If there’s something I regret from my college days, it’s probably the proven fact that I didn’t make an application for grants or scholarships. I believe, these were only for super-talented or outstanding students, why even bother, right?
Boy was I wrong.
Turns out that there are grants for just about anything. I am talking about, College Board even has a scholarship for exploring other scholarships. Need I say more?
Why scholarships and grants are the best kinds of aid
When you’re a college student, you usually obtain access to four types of educational funding:
- Work-study programs.
- Student loans.
Unlike student loans, which need to be paid back after you finish school, and work-study programs, which let you make money during school, scholarships and grants are both a form of “gift aid.” Quite simply, money that’s available to you free of charge.
Getting free money for school means…
- You could graduate with less debt — or none whatsoever.
- You’ll convey more time to concentrate on college, as you could reduce the amount of hours you work to pay for college.
- You’ll tight on money-induced anxiety understanding that some of your expenses are taken care of.
How much gift aid you’ll get, however, will depend on several factors. But just to give you a concept, Rick Castellano, a spokesman for Sallie Mae, states that last year, grants helped students as well as their families cover about 25% of the costs of school.
So, yeah, you have a lot to achieve and basically nothing to lose by making use of (except maybe a little bit of time).
Scholarships vs grants: what’s the difference?
Although both scholarships and grants fit in with the same financial aid category, there are several key differences together, including eligibility requirements, where to get them.
Scholarships are awarded by schools, community groups, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations. They can be merit-based or need-based, and awards vary from several hundred dollars to the full price of tuition.
Merit-based scholarships are the ones that are given to you according to your talent, achievements, or meeting certain criteria. They’re also the most common type of scholarship.
You could qualify for merit-based scholarships if…
- You excelled in academics, athletics, or extracurricular activities, like writing poetry or gaming (yes, as in eSports).
- Belong to an underrepresented group.
- Are studying a job path that could benefit the community, like teaching or nursing.
- You’re majoring inside a high-demand field, such as technology or engineering.
Need-based scholarships receive to students who demonstrate deficiencies in savings to pay for college.
You could be eligible for a need-based scholarships if…
- You’re an independent student who doesn’t earn much — or nothing whatsoever.
- You originate from a low-income family.
While some are awarded according to merit, grants in many cases are awarded to students based on economic need.
Grants are usually provided by the government and state government, along with universites and colleges. Award amounts range from several $ 100 to several thousand, but rarely cover the entire cost of tuition.
One of the most popular grants available is the Pell Grant, which is awarded by the federal government to students who “display exceptional financial need,” and it has a limit of $6,495 per academic year.
Are there any drawbacks to trying to get these types of aid?
Neeta Vallab, founder of MeritMore, a website that can help students get matched with colleges that offer merit-based aid, states that the only major downside of applying, particularly in the case of private scholarships, is that your school could reduce the amount they give you in institutional aid.
“That’s called scholarship displacement. So, oftentimes it’s easier to figure out where you’re likely to school, get in touch with their office, and then ask them, ‘Would you allow candidates to create private scholarships without being penalized?’”
Another aspect to consider is that some grants require a credit card applicatoin fee, that is non-refundable.
How to apply for scholarships and grants
The very first thing you need to do, whether you’re seeking to apply for grants or scholarships, is to complete the disposable Application for Federal Student Aid, famously known as the “FAFSA.” Castellan, from Sallie Mae, says:
“The FAFSA can help students and families potentially unlock thousands of dollars in aid, and never filing can be one of the priciest mistakes students can make through the entire college process.”
Filling out this application will allow you to see which forms of financial aid you’re entitled to, like federal, state, and college grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans.
If you don’t understand how to complete the FAFSA, here’s our quick guide to assist you.
Applying for scholarships
When you are looking at trying to get scholarships, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to take about this, as all of them features its own eligibility requirements.
However, there’s some common ground in terms of what you’ll need to complete your profile.
Scholarship application profile
To complete this profile, you’ll need to supply the following:
- Personal information. Name and phone details, your gender, details about your citizenship status, whether you belong to a minority group, and if you've any disabilities.
- Academic information. Your present degree of education, for which degree level you’re seeking a scholarship (undergraduate or graduate), your GPA, and the field of study you’ll be pursuing.
- Affiliations. Whether you and your parents are people in any associations or any other organizations.
- High school transcripts and standardized test scores (if you’re trying to get a freshmen year scholarship).
- Your parents’ financial information — or yours, if you’re an independent student (for need-based scholarships only).
- Letters of recommendation.
- A copy of your resume.
- Proof of membership if you’re applying for a scholarship awarded with a certain group.
Additionally, some scholarships need you to write an essay together with your application, explaining why you’d be the greatest candidate to receive the award.
Applying for grants
Since most grants are awarded according to your financial need and are awarded by schools, federal, assuring governments, the procedure to apply is a lot straightforward and straightforward than trying to get scholarships.
To make an application for grants, you’ll typically simply need to complete the FAFSA, and so the schools and Ed Department will require it from there.
Some colleges and universities also use College Board’s College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS), to determine your eligibility for institutional grants. In case your school is one of them, you’ll have to create a user account and provide some details, including information about your family’s income.
Check out the complete list of schools that require this type.
Unlike the FAFSA, that is free, the CSS does have a credit card applicatoin fee of $25 and $16 for every additional report you request, however, you will find fee waivers available.
Where to locate scholarships or grants
When searching for gift aid, Erin Powers, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), recommends starting local and doing some research in your neighborhood to see if you will find local business owners, community organizations, private foundations, philanthropists, or unions that provide scholarships.
Besides that, you might try the next:
- Sign up free of charge scholarship search platforms like Fastweb, MeritMore, ScholarshipOwl, and College Board’s Big Future.
- Talk to your school’s counselor or educational funding officer, as they possibly can assist you in finding the right scholarships and grants that best match your profile.
- Check out in case your parents’ employer — or yours if you’re working, offers some kind of aid to assist in paying for school.
- Join a company associated with your field of study, because these usually provide scholarships or grants for his or her members.
- Visit the Department of Education’s website.
Getting your money
Okay, you’ve applied, and you’ve conquered. So, how can you receive money?
Well, both scholarship and grant money has a tendency to go right to your school’s account to pay for any outstanding balances regarding your tuition and costs. Any leftover cash is then provided to you either in a check or through direct deposit.
Your award could also come in a lump sum or installments. Regardless, the best way to find out how you’ll receive money is to reach out to the business granting the award.
Tips to maximise just how much gift aid you get
Don’t make assumptions
Sallie Mae’s newest study revealed that roughly one-third of the families surveyed skipped completing the FAFSA for that 2022-21 academic year. “The cheapest number recorded since Sallie Mae’s first report in 2008,” Castellano says.
The main reason? They thought they wouldn’t qualify for aid, which Castellano says couldn’t be more wrong.
“The truth is, almost all who apply will be eligible for a something.”
Apply when possible
They state that the early bird has got the worm — the same thing goes for gift aid.
Castellano points out that many federal grants, in addition to state grants, are awarded on the first-come, first-served basis.
Don’t overlook small amounts
Yes, you will find scholarships worth six figures, like this $100k one from Dr. Pepper, but just because a scholarship grant is only worth a couple of hundred dollars, that doesn’t mean you should walk away from it.
“Every tiny bit helps when it comes to lowering the total cost of school,” Castellano says, and, since there isn’t a restriction how many scholarships you can get, smaller amounts may turn right into a jackpot when combined.
Work difficult on your grades
Many scholarships and grants are contingent on the fact that you meet certain GPA requirements, or that you stay in good academic standing. Some can also be renewed every year according to your grades, so be sure you continue the great work.
Ask for more
Yes, that’s right, you can always request more aid!
Vallab, from MeritMore, says that all students and families don’t know that they can file an appeal to ask for more income if they think that the quantity of educational funding they’re being offered isn’t likely to be enough.
“Colleges are often set up to process those types of requests. Even if you get $1,000 more per year, that’s $4,000 over the course of 4 years, that is a tremendous amount.”
Scholarships and grants are basically the Cadillac of monetary aid, as they are both causes of free money. If you’re unsure about whether you might be eligible or otherwise — apply anyway! You’ve got you win.