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.
The Federal Pell Grant program is the largest provider of student grants.  Pell Grants provide tuition assistance to undergraduates demonstrating financial need.  A blended federal financial aid package often includes Pell Grants-alongside Federal Direct Loans.  Eligibility is determined annually based on FAFSA disclosures, and reflects four areas of consideration.
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.

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.
Students who withdraw from classes prior to refunds will only receive payment for credit hours for which they are currently attending. Enrollment status does affect eligibility. Please be aware that some awards may have to be reduced or canceled due to adjusting enrollment patterns. Students whose eligibility has been terminated because of failure to meet Standards of Satisfactory Progress may in certain cases request a formal review of the decision to revoke financial aid eligibility. Circumstances which may be appealed include: death in the student's immediate family, medical emergencies, accidents, divorce or separation of parents, personal tragedy, or other documented circumstances beyond the student's control which prevented him/her from meeting minimum standards.

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.

The width and breadth of the student population in the United States continues to grow and change as more and more students head to college to improve their education and professional opportunities. The American collegiate population is made up of a diverse array of students of all types and backgrounds. Grants for college-bound students are often designed to benefit specific types of students, and to address their particular financial needs. The most common student-specific grant programs fall into the following categories.
Grants for undergraduate students are a large part of the financial aid landscape. These programs may provide general grant funding for students pursuing any number of degrees, or they may be specific to undergraduates enrolled in science, mathematics or engineering courses. Grants for undergraduate students are available from Federal and state governments, colleges and universities, corporations and professional associations.

Grants for Native American students may be less prevalent than those for other minorities, but they are beginning to become more plentiful. State governments, advocacy groups and private endowments support a growing number of grants dedicated to helping Native-Americans pursue a college education. Many of these programs target members of specific Native-American tribes, and students will be required to present documentary evidence of their American Indian heritage. A large number of grants for Native-American students are career-specific, with an emphasis on healthcare, education, science and technology.
Non-traditional students include those people who are returning to college after a prolonged absence, or those students returning for specific training for career advancement. Often women returning to college after raising a family, or single parents pursuing career advancement through education will fall into this category. Non-traditional students may also refer to those students who are changing from a technical school to a four year college or university.
Many grant programs exist to serve the needs of minority groups who have a history of being under-represented in the American higher education system. While great strides have been made over the last few decades, more work needs to be done to expand and diversify the American collegiate student body. Grants for minorities, and for women, are sponsored by a variety of sources, including state and Federal governments, professional associations, corporations, colleges, universities, charitable foundations and advocacy groups.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation is one of the best known advocates for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. The foundation sponsors both grants and scholarships for students who have lost a parent to breast cancer. Awards of up to $10,000 are available, and are decided on a combination of scholastic achievement, community service and financial need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Students searching for non-government funded college grants should begin by combining their status as a student (undergraduate or graduate), their field of interest and their personal background (minority status, gender, etc). Many grant programs can be found with a focused search of the internet, or through the financial aid offices of colleges and universities. This can be time consuming, but the rewards can be substantial.
College costs have exploded over the past decade, increasing by a massive 33 percent from the 2004-2005 school year to 2014-15, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For today’s average student, 70 percent of colleges are more expensive than they can afford. But while college is more expensive than ever, family incomes and college savings rates have not kept pace.
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