Going to college is one of the most exciting times in your life. Yet, it can also be one of the most stressful. A common problem that college students face is figuring out how to pay for their college expenses.
In the United States, the student loan debt crisis continues to worsen. New college students are trying to find alternative ways to pay for college, without the use of loans. One solution to this problem is using federal grants for college.
Federal grants are one of the best ways to fund your college education. There are many grant options available, it can be hard to know where to find them.
That’s why we wanted to help you by putting together this guide about federal grants for college.
What Are Federal Grants?
Grants for college is free money. Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay them back.
Federal grants can help pay for any college expense such as tuition, books, and housing. They are also awarded to anyone who meets the requirements of the grant.
What Is the Difference Between Grants and Scholarships?
Many students believe grants and scholarships are the same things. While they are very similar they do have one difference. Most grants are need-based, while many scholarships are merit-based.
It is important to understand the difference between need-based grants and merit-based grants.
Types of Grants
Need-based grants are for students who experience the highest degree of financial hardship. In contrast, merit-based grants are for outstanding academic performances and personal success. Grants are also awarded for other criteria such as religion, ethnicity, and gender.
There are two types of federal need-based grants that are common. The first one is the Pell Grant.
The Pell Grant is the largest source of federal grants. It specifically helps out undergraduate students who experience a financial need.
A Pell Grant award is based on three requirements. The first requirement is your level of financial need. The second requirement depends on your status as a student.
The award is depends on whether you’re a full-time or part-time student. The third requirement is based on the cost of the school you choose to attend. The next need-based federal grant is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.
The FSEO is awarded to those low-income undergraduate students who can prove they have a financial need.
While you don’t have to pay this grant back, not everyone who proves financial need will be eligible. The reason being is the FSEO is only available to students at participating schools.
If you are planning to use either of these federal grants for college, you want to apply early. Needs-based grants are given on a first come first serve basis.
There are also federal grants that are merit-based with need-based components. The first one is the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant.
This grant was created to meet the demand for math and science. The basis behind this grant is to supports students who are pursuing majors in areas such as technology, engineering, math, and science.
It is only applicable to college seniors and juniors, who met those merits, and also in the financial need requirement.
The other federal grant that is both merit-based is the Academic Competitiveness Grant. It too has a need-based component. This grant is only applicable to college sophomores and freshmen.
This grant is for students who have a high GPA in a college program that is rigorous. This will include programs such as IB, AP, or honors. It also takes favor to those who have been studying a foreign language for a year or more.
Things to Consider When Searching for Federal Grants
The best way to find federal grants is to identify federal grants that are unique to your financial situation. For example, if you want to be a teacher, there is a grant you could apply for.
It’s called the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant. This grant is for students pursuing a teaching or educational administration degree.
Taking the time to research federal grants could improve your chances of receiving that grant. You want to find grants for your degree or academic affiliation.
While Federal grants are a wonderful funding option for your education it can also be helpful to look at state-specific grants. For instance, Florida’s Student Assistant grant. This grant is only for residing Florida students.
State-specific grants help cut applicants from other states. Making it less competitive than federal grants. It also doesn’t hurt to look for grants given directly from your school.
One thing to remember that if you are awarded a grant your college can choose how to disperse those funds to you. You can check with your school’s financial aid or accounts payable department to learn more.
How Do You Apply for Federal Grants?
To apply for a federal grant for college you are going to first fill out your FAFSA. This is known as a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This documentation will help determine your financial needs.
Once your FAFSA is complete you will receive a letter stating what type of grants you are eligible for. Again, federal grants do have a limit and they are first come first serve.
Your eligibility for grants is also depending on your Expected Family Contribution or (EFC). This amount is determined when you complete your FAFSA.
Where Will Your College Journey Take You?
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