Some college grant programs are open to all students regardless of background or field of study. These are considered General Grants, and typically are decided according to financial need and academic performance. A great number of college grants, however, are designed to target specific portions of the population or students pursuing particular degrees or career paths. These can be broken down into the following categories.
Student income, parental income and assets, and total family size are used to compute your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is included on your personal Student Aid Report (SAR), which spells out your anticipated college financial needs. Your SAR is shared with the schools you choose, where financial aid offices evaluate your eligibility for grants, loans, and other forms of student assistance. Your individual financial aid package, which often includes federal grants, is issued in a formal ‘offer letter’ from each university.
Many organizations, professional associations and advocacy groups have developed a wide range of grants designed to help women take their rightful place in America’s halls of higher education. Grant programs for women are designed to encourage female students to pursue degrees, and careers, in a wide range of fields in which they have been historically under-represented. Education grants for women typically focus on disciplines in need of greater diversity, such as science, mathematics, technology and business.
Filing your FAFSA gets the ball rolling on lots of financial aid opportunities, but additional grants are available that might require separate applications. Your state and other grant foundations put forth narrowly defined student gift aid every year. Your location, ethnic background, and even your parents’ employer could lead you to the college grant funding you need.
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant picks up where the Academic Competitiveness Grant leaves off—providing funding for low-income third and fourth year college students. Eligible students must be Pell Grant recipients, academically talented and majoring in STEM fields or high need foreign languages. SMART Grant annual maximums are up to $4000 per qualified student.
Grants for college students fall across two broad categories, depending on what eligibility requirements are attached to the funds. Need-based grants are issued to students exhibiting the greatest levels of financial hardship in paying for college. On the other hand, merit-based grants are tied to performance-like good grades and other personal achievements.
If you qualify for financial aid at the federal level, there is a good chance you are in line for similar treatment from your home state. The Federal Pell Grant Program is an iconic tuition initiative that provides financial needy students with college money that doesn’t require repayment. States run similar programs, so if you’re eligible for a Pell Grant, you might also qualify for state grant money.
Asian-Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic populations in the United States. While Asian immigrants have been part of the American workforce for more than a hundred years, they have been historically under-represented in mainstream colleges and universities. That is beginning to change, and more Asian-American students are headed to college than ever before. For many, they may be the first in their family to pursue a college education. Grants for Asian-American students are supported by a variety of charitable foundations, corporations and private endowments. Like many grants dedicated to the financial needs of minority students, many grants for Asian-Americans place a particular emphasis on specific career paths, including science, technology, education and journalism.
Many grants dedicated to specific career paths are, in fact, award-for-service programs. These programs perform two functions; they give much needed financial aid to talented students pursuing careers in high need fields, and they help to secure and retain talented professionals in communities that are experiencing critical manpower shortages. Students entering into a grant-for-service program should understand that they are agreeing to a binding contract, and will be obligated to fulfill all the of the particulars of that contract. Students who fail to meet their award-for-service obligations will find that their grants will revert to standard student loans, and they will be expected to repay all monies received plus interest.
It can also be helpful to understand how the Federal Student Aid Office uses the information on the FAFSA to decide how much aid each student gets. The financial details are used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the Federal Student Aid office’s estimate of what your family should reasonably be able to pay toward college costs, based on these factors:
There are thousands of scholarships, from all kinds of organizations, and they’re not hard to find. You might be able to get a scholarship for being a good student, a great basketball player, or a member of a certain church, or because your parent works for a particular company, or for some other reason. Find out more about finding and applying for scholarships. You’ll also want to be careful and avoid scholarship scams.
Most college grants are designed to address the needs of students who are facing a financial shortfall in their college funding. That being said, a wide range of grant programs are dedicated to providing financial aid to students in more extreme circumstances. Grants for low-income students are specifically designed to address the financial needs of students from economic or socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Typically, these programs will be sponsored by state and Federal governments, advocacy groups and charitable foundations.
Begin your grant search early, to allow yourself plenty of time to find, and apply to, the various grant programs for which you may be eligible. As you begin to search for possible education grants, you will find that they come in all shapes and sizes. You will also find that many grant programs may be found in the most unlikely of places. Look deeply, leave no stone unturned, and you may find the necessary education grants that will help meet your college costs.
One of the most significant sources of grants for college is the United State’s Armed Forces. Education grants from the military help enlisted service-members, their spouses and their dependent children, find the resources they need to pay for college. Each branch of the military, including the army, navy, air force and marines, provides financial aid programs to benefit their service-members. Military sponsored grants are also offered to the children and spouses of service-members who have been killed, or disabled, in the line of duty.
We all hear horror stories about how much college costs now -- and will cost in 10 or 20 years (tuition increases between four and seven percent annually).That said, it's not too late to find a way to make paying for college manageable -- not easy, but manageable. Just remember one thing: Paying for college is a family affair. Parents and students must work together to make college affordable. Obviously, the earlier you start, the easier it will be. However, it's never too late to make a difference.
Students ineligible for federal aid but who meet state financial aid program and residency requirements should complete the Washington Application for State Financial Aid at readysetgrad.org/wasfa instead of the FAFSA form. Contact the Washington Student Achievement Council (readysetgrad.org/wasfa) or your financial aid administrator for more information.