Guide to applying college grants

Getting a college grant means free money – who doesn't like free money? It sounds too good, it can't be true, but if you have strong financial needs, you may get a grant. If you don't, you may be eligible for another free university funding source: merit-based scholarships.

University grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are college funds that you don't have to repay, and you often hear terminology used interchangeably. Both are called gift aids. They come from different sources, including governments, universities, and private organizations. But there is one notable difference: bursaries are often demand-based, and scholarships are usually based on merit, says Shannon Vascarcelos, a university financial adviser and former financial aid officer at Boston University and Tufts University. Vasconcelos says this difference can sometimes be confusing because some organizations offer scholarships that have a demand-based component. But don't let these differences bother you - just pay attention to each grant or scholarship requirement when applying.

University grant type

You can get a grant from the federal government, your state, and your college. Fill out the free application for federal student assistance and you are eligible to receive these awards each year at the school.

How to find federal funding

Pell Grant: This is the largest federal funding program for the Ministry of Education. The maximum grant for 2018-19 is $6,095. The actual amount you will receive depends on your financial needs and the cost of attending college. Unlike some grants, including the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, you can get as many Pell grants as you qualify for, regardless of the type of assistance you receive.

Federal Supplementary Education Opportunity Grant: This campus-based assistance program provides students with a $100 to $4,000 grant per year. The grant for each recipient country depends on the school, financial needs and other financial assistance received. Not all schools participate in this program, so if you think you are eligible to participate, ask the financial aid office of the school you applied for.

Teacher Education Aid Grants for Universities and Higher Education: As you might guess, the Teacher Education Grant is a demand-based grant program for students pursuing an education degree. Through this program, you can get $4,000 a year, but there is a trap: in order to maintain your teaching grant, you must work in high-demand areas or low-income schools for at least four years, eight years after graduation. If you don't do this, the money will become a direct unsecured loan and you must repay it. And because the loan is non-subsidized, it includes interest accrued when you go to school.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: If your parents or guardians die during their service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, you will be eligible to participate in the program; they will be under 24 years of age when they die; and you have Economic needs. If you qualify, you can get up to $5717 in tuition in the 2018-19 school year, depending on your financial needs and the total cost of attending college.

How to find a state grant

Many states offer state grant programs for state residents. This tool on the Ministry of Education website can help you find institutions that allocate state grants. In order to receive grants, most states require you to fill out the Federal Food Safety Authority. Some states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, have a separate grant application in addition to the Federal Food Safety Authority.

Steps to apply for a university grant

If you haven't already, complete the Federal Food Safety Authority's application for federal grants and other assistance, including work-study programs and federal loans. Fill in as soon as possible because some schools are on a first-come, first-served basis. Use the US Department of Labor's free scholarship search tool to search for private grants and scholarships. Review the bursary reward letter for each school you are considering. Each letter will list the bursaries, scholarships, work study plans and loans that you are eligible to apply for. Accept all bursaries and scholarships before applying for a student loan.