In the 2019-2020 school year, 86 percent of students received some kind of financial aid. That includes federal loans, scholarships, and grants. But of the total grant money offered by the government each year, around $2 billion goes unclaimed.
So, what are three things you need to know about college grants and how to secure them? Let’s get into it.
1. Grants Differ From Scholarships
Like scholarships, you don’t have to pay back grants. But grants differ from scholarships in that they’re need-based as opposed to merit-based. That means your 3.9 GPA may earn you a scholarship, but your low-income status is more likely to earn you a grant.
Organizations, donors or alumni, or other sources beyond the university can provide scholarships. Grants, on the other hand, tend to come from federal, state, or organizational groups.
How to get grants for college differs from scholarships as well. Scholarships given by the school may not require reapplication. Outside scholarships are often only awarded once. But grants can be reapplied for year after year, depending on what kind of grant it is.
2. There Are Different Kinds Of Grants
Grants can be as small as $250 for books or large enough to cover the costs of entire semesters. But there are a few different kinds you should be aware of.
Federal Pell Grant
The most extensive grant source in the US is the Pell Grant, awarded by the US Department of Education. The Department provides Pell Grants to students from low-income families, and they range from a few hundred dollars to over $6,000.
To receive grants for college, your first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA takes into account your financial status. It also looks at the amount of help you may be able to receive from your family or other sources.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
You may also be eligible to receive the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. Awarded to students with high financial need, the FSEOG can be added to the Pell Grant you receive.
Besides grants and scholarships, you can also apply for federal work-study programs. To learn about how to balance work and school as a college student, read more here.
3. Grant Amounts Are Determined By Multiple Factors
College grant awards vary based on factors like expected family contribution (EFC). Tuition costs at your school, whether you’ll be attending full-time or living on campus play a role, too.
If your EFC, or the money you’ll receive from your family, is less than the total amount for the Pell Grant, you’ll likely receive aid. And the closer your EFC is to zero, the higher your award will be.
Finding College Grants
To find college grants, start by filling out the FAFSA. You’ll get an idea of what kind of federal loans you can take out as well as what grants you’re eligible for.
If you’re unsure about what aid to accept, speak with a financial aid officer at your university. And for more on how to prepare for college, visit our lifestyle section.