All grants are money for college, free and clear. So pull out the stops and investigate the following sources for college grants. You might be very happy you did when you get your college bill!
If you have an above average financial need, you will probably be eligible for grants. Since they don't have to be repaid, they are just about the most desirable form of college aid.
The big player in the federal grant scene is the generously funded Pell Grant, intended for families with exceptional financial need. You apply for a Pell (and other federal grants) by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To keep most federal grants, you must maintain "satisfactory academic progress," which the government defines as a C average. Here are some specifics about the two federal grants with the most resources for undergraduates.
Pell Grants. The maximum award for the Pell Grant for the 2012–2013 award year (July 1, 2012–June 30, 2013) is $5,550 and the minimum is $555. How much you can get depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your costs to attend school, and whether you are a full-time or part-time student.
FSEOGs. Colleges award Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs) to students with the lowest EFCs. Priority is given to students who are also eligible for Pell Grants. Grants range from $100 to $4,000 and are awarded by the college based on the availability of FSEOG funds. Not all colleges participate in the program. The amount students receive is at the discretion of the college's financial aid office.
Many states offer their own grant programs for needy students. You must be a state resident and, in most cases, go to a state-supported public college (not required in California). Such grants may be guaranteed to students with a certain grade point average or class ranking in high school. They may also be earmarked for certain expenses, such as fees, books, and supplies. In some states you apply by simply filling out the FAFSA. Other states have separate applications, usually available through the college's financial aid office. Find out your state's application deadline, which may be different than the college's own financial aid deadline.
School-Based and Private Grants
Most colleges, especially private colleges, award grants out of their own funds. While financial need is the basic criteria for grants, colleges can adjust grant amounts based on the student's academic qualifications or other factors. Check with your college to find out the application process, if any. The best way to qualify for generous college-based grants is to be the kind of student the college wants to enroll.
Finally, government agencies, private organizations, companies, associations, foundations, and individuals also provide funding for grants. Similar to scholarships, they may be administered by the college or by the organization itself. Unlike scholarships, financial need is almost always a requirement. You can find such grants by searching online and by using CollegeData's Scholarship Finder.
Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.