How to Apply & Qualify for College Grants

Worried about the cost of higher education? Whether you want to enroll in college, graduate school, or career school, there are lots of ways to reduce education-related costs. From financial aid and proper budgeting, to tuition credits and tax credit programs, there are plenty of ways to pare down your costs before applying for federal and private student loans. Here’s everything you need to know about how to reduce your college costs with federal and non-federal grants.

What is a College Grant?

Grants are essentially money (gift aid) that you don’t have to repay. Grants are need-based funds disbursed by one party (like the government or a foundation) to a recipient (like a college or student) to help cover out-of-pocket education-related costs.

Different Types of Grants For College Students

Grants are available for all levels of student from high school and undergrads to graduate and doctoral students. You can find grants that are specific to your state, discipline, student type, major, heritage, and more – there are financial aid categories for nearly everyone. A great place to start is by exploring the federal grant programs.

Federal grants should be one of the first areas to explore for students looking for financial aid assistance. Funded by the government, federal grants are instrumental in helping students pay for their education.

While there are many different types of federal grants available, the Pell Grant is the most popular.

What is a Federal Pell Grant? How to Qualify & Apply

Pell Grants are federal grants that do not need to be repaid, and the amount that’s awarded is based on financial need.

Eligibility for the Pell Grant is determined by the federal government and based on financial need. Aside from that main qualifier, the applicant must be a high school graduate or have a GED and be an undergraduate student who hasn’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree (some exceptions do apply). The only way to apply for the Pell Grant is to complete the FAFSA application each year (see “A Simple Guide to Completing the FAFSA“). If the FAFSA is not filled out, that award year’s cash is unavailable.

While the Pell Grant is the most recognized, there are other types of federal grants available.

These are:

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) – For undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.

  • Teacher Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants (TEACH) – For undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, or graduate students who will commit to filling a teaching position in an area of need.

  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants – For students who lost a parent or guardian as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Non-Federal Grants: How to Qualify & Apply

Non-federal grant programs and options take a little more work to find, but there are a few to explore. Some are research – and study-based, offered by application only. The Fulbright U.S. Student Grant is one prestigious example of this type of discretionary grant. More of these types of grants are available, but they are awarded using a competitive process.

Aside from federal grants, there are some private grants available to students by subject, degree level, minority, and student type, as well as grants for the disabled, military, and low-income ( The key to finding the right grant options for your education is to search early and always fill out your FAFSA application (10 Common FAFSA Errors to Avoid). Once all the award letters have come in, you’ll have an amount to work with and can start planning your budget and assessing whether you need more financing, like student loans.

What Costs Do Grants Cover?

Grants like the Pell Grant are designed to cover a variety of education related costs which include; tuition and fees, textbooks and supplies, and Living expenses such as room and board.

Find More Ways To Earn Money for College

Scholarships are a great way to cover education costs. Like grants, scholarships are considered “gift aid” and do not need to be repaid. The main difference is that grants are often need-based while scholarships are merit-based. Make sure you research available grants and scholarships before taking on student loans.

Remember, always fill out a FAFSA before pursuing loan options and explore the federal and private grant opportunities that are out there when planning for college, graduate school, or career school. There are plenty of options for reducing your education costs, and grants are just one of them.

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