An education grant is money given to a student to pursue his or her education. Unlike a loan, a grant does not have to be repaid. Unlike a scholarship, which is usually based on merit, a grant is usually based on financial need.
The federal government offers a few types of grants. In order to find out if you qualify for a government education grant, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The Pell Grant is available to undergraduates working on their first degree and, occasionally, to students in teacher certification programs. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) is available to undergraduates that show extreme financial need.
Two new education grants have recently been made available. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is available to students in their first two years of undergraduate study. The National Smart Grant is available to students in their third or fourth year of undergraduate study. To receive a smart grant, students must be majoring in mathematics or one of the hard sciences and have a grade point average of 3.0 or better. To receive either of these grants, a student must qualify financially for a Pell Grant as well.
Many families who consider their incomes modest are surprised to find they don’t meet the rigorous financial standards for federal education grants. Students who are denied the grants described above should check with their college’s financial aid office to see if the institution offers grants to students in need.
As a last resort, search the internet to see what might be available to you. For the best results, try several different search terms. If you are a single mother who wants to return to school to major in social work, for instance, you might try “education grants social work,” “education grants [your location],” “education grants single mother,” “education grants nontraditional student,” etc.
Beware of Scams
Avoid the companies who charge you a hefty fee to search for grants for you. Most of them promise the moon and stars (e.g., “You could be eligible for thousands of dollars…”), but all of their information is a matter of public record and is already available at no cost to you. Also, watch out for fly-by-night companies that try to charge you a fee to apply for federal grants, claiming that they can get you a grant when no one else can.
There is no fee to apply for federal student aid, and having a third party fill out the application for you will not improve your chances of receiving a grant. Remember, any offer that sounds too good to be true probably is.
Above all, don’t be disappointed if you don’t qualify for an education grant. Grants are only one way to fund your education. There are also scholarships, work-study programs, student loans, etc. Work with the financial aid office at your school, and you’ll soon be on the right track to funding your education.