Grants and Scholarships

Grants and Scholarships are the most sought after type of aid, of course! These sources fall into the category called “gift aid”, meaning the aid does NOT need to be repaid. There are a number of grant and scholarship programs available for college and the more popular programs are outlined below:


Federal Grants are based on financial need. A student must complete the FAFSA and demonstrate financial need to be considered for a federal grant. The most common federal grant programs are outlined below.

Federal Pell Grants:  Pell Grants are available to undergraduate students who are enrolled at least half time and do not already have a bachelor’s or professional degree. As of the 2016-17 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $5,815. This amount is not a guarantee though, as many factors contribute to awarding Pell Grants. For example, Pell Grants typically are awarded to those students demonstrating the highest need as determined by federal guidelines. In addition, the total cost of the college and the student’s enrollment time status has a bearing on Pell Grant award amounts. Colleges will automatically consider a student for a Pell Grant by virtue of a student having filed a FAFSA. Eligible students will be notified via a financial aid award letter.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG):  Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are available to undergraduate students exhibiting exceptional financial need. Pell Grant recipients with the lowest Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be automatically considered for a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and awarded accordingly. Grants in the FSEOG program range from $100 to $4,000 a year depending on demonstrated financial need, the college’s total annual funding allotment, college awarding policies, and timing of your financial aid application. Colleges will automatically consider a student for an FSEOG by virtue of a student having filed a FAFSA. Eligible students will be notified via a financial aid award letter.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants: TEACH Grants are available to students who intend to teach in a school that serves low-income families and in a subject considered to be a high-need field. There are guidelines and many conditions attached to this program. However, if you think that you may be interested in the field of teaching and may want to pursue this grant program, please read the Teach Grant Fact Sheet on the federal student aid site which clearly defines the eligibility requirements and conditions of receiving the TEACH Grant. If you are still interested after reading the fact sheet, please contact the financial aid office to further discuss this grant option.

Institutional Grants are awards made by some colleges and are based on specific awarding criteria determined by the college. Many institutional grants are need-based; however, there are institutional grants that are merit-based. Check with the colleges and inquire if there are institutional grants that can be applied for separately or if completing the FAFSA is sufficient.

State Grant Programs are available from most states; however, eligibility requirements differ from state to state. By completing the FAFSA, participating state aid programs will receive your information and review for available grant programs. If eligible, the student will be notified via a financial aid award letter. You can also check with the Department of Education in your state for program details or with your high school guidance counselor.

The U.S. Department of Education publishes a handy list of higher education agencies in each state. This is a great starting point when researching available resources in your state of residence. Just click on the hotlink above for this practical site. Once at the site, just click on your state of residence for an overview of available programs in your state.


General Scholarships are another form of gift aid. The specific criteria for scholarship eligibility is determined by the college and the aid is awarded accordingly. Scholarships may be based on need, but typically are also based on some additional criteria, such as academic or athletic achievement or a special talent or aptitude.

Merit Scholarships create another category of gift aid and are highly sought after. If a college has merit scholarships available, they are typically awarded to students at the time of admission. During the admission review process, the relative strengths of students are compared and merit scholarship recipients are determined accordingly. Check with individual colleges to see if this category of aid is available and to confirm application procedures.

Restricted Scholarships may also be available to those meeting scholarship guidelines, as determined by the college. Restricted scholarships are available from many colleges and typically have a very specific target and set of criteria associated with them, such as ethnic background, geographic locality, program of study, ancestry, family legacy, and/or descendants of members of certain graduating classes. Those are just a few examples of restricted scholarship examples. You should check with the college to see if there are restricted scholarships that can be applied for directly or if students are considered as a result of their financial aid or admissions application.

Tuition Waivers may also be available from many state colleges and universities as many have a tuition waiver program for students that exhibit financial need and/or a certain level of scholarship. In that instance, students may have their tuition, or portion of their tuition, waived. Please check with your individual state and/or your high school guidance counselor for details on tuition waiver guidelines, eligibility requirements, and application procedures.

Outside Scholarships are available from a number of sources independent of college programs. Scholarship funds are available from a number of organizations, foundations, businesses, non-profits, employers, and agencies, both at the local and national level. This type of support is often referred to as Outside Scholarships and can be a vital piece of the college financing process. These funds do not come automatically though; a student will need to be diligent and focused to pursue outside scholarship options. See the articles devoted to this topic: there we will have a complete discussion of outside scholarship sources.

For more detailed information about financial aid sources, please see Financial Aid Sense! Don’t miss out on financial aid opportunities, check out this newly updated financial aid publication!

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Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author