Grants for college are a form of financial aid that does not usually get repaid. They cover a variety of education-related expenses, such as tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies.
Grants along with scholarships are often called “gift aid,” or free money for college, but they are not the same. Scholarships are awarded for merit or talents, while grants tend to be given out based on financial need, although sometimes merit can come into play.
When it comes defining that need, the best thing to do is to take a closer look at the types of grants available.
Types of College Grants
The first step in applying to grants for college is understanding the different types. There are grants to help cover financial need or specific to demographics, major or location. Federal and state governments as well as schools and private institutions all have different kinds of grants for college students.
Federal grants are provided by the U.S. government for students attending colleges, universities, and career schools.
Here are the four main kinds.
- Pell Grant – For students who demonstrate economic need
- Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) – For to students who demonstrate exceptional financial
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant – For students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) – For students who agree to teach in a high-need field in an area serving low-income students
Pell grants are the most commonly awarded grant. Qualifications and award amounts change, so check the Federal Student Aid website for current information.
Individual state grant programs differ across borders, but all are intended for students who stay in state. Some are made to keep college graduates employed in their alma mater state and some are designed to keep high school students within the state school system.
State grants are awarded for a large cross-section of criteria. Like the TEXAS (Toward Excellence, Access, and Success) grant, which is for community college or technical school graduates going to a public university in Texas. The New York State Math and Science Teaching Incentive rewards grants for undergrads and graduates studying education who agree to teach within the state for five years.
The amounts states award vary, too. Georgia is generous, averaging above $2,000 per student, but the average award is only $500 in 21 other states.
Schools themselves are one of the best places to search for grants. According to the College Board, between 2010 and 2020, grant aid from schools increased by a whopping 72% with an average award of $17,250 per student.
Each school has their own specific grants, or private endowments earmarked for grants, that cover an array of eligibility requirements.
To name a few, there’s a grant for students who need help purchasing their own laptop at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Duke, Asian Studies students in need of funding to study in Asia can apply for the Janet Chiang Grant. In Washington DC, the Georgetown Athletics Grants-in-Aid offers funding based on athletic and academic potential to students in financial need.
With many different kinds of grants available from educational institutions themselves, research every opportunity possible.
Because private grants come from businesses and organizations outside of the government or school, they take a little more effort to find. A good place to start is with a scholarship search engines, but it can also pay to see what private institutions offer directly. A good rule of thumb is to follow your interests and crowd source ideas.
Here are where most private grants can be found.
- Philanthropic Institutions
- Professional Associations
- Corporations and businesses
- Advocacy Groups
- Religious Institutions
- Trade Unions
How to Get Grants for College
Because the process is time consuming, build a plan to collect all requirements before you start. Here are the three basic steps that get you there.
1. Fill Out FAFSA
All federal, state, and some school grants all require Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Some private grants may also need this information. The application opens the October the year before classes start, but deadlines vary by school and state.
2. Fill Out Additional Forms
States, schools, and private grants may require additional applications such as the CSS Profile, so be sure to ask and note all deadlines.
3. Compile Additional Information
Some grants require other documentation such as transcripts, letters of recommendations and personal essays. Find out everything needed, and start a file to keep things organized.
A Grant for College Covers Many Angles
Grants offer undergrads, graduates, and career students alike some of the financial resources needed to help cover the cost of college and build themselves a bright future.
Learn more about other financial aid opportunities for college.