Low-income and disadvantaged students qualify for general need-based aid in most states that offer it, but specific funding is also set aside for students whose access to education is severely limited by social and financial conditions. Exceptional hardship is calculated differently in each state, but the students whose circumstances present the greatest educational obstacles are the first to be considered for state grants.
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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.
Federal grant programs are driven by the congressional funding that fills the coffers. As a result, maximum grant awards and general availability change every year. Currently, annual Pell Grant award maximums hover around $5000 per student. Some government grants, like FSEOG are distributed on a first-come first-served rotation that continues until funding is exhausted, so time is of the essence. To maximize your access to federal grant dollars, it is essential that you file your FAFSA as early as possible.
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.
Federal Grants – Pell grants can offer up to $5,775 yearly (updated for 2016) for undergraduate studies that aim on earning Bachelor’s degrees and Professional degrees. SEOG funds (Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant) can offer up to $4,000 each year per person. CWS funds can offer money to part-time students as well. The Academic Competitiveness Grant awards money to freshman and sophomores, while the National Science and Math Access to Retail Talent (SMART) Grant awards money to juniors and seniors.
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.
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.