Any successful grant search begins with knowing yourself, your status as a student and your academic interests. This will help you narrow your focus, and will allow you to eliminate those grant programs for which you are not eligible. Remember, there are need-based grants, merit-based grants and career specific grants, and the first step is understanding the type of program you’re looking for. For example, if you are an Hispanic woman going to college to become an accountant, you will want to search for grant programs that are dedicated to Latin-American female students enrolled in business and accounting studies.
You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form allows you to apply for all types of aid. There are not separate applications for each type of aid. This form is all you will need to apply. The financial aid process is a lengthy one. The best advice is to get this form in as early as possible, as any delays may affect the timeliness of your award.
You’ll need a good reason to appeal your financial aid. For instance, if your circumstances changed between when you received your financial aid package and the time school starts. Maybe your sibling decided to enroll in college at the last minute, your parent lost a job, or there’s been a family financial emergency. You might also be able to appeal for more financial aid if you’re in an abusive family situation.
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.
Grants for doctoral candidates and graduate students are highly competitive, and focus on the financial needs of students engaged in research to complete their high level degrees. These grants are often referred to as fellowships, and are typically sponsored by colleges and universities as a way of bringing the best and brightest graduate students to their campuses. Unlike the more traditional undergraduate grants, these programs place a great amount of weight on academic achievement. Financial need is a secondary consideration. Grants for graduate and doctoral students are typically high dollar awards, and will include funds for research related travel and stipends for living expenses.
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.

Grants for students with disabilities come from a variety of sources, and address a variety of different needs. Some grant programs are designed to help disabled students find their place in a traditional college campus environment, while others may offer financial aid to students attending a special needs school. Most grants for disabled students are specific to the applicants handicap, though some may be broadly applied to all disabled students.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers offers a number of grant and scholarship programs, including the IEEE Computational Society Summer Research Grant for graduate students. This grant funds the research of deserving student scholars into the areas of neural networking and evolutionary computation. Award amounts range from $1000 to $4000.
Loan programs – Such programs need to be paid back but offer help with low interest rates.  The Stafford Guaranteed Loan offers up to $6,625 per year.  The Perkins Loan program offers up to $3,000 and $5,000 a year for undergraduate and graduate students respectively. These loan programs come at very low interest rates so it is highly recommended you apply for them if you need the money for your education. The updated 2015-2016 fixed interest rate on these loans for undergrads is 4.29%; and the combined borrowing totals for direct loans can be up to $12,500 per year depending on your school year and degree.

Historically underrepresented groups, such as African-Americans, Native-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics, are often eligible for higher education grants. Funding for these grant programs comes from a variety of sources, both public and private. Many grant programs are dedicated to increasing diversity in the traditionally white male dominated fields of science and business.
High school guidance counselors and college aid officers are there to help students plan for a successful future and find financial aid. They provide individualized advice based on a student’s academic and financial situation. A counselor will also be aware of scholarships, financial aid, or tuition-assistance programs specific to a student’s school, community, or state.
You could get more non-federal aid: “Schools and states have a limited amount of aid, and a bunch of states have a FAFSA deadline of ‘as soon as possible after October 1,’ (meaning they actually could run out of financial aid) so it’s good to be at the front of the line!” according to a post on the Department of Education blog. If you apply early, you’ll have a better chance to qualify for these non-federal financial aid programs.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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