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How Grants Help You Pay for College

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All grants are money for college, free and clear. So pull out the stops and investigate the following sources for college grants.

Grants don't have to be repaid, so they are just about the most desirable form of college aid. Unlike scholarships, grants are almost always awarded based on financial need. If your financial need is above average, you will probably be eligible for grants.

Grants from the Federal Government

You apply for a federal grant 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.

The Most Generous Federal Grants

  • Pell Grants. The big player in the federal grant scene is the Pell Grant, intended for families with exceptional financial need. The maximum award for the Pell Grant for the 2018-2019 award year (July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019) is $6,095. 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. Students can receive Pell grants for a maximum of 12 semesters.
  • FSEOGs. Colleges award Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs) to students with the lowest EFCs. Average loan amounts vary from college to college, usually anywhere from $100–$4,000. Not all colleges participate in the FSEOG program. Once the college has depleted its FSEOG funds, it can't make further awards that year.

Grants from Your State

Many states have 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 some states). 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.

Grants from Your College

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 the most generous college-based grants is to be the kind of student the college wants to enroll.

Grants from Everybody Else

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.

What's Next?

Search for private grants online by using the Scholarship Finder.

Learn about the close cousins of grants: scholarships.

Financial information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any financial content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with a financial or tax advisor, or your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.