my name is Jon, I’m 48 recently my position as a transportation coordinator was eliminated two weeks ago. My salary was primary to our household but, my wife is employed. We have 4 children at home, our oldest is handicapped and we have guardianship. I have technical certification and some college credits albeit almost 30 years old. In searching for employment I find those positions I could qualify for require degrees, which I do not have. My wife’s income is not sufficient to support our household and certainly not the costs of my returning to school. I am concerned that our past years tax returns will negatively impact grant applications though that income no longer exists.
    while I have attended training provided through work, I’ve not had experience with secondary education systems for many years and am aware there are many changes and opportunities available.
    My intent is to pursue a degree in computer technology. My questions, where to start? how to provide for my family and save out mortgage while pursuing a degree to become marketable again? I have heard something about grants that provide for living expenses during degree pursuits. I don’t know if this is a pipe dream or a realistic possibility. It’s my hope to find an institution that is accredited that will help me compile my past education and work experience of over 25 years to expedite obtaining a degree.
    I would appreciate positive advice in response.

    Thank you, God bless and Merry Christmas.

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