Nearly all grants are awarded to students with a financial need. They are given by the federal government, state government, colleges, career schools, or private and non-profit organizations. Often called “gift aid,” grants do not have to be paid back. An exception is if you did not finish the semester term as agreed upon for accepting the grant, in which case, you may have to pay back all or part of the aid package.
The US Department of Education offers a variety of federal grants for students attending four-year colleges, universities, community colleges and career schools. If you are interested in a federal grant, begin by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once you have complete this, you will need to work with your college or career school to find out how much you can get and when you will get it.
Federal Pell Grants
The amount you can receive from a Pell grant is dependent on the degree of your financial need, the costs associated with attending the school of choice, your status as a part-time or full-time student and your plans for attending a full academic year or less. The maximum award you can receive is $5,730 per award year. The Pell Grant is generally awarded to students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree. However, exceptions may be made for those enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certificate program. You are not eligible for a Pell grant, if you are incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution or are subject to a civil commitment upon completion of incarceration for a sex offense.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
Students who have received the Pell grant and show the greatest financial need will be given the FSEOG’s first. The FSEOG is administered directly by the financial aid office at the school you are attending, which is why it’s typically called campus-based aid. Not all schools participate in the FSEOG program. Be sure to check with financial aid at your school, if you wish to apply. You can receive an additional $100 – $4,000 a year through this program.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
This federal grant is different from the others in that you will be required to take certain classes and teach for a certain length of time. The TEACH grant program provides up to $4,000 a year and is designed for students who plan to complete course work required for beginning a career in teaching.
Receiving a Scholarship
Like grants, scholarships do not have to be repaid, but instead of need based, they are merit based. There are thousands of scholarships available through private organizations, charitable institutions, churches and businesses. Scholarships are usually granted to students who do exceptionally well in their field of studies or in sports. Students who maintain a high grade average of 3.0 or better may be offered scholarships without solicitation or may find available scholarships through the financial aid office of their school. Scholarships are sometimes offered to minority groups to help them acquire better employment opportunities.
With all scholarships and grants, check the deadline for applications and apply early. If an essay is required, write articulately as to why you wish to pursue your field of study and how you will apply your studies to your future prospects for employment. Maintain a high-grade average, participate well in the classroom, join extra-curricular activities, and you can conceivably complete your advanced education on grants and scholarships, with very little need to apply for a student loan.