The Ultimate Guide to Finding Grants for College

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For those who don’t know, grants are like scholarships. They’re money for college that you don’t have to pay back. And when you fill out your FAFSA each year, you’re being put in the running for both grants and loans.

One of the main factors that determines your eligibility for grants through the FAFSA is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). That’s the presumed amount of money your family can contribute to your college costs, regardless of whether they intend to pay. If your EFC is too high, you’ll receive loans, not grants.

Take a look at some of the many opportunities below, starting with federal grants you might receive through the FAFSA, followed by grants you can seek out if that leaves you empty-handed.

Federal grants for college

First of all, let’s talk about federal grants for college. When you’re filling out your FAFSA each year, these are the grants you could theoretically get.

State grants for college

Once you’ve exhausted your options for federal grants, your next option is to explore state grants. There are many ways to do this, but one of the easiest might be to contact your state grant agency.

With this map of state grant agencies from the Department of Education, you can easily find websites to lead you to more information on what your state has to offer. And if you come up short, give the organizations listed a call and ask if there are state grants for college you can apply for.

Grants from your school

The FAFSA is not the only way to get financial aid. You can also try filling out the CSS Profile. This is more in-depth than the FAFSA and can help you unlock additional funds for school, including grants.

This application does cost money. It’s $25 for your first application and $16 for each additional school. Unfortunately, not all schools participate. The CSS Profile can be a good way to see if a school you thought was too expensive might be able to give you more aid than others.

Grants for women

For much of history, women have not had the same opportunities as men. Luckily, many organizations have stepped up to support women’s education and career development.

Below are a few grants in support of that mission.

College grants for graduate school

When it comes to getting grants for your field of study, there are many you can take advantage of if you attend graduate school.

If you’ve already secured a fellowship for graduate school, this might not apply to you. But for everyone else, look to your college and professional organizations in your field to find graduate school grants to keep costs low.

And don’t forget to research student loan repayment assistance programs that might be helpful to you when you graduate.

Turn to scholarships when grants aren’t enough

Sometimes grants just aren’t enough to cover the cost of your college tuition. In that case, turn to scholarships.

Lehman College Assistant Professor and member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission, Sean Stein Smith, explains the subtle difference between scholarships and grants.

“Grants are generally awarded based on demonstrated financial need for assistance in paying for college, and can be awarded by the federal government, state government, or individual universities.

“Scholarships are, generally speaking, awarded using some sort of merit-based criteria, and can include athletic, academic, or artistic requirements. Scholarships can be awarded by a wide range of institutions, including colleges universities, foundations, and community organizations.”

You can also get scholarships just for being the unique individual you are. For example, there are scholarships for black studentsLGBTQ students, students who’ve survived cancer, and countless others. And this is just the beginning of how you can find free money for school.

Check here for more ways to earn more grants and scholarships so you can graduate with as little student loan debt as possible.

College grants are worth the effort

College enrollment is baptism by paperwork. It’s the first of many adult transitions that require you to sign stacks of forms, some of which you might not even fully understand. It’ll happen again with job offers, insurance forms, mortgage applications, and more.

“Form fatigue” might make it tempting to end the process with the FAFSA form, even if you only received offers for loans and not grants. But stopping there without looking for other grants for college means you could be walking away from free money.

Don’t let the deluge of paperwork prevent you from doing all you can to find college grants. The more free money you find now, the less student loan debt you’ll have later.

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount.  The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 11/4/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.


2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.50% as of July 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates for more information about interest rates.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

Citizens Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.90% – 11.16% (2.90% – 11.01% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school. 

Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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