Managing the financial aspects of a college education is a struggle for most people. Unless you are independently wealthy, you will probably need some financial assistance to cover the costs of tuition, books and living expenses while going to school. Financial aid comes in several forms, the most common of which are student loans, scholarships, and grants.
Paying for college without any help is a daunting task and in many cases, might be impossible for you.
Instead of sacrificing your career, use grants, loans or scholarships.
Scholarships and grants are money you get without obligation to repay, providing you meet various requirements. The more money you can for your college costs from scholarships and grants, the less you will have to pay out of pocket.
This article will focus on the steps you need to take to secure grants to help minimize your out of pocket costs.
State, School, and Local Support
If you know what college or university you want to attend, call their financial aid department.
Some, like Purdue University’s Scholarship help, are not specific to single moms but are targeted to adult learners. Others, like Alabama’s Central Community Foundation, are based on geographic location and financial need.
Schools usually have their own loan programs for their students to use. They might even have some unheard of student scholarship programs for you to apply for and get some cash.
The Kalamazoo Community Foundation is a place to check out as well. They offer many scholarships and grants for you as well. Because this is an organization instead of a bank or school, they are going to be more sympathetic and personal. They will go the extra mile for you. Look for other organizations nearby you since they usually maximize the amount of help.
The first thing you have to do is to apply for the Free Application for the Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. FAFSA makes you eligible to be considered for the various financial aids for colleges in the US. It is the first step towards receiving a grant for your college.
Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
This program is a need-based grant for students with the highest monetary crisis. The amount of money eligible students could be anywhere in between $100-$4000.
Academic Competitive Grant or ACG
The ACG is granted to someone who successfully satisfies the merit criteria. It is available to the first and second-year college students who have performed exceptionally well in their academics. A first-year student receives up to $750, and the amount goes up to $1300 afterward.
The National SMART Grant
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant for those studying in the third/fourth year of college. They must be pursuing a degree in mathematics, science or engineering. It is a merit-based grant, and if you qualify, you can get up to $4000.
Not all grants have to come from schools or aid societies. Pell Grants are based on economic need. The Pell Grant, which you apply for through the FAFSA, offers between $400 and $5,350 to those who qualify and is also the stepping stone for other federal grants.
Pell Grants do not have to be repaid, unlike traditional loans. The only criteria it has is that the recipient must not have earned their bachelor’s degree and must be going back to school to get a professional degree.
You must also have a clean record because this is a very prestigious kind of government benefit. Usually, the prices of how much is awarded each year to the recipients of the Pell Grants do change, but often it is around $5,000 to pay for a large fraction of schooling.
Here are the Basic Criteria:
- Financial need – How much you are in need of the Pell grant. This is based on your earnings and savings.
- Full-time/Part-time school – If you are going to school full time, you may receive a bit more help in different areas. A part-time school will probably be a little less.
- How long you are planning to attend school – If you are planning to attend school for more than a year, you will probably earn more.
- How much your school costs regarding attendance – This is another criterion taken into regard. They will check how much your tuition costs and will accommodate your needs accordingly when figuring out the Pell grant.
The Pell Grant is usually applied through FAFSA. Once you fill out your FAFSA application, you will get notified about your Pell grant and more information regarding it. Before applying, make sure that you are eligible for the Pell Grant and that you meet the criteria. They are easy to fill out.
Search for Grants
You can also find some local government offices nearby that would have staffs recruited to educate those who have not known about these programs available.
Seek for any additional grants: there are plenty of websites maintained by the government to help those who are seeking donations to pursue education. There are various financial programs to help such as first come to get first served that offer limited funds as grants, so you need to apply for it ASAP.
Some grants help students with loans to support their expenses such as books, tuition fees, college fees, expense costs and various other related expenses at school.
It’s wise to be thorough regarding the requirements to apply for the grants. It will make the entire process more manageable. Have your necessary information available, as well as your schools. Most of the grants would require you to complete essay with an explanation on why you need a subsidy.
Some of the grants are offered as per the details such as nationality, low income, ethnicity and few other details.
Ask Local Offices For Help
At local offices, it’s wise to inquire entirely and apply. Ask these important questions related to grants:
- Procedure to obtain the grant
- The deadlines by which you can apply for it
- The documents and resources essential to apply for grants
- The time duration for the grant to be awarded
These steps would help you with getting the education you deserve and getting it at a reasonable price. Follow the steps precisely and get the best benefit from it.
A Step by Step Guide For Applying for Grants
Step 1. Gather Information
Before you can apply, you will need to gather information from a variety of sources. This will help you fill out the forms correctly, and you won’t have to go scurrying for details at the last minute so you can complete them. While some grant applications may have a few unique requirements, most are the same. You will want to check with your grant issuer’s obligations to make sure you are covering everything they want.
Financial Information –
This will include your own information, and if you are under the age of 25, most colleges and universities will want to see your family’s financial information. This will include copies of most recent year’s tax returns and a lifting of any financial assets.
Personal Information –
This is the usual information like name, address, social security number, names and addresses of any other schools attended and any other pertinent information.
Step 2. Meeting Eligibility Requirements
To demonstrate eligibility for a grant, you must be able to prove compliance with some requirements. Again, check your specific grant’s list of conditions but in general you must:
- Demonstrate a genuine need for financial assistance
- Possess a high school diploma or equivalent
- Be enrolled as a student at college or university working towards a degree
- Ensure the institution you are enrolled at is eligible to receive grant payments
- Be either a citizen of the United States or a qualified non-resident of the United States
- Have a social security number issued in your name
- Be registered with Selective Service if required
- Maintain a passing grade point average
- Not be in default on any student loan of any kind
- Consent that funds will be used for school and school-related expenses only
Step 3. Complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)
The most commonly sought grant is the Pell Grant. Formerly known as the Basic Education Opportunity Grant program, it is federally funded and assists with college cost up to a maximum of $5,500 per term.
To be approved for the Pell Grant, you are required to complete the FAFSA. Every college and University will require that you complete this form as well. The Pell Grant is given on an as-needed basis, and your school will notify you as to whether or not you qualify. You can complete the form and learn more about FAFSA here.
Step 4. Check Out All Your Options
As you complete the FAFSA, you will find a section about the type of aid you might consider. This is where you need to consider grants carefully. There are many opportunities, and some will allow you to get money automatically for merely meeting certain conditions such as having at one time been a ward of the state. Take a look at some of these options.
- Grants.gov is a website specifically for those seeking information on grants not only for college but small businesses and other needs.
Once you register here, you can use the website’s search function to find out if you meet the qualifications for any grants. You may be eligible for some grants based on age, gender, race or other parameters. Some grants are offered to those willing to enter specific career fields or who have exceptional circumstances.
- States also offer grants separately from the federal government that can help with the cost of a college education. These programs may be able to help you reduce your out of pocket costs. You need to check with your state to find out what is available and how you qualify.
- Third party grants may also be available from corporations and the public school system where you live. The organization is administering the grant mandates amounts and eligibility requirements. Usually, eligibility is determined through demonstration of financial need, the maintaining of certain GPA, or your participation within a given club or as a member of the community involved in service or volunteer work.
Step 5. Meet with Your School’s Financial Aid Office
The person or people working at your school’s financial aid office have experience in helping students find creative ways to pay for school. If you are still in high school, your guidance counselor can help get you on the right path and help you make the right contacts to make obtaining a grant easier.
The financial aid office at your college or university will know of specific grants that may be career field-related or offered by someone in the community. Because of the nature of their work, they have contacts and resources that can help you obtain any grants you qualify for.
Step 6. Turn In the Application [ On Time ]
Once you have completed the research and gathered your information, you are ready to complete the applications and submit them. Timeliness is of the essence. Do not wait until the last minute to complete your form.
Computers go down, power failures occur and last minute interruptions might cause you to miss a deadline which would disqualify you when you might otherwise could have been approved.
As you can see, financial aid is available, and it is not always as difficult to get as you might think. Do your research and avoid scams that require you to pay for grant help, but do not feel that a college education is out of your grasp.
Apart from those mentioned above, there are also some private institutions and not-for-profit organizations that offer grants. In this regard, you need to check with the financial aid offices of the colleges or institutions that they intend to join. Your school itself remains the best bet.
Don’t expect to find everything that is available in one session. You may have to look several times to see all the grants you could be eligible for. It is a remarkable journey you are embarking on, and it is worth the time you spend on it.
Take some time to understand the programs open to you. Knowing the eligibility requirements, deadlines for filing and the amounts you may receive will help you get through the process more efficiently.
When you set out to find grants, don’t stop until you have tried out every possibility.
Although it’s a long and tedious process, getting the college education is worth it.