If you’re wondering how to get grants for college, welcome to the maze of financial aid. Take the right route, and you could secure funds via the government, directly from your school or elsewhere. Get lost, and you could find yourself having to rely on student debt to meet your cost of attendance.
To ensure you head in the right direction, let’s review how to apply for college grants and where to find them. We’ll also cover turning to scholarships, when grants aren’t enough.
For those who don’t know, grants are like scholarships. They’re money for college that you almost always don’t have to pay back. And when you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, you’re put in the running for both grants and student loans.
One of the main factors that determines if you’re going to be offered grants through the FAFSA is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). That’s the amount of money it’s presumed your family can contribute to your college costs (regardless of whether they intend to pay). If your EFC is too high, you’ll be given loans, not grants.
Of course, not all grants show up automatically on your school’s financial aid award letter. Take these steps to ensure you’re not missing out on grant opportunities:
- Complete federal and state financial aid forms: The FAFSA and your state’s equivalent are the gateway to grants and scholarships, and it’s worth filing them even if you think your parents make too much for financial aid to even be possible.
- Check eligibility requirements: Like other forms of financial aid, grants carry specific criteria. Ensure you meet a program’s rules before going to the trouble of step 3.
- Compile your application materials: Some grant programs rely exclusively on your FAFSA or other financial aid forms, while others might have scholarship-like requirements, including grade transcripts, recommendation letters and personal statements.
- Look beyond your school’s aid package: Whether or not your school’s offer letter contains grants for college, seek out grant (and scholarship) money that isn’t initially awarded and can be found using resources we’ll review below.
Whether through the government or your school or for your unique background or degree program, there are various grants for college and graduate school available nationwide. Start with these resources:
- Federal grants for college
- State grants for college
- Grants from your school
- Grants for women
- College grants for graduate school
When you’re filling out your FAFSA each year, these are the federal grants you could theoretically be awarded:
- Federal Pell Grant: For students acquiring a bachelor’s degree or post-baccalaureate teacher certification who have exceptional financial need
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: Also for undergraduates with exceptional financial need (it’s also first-come, first-served, and not all colleges participate)
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: For students who lost a parent in active duty military service after 9/11, and who have also been deemed ineligible for the Pell Grant
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: For undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate students pursuing a career in education and willing to sign on for at least four years of work in a high-need school; not all colleges participate
- Academic Competitiveness Grant: A merit-based and need-based grant for college freshmen and sophomores
- National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant: College juniors and seniors can apply for this merit- and need-based grant
Once you’ve tapped out 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.
Our complete guide to state grants for college also lists opportunities. Only Nevada, New Hampshire and Utah are among states that don’t have active grant programs available for resident students.
Most state grants are need-based, but some states have grant programs specifically for:
- Students in Advanced Placement or dual enrollment programs
- First-generation students
- Minority students
- High-achieving students
- Students pursuing an in-demand career
- Graduate or professional students
- Adults returning to school, perhaps on a part-time basis
- Children of public servicemen and women
Again, your state’s grants are likely accessible only after you complete the FAFSA and your state’s unique financial aid application (if it has one).
The FAFSA is not the only way to get financial aid. You can also visit the College Board to fill out the CSS Profile, which goes more in-depth than the FAFSA and can help you unlock additional funds for school, including grants.
This application does cost money, though. It’s $25 for your first application and $16 for each additional school, although application fee waivers are available.
Unfortunately, not all schools participate. Still, 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.
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 college grants for women in support of that mission:
- American Association of University Women (AAUW) Career Development Grants: For women who have a bachelor’s degree but want to take classes to further their careers
- Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award: For women with financial need that provide financial support for their family (can be children, spouse, siblings, and/or parents)
- The Education Support Award from the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation: For low-income mothers pursuing a degree or vocational training
- The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education (PCE): For women whose education was interrupted and need to return to school to support their families
|Read up on other grants for…|
|● Black women
● Graduate students
● Adults returning to college
● Female entrepreneurs
● Paying off student loans
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’s financial aid office
- Your state’s higher education authority (see state grants for college, above)
- Professional organizations in your field
- Scan search engines like the Labor Department’s CareerOneStop
Grants not enough? Before you resort to student loans for your second degree, consider other financial aid for grad school.
Sometimes grants just aren’t enough to cover the cost of your college tuition. In that case, turn to scholarships.
Like grants, scholarships are a form of gift aid that only needs to be repaid in rare scenarios, such as dropping below half-time enrollment or not meeting a certain grade point average.
Unlike grants, however, scholarships are typically…
- Merit-based, meaning that you up your chances of winning one by being a top student or athlete or by taking on extracurriculars
- Found outside the government sphere, mainly from school endowments, private foundations and community-based organizations
You can also get scholarships just for being the unique individual you are. For example, there are scholarships for cancer survivors.
Ask yourself how you stand out from the pack, and seek out scholarships that fit your identity, interests and achievements.
|Read up on scholarships for…|
|● High school students
● Current college students
● First-generation students
● Asian students
● Black students
● Latino and Hispanic students
● DACA students
● Minority students
● Community service
● Military service
● Professional development
● Single parents
● Single moms
● Nursing school
● Medical school
● Criminal justice
● Computer science
● Studying abroad in Japan
● Studying abroad in Canada
Applying for college grants worth the effort
College enrollment is like a 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 were only offered loans and not grants. But stopping there without looking for other grants for college means you could be walking away from money for school.
Don’t let the deluge of files prevent you from doing all you can to find college grants. The more money for college you find now, the less student loan debt you’ll have later.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
|3.99% – 14.86%1||Undergraduate|
|3.58% – 12.28%2||Undergraduate|
|4.49% – 13.82%3||Undergraduate|
|4.62% – 14.96%4||Undergraduate|
|0.00% – 23.00%5||Undergraduate|
|3.25% – 9.69%7||Undergraduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community 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.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay 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.
Information advertised valid as of 12/1/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Interest Rate Disclosure: Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.24% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 3.83% APR to 12.53% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.
Auto Pay Disclosure: You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment from a checking or savings account. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.
Loan Cost Examples: Earnest’s Loan Cost Examples: These examples provide estimates based on principal and Interest payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $118.28) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $21,290.40. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $126.82) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $22,827.79.
These examples provide estimates based on interest only payments while in school. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $145.41) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $26,173.03. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $156.59) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $28,186.67. Your actual repayment terms may vary. Other repayment options are available.
These examples provide estimates based on fixed $25 payments while in school. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $169.92) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $30,584.74. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $188.42) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $33,915.55. Your actual repayment terms may vary. Other repayment options are available.
These examples provide estimates based on deferred payments. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $174.79) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $31,462.16. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $193.75) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $34,874.28. Your actual repayment terms may vary. Other repayment options are available. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.
Loan Eligibility criteria: Eligible students must: 1) For college Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school full-time. For college Seniors and Graduate students, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school at least half-time; and 2) be pursuing a Bachelor’s or Graduate degree. Earnest private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information, self-certification of loan amount, and school certification.
Before applying for private student loans, it’s best to maximize your other sources of financial aid first. It’s recommended to use a 3-step approach to assembling the funds you need: 1) Look for funds you don’t have to pay back, like scholarships, grant and work-study opportunities. 2) Next, fill out a FAFSA® form to apply for federal student loans. Federal student loans do not require a credit check or cosigner, and offer various protections if you’re struggling with payments. 3) Finally, consider a private student loan to cover any difference between your total cost of attendance and the amount not covered in steps 1 and 2. For more information, visit the Department of Education website at https://studentaid.ed.gov.
Earnest Private Student Loans are made by One American Bank, Member FDIC. One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104.
Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC, 535 Mission St., Suite 1663 San Francisco, CA 94105, NMLS #1204917, with support From Navient Solutions, LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by agencies of the United States of America.
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3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.99% to 14.75% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 4.49% to 13.82% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 5.25% to 14.48% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 4.99% to 13.82% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 6.50% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 13.88% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 11/14/2022.
4 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for Edly.
1. Loan Example:
About this example
The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.
2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.
Funding U Disclosures
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.