Ultimate Guide to College Grants

Abigail Eun
Abigail Eun

Abigail Eun is a freelance writer and personal finance expert. Through diligent research and continuous learning, she has honed her knowledge in budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management. Abigail is passionate about helping people get their finances in order. She believes that everyone should have access to the information they need to make sound financial decisions. Her goal is to provide clear and concise information that is easy to understand.

See author page
Edited by
Daniel Kahn
Daniel Kahn
Daniel is the co-founder and COO at Sparrow. Daniel is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company, working closely with other members of the executive team to develop and implement strategies to support the growth and success of the company.
Daniel was a 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 lister in the Education category.  Daniel was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from Duke University in 2020.
See author page
Reviewed by
Camden Ford
Camden Ford

Camden leads Sparrow’s business operations – everything from product management to business analytics. After graduating Cum Laude from Duke University where he studied Civil Engineering, Camden worked as a Consultant for A.T. Kearney where he worked in their Strategic Operations practice. With a strong background in analytics, Camden strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

See author page
November 13, 2023
On a similar note

How Much Does Grad School Cost?

January 22 · 5 min read

Paying for a college education is a significant investment of both time and money. According to US News, for the 2021-22 school year, the average tuition for a private institution was $38,185 and $22,698 for a public, out-of-state college.

If we factor in the average 6.8% increase in tuition every year, affording the cost of tuition seems impossible.

Fret not. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about one of the best ways to pay for your education expenses: college grants.

What is a Grant for College?

A grant is a form of gift aid, which is basically free money that can defray the cost of a college education and does not need to be paid back. Grants are usually issued to individuals who demonstrate financial need, including low-income students, handicapped students, members of recognized minority groups, or students with military ties. 

Scholarships, on the other hand, are awarded based on merit, financial need, or any significant achievements. 

What Do College Grants Cover?

College grants cover a variety of education-related costs, such as tuition, room and board, and school supplies. Some college grants allow you to use the money on whatever expenses you deem fit. Others are issued to defray a specified cost. 

How to Find College Grants

There are four kinds of college grants:

  1. Federal grants (offered by the federal government)
  2. Statewide grants (offered by your state)
  3. Institutional grants (offered by the college you plan to attend)
  4. Private grants (offered by private organizations, NPOs, foundations, etc.)

Let’s find out how you can find college grants from each of these sources.

Federal Grants

Pell Grant

Federal Pell Grants are a type of federal grant that is awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and have not received a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree (exceptions apply to students who are enrolled in specific post baccalaureate teacher certification programs).

The cap for the Pell Grant changes every year. For the 2022-23 school year, the maximum Pell Grant award for full-time students is $6,895, though the amount you are awarded is dependent on your college’s tuition and your financial need. 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

The FSEOG is another kind of federal grant that is awarded to students with exceptional financial need. Awards can range from $100 to $4,000. 

The FSEOG is administered directly to your college, and not all colleges participate in the FSEOG program. Check with your institution to see if they offer the FSEOG. 

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

The TEACH grant is only administered to teachers who agree to complete a four-year teaching service obligation. Once this obligation is completed, the teacher can receive up to $4,000 per year to pay for their post-secondary education. 

This grant does not apply to college students who do not plan to be a teacher. 

Eligibility requirements can be found here.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service grants are awarded to students whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died during military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.

The maximum grant award is equal to the maximum Pell Grant award for the school year. 

State Grants

Because state grants are specific to the state, the grant amount and the terms of receiving it will be different between all states. 

You can find grants offered by your state by going to your state’s Department of Education website or using this helpful grant search engine. 

Other College Grants

Armed Forces Grant

Students who are on active duty or reserve for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard are eligible to receive financial aid to defray college expenses.

Ask your branch which educational grants you qualify for, or search for grants here

Fulbright Grants

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a distinguished national program that gives out grants to graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals to conduct research, teach English abroad, or pursue higher education. 

Applicants must meet the language requirements for the grant they are applying for and demonstrate fluency and adaptability to live in their host country.

Grant awards and lengths vary by award.

Private Grants

Private grants are offered by private organizations, based on the organization’s beliefs or niche.

For example, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers career development grants for post-grad female students, while the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship fund offers grants to Asian-American college students who demonstrate financial need.

You can apply for private grants by searching for grants within a niche that you occupy, whether it is your major, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. 

How to Apply for College Grants

Complete the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application you must submit to receive financial aid. The open date for the FAFSA is October 1st, and the deadline is June 30th.

Once you submit your FAFSA, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a document that measures your eligibility for federal financial aid. 

Most colleges and states in the United States require you to submit the FAFSA in order to receive financial aid like scholarships, grants, and loans.

Search for Grants Online

The Internet is a magical tool.

You can find grants with a simple search on the web, so take advantage of this privilege! 

Here are some of Sparrow’s favorite grant websites that you can navigate through:

Accept Grants Offered in Your Financial Aid Package

Once you’ve been accepted into the school of your dreams, the institution will send you your financial aid package.

Check your financial aid package to see what kind of grants you’ve been offered. Always read the terms of the grants before accepting them. 

Closing Thoughts From the Nest

College grants are a great way to cover the cost of college. To stay on top of the game when it comes to college grants and other forms of gift aid, follow our tips:

  1. Reach out to both your high school and (tentative) college’s financial aid offices to find out what grant and scholarship options are available to you. If anyone’s going to know, it’s going to be the workers in the financial aid office!
  2. Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. The closer you are to the October 1st opening date when you submit your FAFSA, the better your chances will be of receiving aid. 
  3. Stay on top of your deadlines. When things are happening so quickly, it can be difficult to keep track of the things you need to do. Be sure to organize your deadlines on a calendar or your phone so that you maximize your chances of receiving aid.

If grants and scholarships don’t cover all the costs of college, consider taking out a student loan. Use Sparrow’s free online tool to see which student loans you qualify for.

Dive deeper in student loans