College Grants 101 – Important Info

Going to college is a very exciting part of our lives but also very expensive. Luckily, no matter what walk of life you are from you will most likely be eligible for some sort of college grant to help you pay for your college or university education.

What are college grants?

College grants are essentially a gift of money given to higher education students for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, college grants are given to students based on financial need, such as those from minority and low-income backgrounds. However, there are also college grants for students who show academic excellence or have specific talents in music or sport.

College grants do not need to be repaid unlike loans, but there are usually restrictions on what the money can be spent on. This means that you can not use the money towards buying a new car or for partying on the weekends – it must go towards your tuition, fees or board – or whatever else is specified when you are given your grant.

Types of college grants

There are numerous types of college grants available to students from a wide range of backgrounds – some based on financial need and others on academic merit.

However, there are four main types of college grants that you can apply for and we take a look at these in more detail below.

Federal Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants are the most common types of college grants for U.S. citizens and account for the largest number of college grants given out in the United States. Pell Grants are given out based solely on financial need and it is up to the college that you are studying at to allocate the funds. Each college and university is given a certain amount of Pell Grant money each year and so it pays to get in early with your applications as once the money has gone, it’s gone.

The amount you can receive through a Pell Grant ranges depending on your personal situation and the maximum is approximately $5,000 each year. If you are receiving a Pell Grant and are also studying for a major in math, science or or social science you may also be eligible to receive the Academic Competitiveness Grant, which is worth up to $750 in your first year and $1,300 in your second year.

State grants

Aside from federal government grants there are also state government college grants. Almost every state in the USA has some sort of state college grant program. While most of these grants are based on financial need some are given to students to encourage them to study a specific subject area that is in demand in the workforce.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants

Another type of college grant is the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, which are reserved for students who are in the worst financial situation – usually coming from very low-income families and minority backgrounds. These types of grants vary in value from $100 up to $4,000 each year and students can apply for them through their college’s financial aid department.

Institutional grants

The final type of grant is the institutional grant. Not all college grant money comes from the local or federal government, most universities and colleges also have their own grant programs to help their students get through college. Institutional grants are given out to students who can’t get by on just state and federal grants but they are also used to help attract students that show outstanding academic abilities.

You generally can’t apply for institutional grants, you are automatically put forward for them when you apply. However, if you are interested in receiving an institutional grant it is a good idea to apply to colleges where you are likely to be in demand as opposed to others where you will have a lot of competition with other talented students.

How many college grants can you have?

Many students have more than one college grant as one is often not enough. There is no harm in applying for as many college grants as you are eligible for to maximize your chances of being accepted.

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