Scholarships and Grants
Most scholarships and grants don't have to be repaid. This makes them valuable resources when seeking financial aid and should be your first option before considering federal or private student loans. Download our Free Money guide to learn more about how to search for scholarships.
Here is some advice on how to prepare for scholarship searches:
- Start early. You may have to complete applications, write essays, and gather recommendations, etc. in order to qualify for many scholarships.
- Begin your search for scholarships. Ask family and friends and people you know from school, work, organizations, sports, clubs, and hobbies. It may take time and commitment, but do your homework. Sallie Maeís scholarship tool may help you in your search.
- Mark deadlines on your calendar. This will help you keep track of your progress.
- Carefully read all eligibility requirements. If you are not sure you qualify for scholarship, make sure you contact the sponsor.
- Organize! Keep a separate file for each scholarship and also make sure you have easy access to the following: high school transcript, standardized test scores, parentís tax returns, letters of recommendation, and proof of eligibility for scholarship.
- Follow instructions carefully. The easiest way to become disqualified from a scholarship is not adhering to the directions.
- Double and triple check your application. Proofread, make sure all the blanks are filled, and that everything is signed and dated. Whenever possible, have someone else check your work to give you feedback or catch mistakes.
- Save a copy for yourself. If your application materials get lost in cyberspace or mail, the last thing you will want to do is start over.
Grants are primarily awarded on the basis of financial need. The government awards over $1 billion in grants annually. Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serves as the application for Federal Grants.
Federal grants available include the Pell, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service grants. You can learn more here about these federal grants.
State grant programs also exist and the aid varies from state to state. The FAFSA may be the primary application to these State grants. However, you will also want to contact the financial aid office of the college you are applying to and explore your stateís Office of Higher Education to learn about other opportunities.
Many grants for college-bound students can also be found in the private sector. Corporations and professional associations may offer grants to students who are pursuing degrees that are allied with their business or organization. Colleges and universities are also sources for education.
Most grants fall into four categories:
- Student Specific - target certain student groups such as returning students and military veterans
- Subject Specific - area of study; science, technology, engineering, etc.
- Degree Level - your post-secondary education level; whether itís a four-year degree or doctorate
- Minority Status - based on cultural heritage, physical barriers such as students with disabilities or female students who are pursing educational programs that have been dominated by men
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