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How To Get A Grant For College

Updated on June 22, 2013
Why pass up free money for school?
Why pass up free money for school? | Source

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What Is A College Grant?

Before we get started, let's answer the first obvious question: "What is a college grant?" Well, to grant literally means to consent, or to give, so a college grant is a form of student aid in which you are given a certain amount of money towards your education. Unlike some college scholarships though, grants are not awarded to you through a check you can cash, they are set up much like the student loans are. Of course the difference being that you do not have to pay them back.

So now that we have an idea what a college grant is and how they are used, let's go ahead and look at some of the main different types of grants for college that you can get.

Federal Pell Grants

Chances are, if you know anything about college grants at all, or you've ever sat through a financial aid meeting, you either know about the Pell Grant or you have at least heard of it before. The Federal Pell Grant is the largest allotment of grant money that the US Government gives out to college students each year. Pell Grants are however, based on needs, and by a first-come, first-serve basis. The needs are based on your results from your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

One great thing about the Federal Pell Grant is that if you qualify for it, it pre-qualifies you for numerous other grants, depending on your field of study, like the Academic Competitiveness Grant or the National SMART Grant.

What is FAFSA? FAFSA is the government's official website which largely determines who is eligible to receive any type of financial aid toward their college career. Filling out the application for federal student aid will require the previous year's tax returns, and for younger students still living at home, their parent's tax returns as well. While many colleges make filling out the FAFSA a requirement for enrollment, it is very beneficial to you to fill it out even when they don't require it, like at a community college. Even if you don't think you'll qualify for any student aid, you'll be surprised, and even if you get a small amount of aid, seeing the difference of how much you will have to pay for your education will be a load off of your shoulders.

You can fill out the FAFSA and get more information on it HERE.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants

These types of grants are much like the Federal Pell Grant, only they are reserved for the students who need it the most. Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants can be awarded on top of Pell Grants, and currently range from amounts of $100 up to $4000. Just like the Pell Grant, in order to qualify for one of these grants, you must completely fill out and submit the FAFSA before consideration.

State Grants

Most of the states also offer grants to students as well. Much like the two federal grants above, state grants are based on needs most of the time, but sometimes they will offer free money for college for studying in certain fields or areas, as well. State grants can also be given on top of the federal grants, and for qualifying students, that can be a huge burden! You can get information for your state and what type of grants are available to you simply by searching "YOURSTATE student aid". For example, I live in California, and my state grant information is found at www.csac.ca.gov and www.calgrants.org.

Institutional Grants

Institutional Grants, as the name suggests, are grants that are handed out by the college itself. The reason colleges hand out institutional grants is based solely on their own decision. While in some cases, it can be based on needs, they are usually given out to possible students they want to have attend their college. When a candidate for a student shows that he or she may be able to contribute something good for that college, they will often try to lure them in with an institutional grant, offering to pay some of their loans for them if they attend that college. For information about institutional grants, you would have to contact the college directly (usually the financial aid department), to see if they offer anything like this and if one would be in reachable attainment to you.

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How To Get A Grant For College

Now that we know what the main types of grants are, you want to know how to get a grant for college tuition, right? The main thing you need to do is to fill out that FAFSA form that we talked about earlier. The earlier in the calendar year you can fill it out, the better. You can submit it anytime for that year starting January 1st. For instance, if you know you are going to be attending college sometime that year, even if you won't start until the fall semester, it is best to fill it out as soon as you can. You can either do it from home, or set up a meeting with your college's financial aid department to help you fill it out and inform why certain information is needed in the application.

That brings up the second thing you should do when learning how to get a grant for college: speak with your school's financial aid department! Even if you aren't yet an enrolled student with them, they will gladly set up a meeting with you to talk to you about all your options. Trust me, you are not waste their time by meeting with them if you aren't a student. They too, are trying to recruit students, and by you voluntarily coming to see them, makes their job of recruitment a whole lot easier. Any college's financial aid department is trained to know everything there is to know about grants, whether they be based on needs or specific study fields.


So if you are considering going back to college to finish your education, or start something new, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with any and every college you are considering. Sometimes you may have been able to qualify for a free chunk of education unknowingly, and you wouldn't want to pass free education up, especially with the constantly rising prices of tuition!

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