Here’s How to Apply for Education Grants

If you’re wondering how to pay for college for you or a family member, you may be curious about what, if any, grants you qualify for. Unlike student loans, which must be paid back over time, grants are essentially free money that you can use to fund your education. There are a variety of different types of grants available, both from the federal government as well as from private institutions.

What is a federal grant?

Federal grants are funds provided by the federal government for students to use to further their education. These grants can be used to pay for tuition and related expenses at college or career schools. The government offers a variety of different federal grants. In most cases, these grants are based on financial need, meaning that only students who are not otherwise able to pay for their education will qualify. Unlike federal student loans, federal student grants do not need to be repaid except under special circumstances, such as if you withdraw from school before completing a semester, or don’t honor the service terms of a particular grant.

Types of federal grants

The U.S. Department of Education issues several types of federal education grants. These include Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants and Teacher Education Assistance for Higher Education Grants.

  • Federal Pell Grants: These grants are awarded to students with exceptional financial need. In the 2020-21 award year, the maximum award is $6,345. How much you’ll receive from this grant depends on your financial situation, the cost of your school, and whether you plan on attending school full- or part-time.
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): These grants are also based on financial need, but only students who attend participating schools are eligible. Students may receive between $100 and $4,000 a year depending on their financial situation and the amount of funds available.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: These grants are eligible to students whose parent or guardian died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Students are eligible for this type of grant if their parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the student was under 24 or enrolled in school at the time of their death. The maximum award amount is $6,345.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for Higher Education Grants (TEACH): These grants are available to students who plan to begin a career in teaching. In order to be eligible for a TEACH grant, students must attend a school that participates in the grant, enroll in a qualifying program and maintain a certain GPA. Students must also sign an agreement to serve as a full-time teacher for at least four years within eight years of graduation at a low-income school or educational service agency. These grants provide up to $4,000 a year in funding.

Required documents for federal grants

There are a variety of documents and information you’ll need in order to apply for a federal grant for college. These include:

  • Your Social Security number or A-Number
  • Your (or your parent or guardians’) tax returns
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

These documents will help the federal government determine how much need-based aid you qualify for and whether you’re eligible for any federal grants.

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the application that students are required to use to apply for federal grants, federal student loans and other types of need-based financial aid for college or career school. The FAFSA application requires information that is used to establish your identity, evaluate your financial situation and determine how much need-based aid you qualify for. While the FAFSA process can be confusing for first-time applicants, the application guides you through each step of the process. In order to apply for federal grants using FAFSA, you should:

  • Create an FSA ID: Before you can apply for federal grants or other types of aid, you must first create an FSA ID. This ID allows you to sign your FAFSA form electronically, and can also be used to log in to your account and view the status of your application online. If you’re a dependent, your parent will also need to create an FSA ID.
  • Gather your documents and information” The FAFSA form requires information about you and your financial situation, as well as information about your parents or guardians if you’re still a dependent. This includes your social security number, tax returns and records of other forms of income.
  • Start filling out your FAFSA form: The FAFSA form is available for the next school year starting October 1. Applicants have until the end of June to complete the form, but it’s best to start as early as possible in order to head off any issues that may arise.
  • List schools you plan on applying to: You must list at least one school to receive your information on the FAFSA application, and can list up to ten total schools to start. You can also add additional schools later if you plan on applying to over ten schools.
  • Finish filling out your application: You’ll be required to fill out the information about yourself and your financial situation. If you’re a dependent, you’ll also have to include information about your parents. Be sure to report all information accurately to the best of your ability.
  • Sign and submit your application: Once you have completed your application, you’ll need to sign and submit it. You can sign online using your FSA ID, or you can print out, sign and mail the signature page.

Too long, didn’t read?

College grants can be a great way to save money on your education. Some grants are based on financial need, while others are based on your plans for study or your family circumstances. Students can also help finance educational expenses by taking out student loans. Borrowers should be sure to pay back student loans on time in order to avoid hurting their credit, and may want to consider consolidating loans after graduation in order to secure a better rate.

Margaret Wack
Margaret Wack
Contributing Writer

Margaret Wack writes about personal finance, health, wellness, arts and culture, among other topics.

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