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.
Still, the potential payoff of applying for financial aid makes it worth it. It can make a world of difference if you put in the time and effort to understand the process and how to get the full financial aid you’re entitled. For some students, it’s the only reason they can complete a degree rather than dropping out of college. For others, financial aid helps them leave school with some student loans — but limits the debt to a manageable amount.

The traditional model of a college-bound student is beginning to change. While the majority of college students are still newly minted high school graduates, more and more adult learners are headed to colleges and universities across the country. Some may be returning to school to finish degrees that were interrupted by work and family commitments, while others may be attending college for the first time for training courses to help them achieve greater success in the national workforce. Non-traditional students include single parents, displaced workers, returning military veterans and adults seeking new career opportunities.
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.
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.

Few college-bound students have the financial resources to pay for their post-secondary education entirely out of pocket. Even students with substantial college savings plans typically find that they are left with sizable amounts of unmet need. The average total cost of attending a public four-year college is more than $20,000 per academic year. Students planning to attend a private college or university can expect to spend more than $30,000 per academic year. A college education is a costly proposition, and all indications are that those costs are only going to increase.
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.

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.
The Federal TEACH Grant – The TEACH Grant is an example of an award-for-service program. The grant provides Federal funding to students who agree to take up a teaching position in a high need field, or critical shortage facility, following graduation. Recipients must sign a contract agreeing to a predetermined time of service. Students who fail to fulfill their teaching obligations will have their grant revert to a student loan, and will be responsible for the full repayment, plus interest, of that loan.
Some states use your FAFSA and your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) to determine your eligibility for state financial aid.  Other states require additional documentation, and deadlines are not always the same.  Your state’s FAFSA filing deadline might be earlier than the federal requirement, so consult with your financial aid office or guidance counselor for specifics.
States issue need-based grants to students who need help paying for school.  If your EFC is low, and your federal financial aid doesn’t cover your tuition, state grants boost your college fund when you need it most.  For instance, Minnesota Office of Higher Education provides state grants to low and moderate income students, with nearly 80% of funds distributed to students with family incomes below 50K/year.
The Academic Competitiveness Grant is available to students who have already qualified for the Pell grant. A grant award of $750 is available to freshman students, and a further award of up to $1300 is available to qualifying sophomores. The ACG is open to students majoring in a critical need area, such as math, science, technology, engineering and foreign languages.
Nursing Scholarships provide college financing for students willing to make employment commitments for 2 years of service at crucial-shortage health care facilities.  Tuition and other approved expenses are abated in return for the service agreement, and qualified applicants receive monthly stipends beyond college costs. Funding is available to nurses studying at all levels, with half of available resources disbursed to master’s degree candidates.  Priority consideration is given to the most disadvantaged students.  When service obligations are not met, grants revert to loans that must be repaid-with interest.
Students pursuing high-need fields of study, like nursing, teaching and STEM subjects may get assistance from state governments. Nursing and teaching grants are issued by states, in return for service obligations that require participants to work in under-served areas.  By committing to work as a teacher or nurse within your state, for a period of two to four years, you might receive tuition abatement that amounts to a free ride through college.  If you don’t follow through on your end of the service agreement, your grant becomes a loan that you must repay-with interest.
The search for college grants can lead to some very unique financial aid opportunities. College-bound students looking for education grants will soon find there are programs to address almost any interest. The following grants are examples of the diverse types of financial aid programs that are available to the enterprising student searching for a way to offset the cost of their higher education. These examples also prove that focusing on your interests can lead you to financial aid opportunities which could otherwise go overlooked.
States issue need-based grants to students who need help paying for school.  If your EFC is low, and your federal financial aid doesn’t cover your tuition, state grants boost your college fund when you need it most.  For instance, Minnesota Office of Higher Education provides state grants to low and moderate income students, with nearly 80% of funds distributed to students with family incomes below 50K/year.
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:
Every state in the union has a Department of Higher Education that monitors, and regulates, the colleges and universities within that state. Most states offer their resident students some degree of college financial aid, either through their Department of Higher Education or through a dedicated Student Assistance Commission. Scholarship and grant programs are common at the state level, and are typically supported by state and local taxes, and/or state lottery funds.
Once you receive your SAR, you must contact the Financial Aid Office to see if any information is needed to complete your financial aid file. The information from your SAR will be forwarded electronically to EFSC but it may be necessary to submit additional documentation. Your SAR is not a financial aid award. EFSC will send you an Award Notice informing you of the aid for which you are eligible.
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