Starting the college application process can be more than a little daunting, especially when it comes to finding financial aid/ Knowing the difference between the various types of aid available can make the application process more time-saving and effective.
The type of aid that an entity (usually the government) gives to someone without needing repayment (as with a loan) is known as a grant. They are usually based on certain criteria like financial need, rather than being more merit-based like many scholarships (although merit-based grants exist). The first step to qualifying for grants in the United States is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is usually required from most post-secondary institutions anyway.
There are various types of federal grants available for students wanting to attend college. One well known federal grant is the Pell Grant. According to Federal Student Aid, students eligible for the Pell Grant have: not yet earned their bachelor's degree; have an acceptance letter to an institution as regular students; have U.S. citizenship or be eligible noncitizens; and have earned their high school diploma, GED, or an approved home school program.
The amount of aid received from Pell Grants is need-based. The government determines the exact amount after applicants have submitted both their own and their parents’ financial information. For reference, the largest amount the federal government awarded in an individual Pell Grants in 2017-2018 was $5,920.
Another type of federal grant is a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). This type of grant is reserved for those with outstanding amounts of financial need. Information filed through FAFSA will also determine financial need here. Students can receive anywhere from $100-$4000 per year from the FSEOG.
Other U.S. federal grants include the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants and Teacher and Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants, which can offer up to $3,736 and $5,529.28, respectively. The first grant is available for students who have parents/legal guardians who died in service in Iraq or Afghanistan post-9/11 and were 24 or under at the time of their deaths and/or enrolled in a college and did not meet the Expected Family Contribution requirements for the Pell Grant. TEACH grants are available to those intending to become elementary or high school teachers in a high-need field; in order to not pay this grant back, recipients of TEACH Grants must be a full-time teacher at least four years. Further information on eligibility is available on the Federal Student Aid site.
There are also a number of private grants available for individuals who are looking to start their college education. Interested individuals can find these grants through the Internet, by contacting their college for further information, or even looking through their state’s own grant agency.
There are plenty of private grants available to minorities, women, service members, and students with disabilities. These grants are available from a variety of organizations, such as the NAACP. In addition to these types of grants, there are also private merit-based grants and private grants for certain fields of study, such as photography, music, or the sciences. Lastly, there are private grants available for non-traditional students, such as individuals who are going back to school or perhaps have children while in college. The U.S. Department of Labor has a free scholarship locator search tool to help interested individuals get started in their searches.
Some institutions offer their own grants and vary depending on the specific college and program. Most people can see what type of grants (and other forms of financial aid) they are eligible for when they receive their financial aid award letters from the colleges they applied to. If this information is absent from this letter, students can always contact a college or university’s financial aid office to check for any available college-based.
Filling out the FAFSA each year is important so that financial aid can be renewed. Filling this application out as early as possible is important because some types of financial aid come with early deadlines or are on a first-come, first-serve basis only.