How to Get College Financial Assistance with Student Grants

Most students graduating from high school go on to attend some level of higher education.

For many students, the biggest obstacle in selecting a college comes down to price.

Even attending a local community college is expensive. In addition to general tuition, you must factor in other costs, such as supplies, equipment and transportation.

Students who live on campus have additional expenses, such as room and board, and food.

While some students are lucky enough to get assistance from their families, this is not always an option.

Student loans are available, but many students are hesitant to accept them for fear of graduating and being in debt for the next 10 years.

Fortunately, student loans are not the only form of financial assistance.

Many low-income students attend college each year thanks to financial assistance provided from student grants.

Student grants are awarded based on need and are intended to help lower income students who have minimal access to financial aid.

Several types of student grants are available, each with different requirements.

Since grants are need based, most of the requirements relate to income.

Many grants do have secondary education requirements, while others are only available to students based on race, gender or their chosen profession.

Unlike loans, you do not need to pay back student grants.

More information on how you can apply and use student grants is listed below.

How to Complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Form

At a glance, applying for student grants looks like an involved process due to the number of grants available.

While every grant provides different benefits and has unique eligibility requirements, the application process is largely the same.

Most grants require you to submit a FAFSA application.

FAFSA is a universal application for most forms of financial aid, including grants, scholarships and certain types of student loans.

The FAFSA form is divided into multiple parts. The two biggest categories focus on your education and financial history.

The longer you have been in school, the more involved the sections are on your application.

If you are a high school student applying for college for the first time, you do not have as much educational information to present.

The financial section is still involved, and it largely focuses on your expected family contribution (EFC).

EFC refers to how much your family is reasonably able to help you with college.

Almost all student grants set a maximum EFC limit. If you are above the limit, you cannot qualify.

Every year, you must update your FAFSA form to reflect any income changes.

If you start working on or off campus, you must report your new income.

Your FAFSA application is saved online.

Completing the initial form is a lengthy process, but in future years it takes significantly less time since most of your information stays the same.

Learn About Federal Grants versus General Student Grants

While many types of grants are available, they fall within one of two categories: federal and general education grants.

Federal grants come directly from the U.S. Department of Education.

General student grants come from different sources, including schools, private or nonprofit groups and local state resources.

Both types of grants are helpful, but federal grants have a few distinct advantages.

Not all general education grants are useable at any college.

Federal grants are considered universal grants, which means you can use them at any college across the United States.

Because it appeals to a much larger audience, federal grants are designed with minimal requirements.

Most federal grants provide a generous amount of funds as well, though some private grants offer more financial assistance than others.

These larger grants are often available in a limited capacity, while federal grants are available to thousands of students every year.

Federal grants are convenient because they are compatible with most colleges, but they are compatible with other grants as well.

Many general education grants consider whether you are receiving other forms of financial assistance, which may make you ineligible for support.

Typically, federal grants do not look at any other forms of financial assistance you are receiving, allowing you to get even more financial support from educational grants.

Learn About the Federal Pell Grant

If you are planning to apply for a student grant, one of the best grants to start with is the Federal Pell grant.

Pell Grants are available to undergraduate students who have not received a bachelor’s or professional degree.

The amount you receive from the Pell Grant changes each year.

Typically, the maximum amount increases to reflect rising college costs. In previous years, the maximum amount was under six thousand.

The Pell Grant for 2019 graduates is $6,195, which increased by $100 from the previous year.

The exact amount you receive from the Pell Grant largely depends on your EFC, the school you are attending and whether you are attending college as a full or part-time student.

In some situations, students who are attending summer or winter courses in addition to the normal semester receive up to 150 percent of the maximum Pell Grant.

Colleges often refer to this as a year-round Pell Grant.

Some students receive additional funds from the Pell Grant if one of their parents passed away while serving in the military overseas.

These students use a modified EFC to determine their eligibility, which changes how much money they receive from the grant.

How to Apply for General Student Grants

Each state has different general student grants available.

This makes applying for general student grants more complex, since students must research dozens of grants, each with different eligibility requirements.

Some grants only require your FAFSA form while others have additional requirements, such as letters of recommendations or essays on why you deserve the grant.

Because some grants take longer to apply for, it is important to carefully manage your time.

If you know what college you want to attend, one of the best ways to apply for grants is to work with the college’s financial aid office.

This ensures you are only applying for relevant grants for the college you want to attend.

You can work with a counselor to help prioritize the most important types of grants based on your educational interests.