The United States government is the #1 issuer of college grants in the country. Hundreds of millions, even billions a year are spent on helping students pay for college without burdening themselves with debt. A government college grant works very differently from a student loan. You never have to repay a college grant, the money you receive will never be taxed and you don’t have to pay any interest on the money you’re taking out.
You can receive anywhere between just a couple hundred dollars to help with costs to having your entire tuition covered, rent and books included. Although some grants have restrictions on what your grant money can be used for, generally speaking you’re free to spend the money as you please on anything education related. That means tuition, books, stationary and even rent.
FAFSA: The Starting Point
The starting point for any grant search is to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Most government grants use this form to determine whether or not you’ll get approved for the grant.
These forms must be sent in before January 1st. The applications are accepted on an annual basis, not on a semester basis. You’ll need to update this information every year.
The FAFSA’s loan process involves filling in a lot of questions about your personal financial situation, your family’s financial situation, your academic history and more.
The Pell Grant
The Pell grant is the most common source of government scholarships. The Pell grant is a clear need-based program that has nothing to do with academic performance or social demographics.
In order to qualify for the Pell grant, you need to show that you come from a low income household and that you wouldn’t be able to afford college without financial aid. The maximum amount you can receive from a Pell grant is between $5,000 and $6,000, depending on the year.
The Pell grant can only be used for undergraduate studies.
Academic Competitiveness Grants
By contrast, the Academic Competitive Grant (ACG) is completely merit based. You need to have a GPA of at least 3.0 and you need to pass the Department of Education’s current standards to qualify.
The ACG grants “stack up” on top of the Pell Grant; meaning you’ll receive both money from a Pell grant as well as from the ACG if you qualify.
The ACG grants are also only applicable for undergraduate studies.
National SMART Grants
Students who’re in their third and fourth years of study might have financial trouble as many grant programs only support undergraduates. The National SMART grants are one of the best ways around this.
This grant is geared specifically for students studying science, mathematics, healthcare, computer science or engineering.
To get a national SMART grant, you need to have at least a 3.0 GPA in your first two years in school, be at least a part time student and also qualify for a Pell grant. Though Pell grants are typically only for undergraduates, if you qualify for the national SMART grant you’ll also get a Pell grant.
These are some of the most common government college grants available to you. Getting a grant from the government is one of the best ways to drastically cut down your educational expenses.