I’m sure most would agree that free money is what everyone wants. To any college or university student, that would be most acceptable. Since not all of us are unique enough to be receiving scholarships, we’ll have to settle for second best. In this case, we have to depend on study grants.
Grants make up about two-fifths of study aids available. It is considered better than loans since you don’t have to pay the full amount back in most cases. However, you will not get the full coverage of a scholarship either.
It’s important to know that there are four major types of study grants out there.
The biggest and most common grant in the United States is the Federal Pell Grant. It is named after Senator Claiborne Pell and has been used since 1965. This grant allocates anywhere from $400 to $4500 for each student. It is paid to eligible colleges and students need to apply to their respective colleges for the grant.
There is also the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants. It’s similar to the Pell Grant, except that it’s for financially deprived students. They need to apply through the financial aid offices of their individual colleges. This grant allot about the same amount as the Pell Grant does, a maximum of $4000.
State grants have also been dishing out free money for needy students. Different states have different rules and amounts but most of them hand out almost the same amount and the same qualifications for applicants. One of the major differences this grants have is that applicants are encouraged to join specialized courses, such as teaching or nursing. They also have to repay some of the money off by working at specific state-sponsored places. For example, in California, teachers have to work at a low-income area a year for every $2000 of grant money given.
Most colleges have their own study grants that are given to spectacular students. They are basically rewards for students who perform well or for those who applied early. Some add grants as a publicity gimmick in hope of attracting more students.
The first step in getting a study grant is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Forms are available at high schools and college financial aid offices nationwide. You can also print them from the Internet or you can call the U.S Department of Education.
It’s imperative that you submit as early as possible since you have to contend with other students that might be more eligible than you. There is also the risk of the grant money running out if you apply too late. The earliest you can submit your form for the next school year is Jan. 1. Many colleges’ student aid deadlines are in early to mid-February.
The FAFSA requires copies of your previous year’s tax return (Your 2007 return if you’re applying for the 2008 school year). If you haven’t completed the returns when submitting, you just need to fill in estimated numbers and update the forms when you receive the actual figures.
Once you send your form to federal center, it will be processed. Numbers are crunched and you will know how much you’re supposed to contribute toward a college education. This figure will be used to evaluate how much from the study grant you actually need to pursue a viable education.
For institution grants, they may need other forms and information from their applicants. Contact your respective student aid offices for more information.
Other forms may also be required for state aids. It is best to meet with the counselors at state student aid offices for details.
These study grants will help most students to follow their dreams. It is worth it to apply early and be patient, because a little money may help you go a long way. For more information, visit the Department of Education site.