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How to Find Grants and Scholarships for Education

Are you applying for college grants and scholarships? You may be wondering, “What is a grant for college?” We cover the basics to get you started.

June 14, 2022

When looking for ways to pay for college, scholarships and grants are great places to start. In contrast to student loans, many of these sources of aid do not come with repayment terms. 

While grants are often offered based on financial need, scholarships are typically awarded on the basis of academic achievement. Combining several of these rewards might result in thousands of dollars in college savings. 

But what is a grant for college? We’ll get into all the details and also learn about how to get a college scholarship. 

What is the difference between grants and scholarships?

The term “gift aid” applies to both grants and scholarships. This is money that’s not required to be repaid.

Typically, grants are distributed on a financial-need basis, such as the Federal Pell Grant for students from low-income families. Federal, state and college institutions often give need-based awards.

Scholarships, however, are usually awarded on the basis of merit, whether for academic achievement, athletic prowess or a particular extracurricular talent.

Despite the fact that some private scholarships, such as the college scholarship program of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, also take financial need into account, merit is often the determining factor. Private foundations, nonprofit organizations, for-profit businesses and philanthropists usually award private scholarships.

How to find grants and scholarships

The guidance counselor or academic advisor at your high school can provide invaluable assistance if you are wondering how to get a college scholarship.

Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is all that’s required to apply for government assistance. Students might also look to local groups, membership organizations and philanthropic foundations, the websites of which typically contain criteria and connections to available college funds.

While federal student aid is an excellent starting point, much more work is needed to locate college scholarships. You can begin by perusing scholarship compilations organized by college major and demographic factors. Websites, such Cappex and Fastweb, maintain more extensive scholarship databases for college students.

Current undergraduates seeking financial help can contact their financial aid office to inquire about institutional scholarships. Completing the FAFSA and CSS Profile can also result in scholarship opportunities.

Note that merit-based scholarships, unlike grants, typically have their own applications. Transcripts, scores on standardized tests, letters of recommendation, a personal essay and a letter of recommendation may be required for these scholarship applications.

What qualifies you for a college scholarship?

Believe it or not, you might receive a college scholarship for almost any reason. There are scholarships that you could qualify for whether you are a junior or senior in high school, a current college student or a graduate student.

Scholarship programs might offer money based on one or more of the following criteria: 

  • Academic merit and GPA

  • Extracurricular involvement

  • Athletics

  • Service to others

  • Leadership potential

  • Financial need

  • Essay contests

However, this does not mean that there are no alternative ways to qualify for a scholarship award to assist in covering the cost of college. You can apply for a variety of distinct scholarships, such as:

  • Arts students can look for funding opportunities in music, the visual arts, theater and more.

  • There may be scholarships tailored to your intended field of study or industry.

  • Some scholarships are offered based on the characteristics or background of the student’s family. For example, there are scholarships available for first-generation college students, LGBTQ individuals and underrepresented minority groups.

  • The majority of schools and universities provide their own scholarships as part of their continuing financial aid programs. Inquire about your choices with your school’s financial aid office.

What to consider when applying for a grant or scholarship

Always check the following details before submitting an application for a scholarship or grant; doing so will prevent you from applying to a scholarship you are ineligible for, saving you time and effort.

What is the grant? 

How much is the award, how is it paid out and what may it be used for? How many scholarships or grants are available?

Do you satisfy all of the outlined eligibility requirements?

An award may be restricted to applicants for a specific course or subject or on the basis of certain personal circumstances — e.g., household income, disability, place of residence. Some conditions may come as a surprise, such as selecting a particular university or institution as your strong preference on your application.

How is the application submitted? 

A considerable proportion of students who get a scholarship or grant are qualified solely on the basis of their exceptional academic performance. However, you may still be required to submit an online application. Plan to devote a few hours to perfect your submission. 

For instance, it may be beneficial to investigate who is awarding the grant and why it was formed. This can provide background for what they may be looking for in applications, as well as ideas for what to discuss in an essay or interview. If in doubt, get in touch. Making an introduction and establishing rapport with those engaged in the decision-making process might leave a favorable impression — and if you are unsuccessful, they may even keep you in mind for future opportunities.

What should accompany your application? 

More competitive or specialized awards may require more from you, such as performing an audition, presenting a piece of work, attending an interview or writing a brief essay. Check for any documents or portfolios you may need to send.

When would your application be due? 

Some applications may be basic while others may be rather complex. Have you allotted sufficient time to submit a compelling application?

What stipulations come with the award? 

Successful applicants may be required to assume future obligations or tasks, such as representing the institution in sports or musical activities, volunteering in the local community or serving as student ambassadors at events. Your prize may be revoked if these conditions are not met, and you will likely be required to pay back any money you may have received.

Putting in the work

The majority of students struggle with paying for college. Higher education is expensive and costs continue to climb each year. However, there is lots of money out there to help alleviate this financial strain, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and work to find it.

Although securing scholarships requires a great deal of effort, students and their families may save a substantial amount of money over time. 

Now that you are aware of what is a grant for college, you may have better odds than you believe. Those who plan ahead and put in the necessary effort have a better chance of success.

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