Free Grants For Students
Student Grants: Here’s a number for you: $450 Billion! Almost half a trillion dollars is given out each year by the U.S. Government, and while it’s obviously not all for students, college expenses, or student grants – a good portion of it is.
Every student, or parent of students, should pursue all available free grant options when trying to cope with the mounting costs of college and higher education. It just doesn’t make sense to turn down free money from the government that they are looking to give away specifically for college and college expenses.
Finding available grants is not really the problem, as there is website after website that specifically helps in this area. The real challenge to finding student grants is successfully navigating the entire grant process. Most websites will focus on one aspect to finding student grants, and there are really 3 to consider:
- Finding the grant specific to your need or demographic.
- Applying for the grant (sometimes called the grant “proposal” – this is a crucial step that if not handled appropriately can be the difference between getting the money or not).
- Learning how the money is awarded.
So What Exactly Is A Grant?
Grants are sums of money that are given out to finance a particular project or venture. Grants are often requested for causes such as
- Research: by a researcher, lab, inventor, institution, etc.
- Programs: for a school, city, non-profit organization, etc.
- Business: starting up a business, introducing new services, etc.
- Personal Assistance: rebuilding after natural disasters, housing, etc.
- Scholarship (what we’re interested in): money to help deserving students.
Like with regular scholarships, grants are awarded by different sources, including the federal government, individual state governments, corporations, foundations, charitable trusts, and many other types of organizations.
The Difference Between Grants And Scholarships
Grants are similar to scholarships in that they can help you pay for your education, and you don’t have to pay them back. However, grants in the professional field differ significantly from scholarships, in that when a scientist or educator writes for a grant, they’re writing what is called a “proposal.” They’re proposing some project or another to a financing board, and seeking to secure enough money to set that project in motion.
For example: suppose I am a professor of genetics at an institution in New Hampshire. I have my own lab, but I don’t have all the equipment I need to start my new research project on cancer cells. So, to obtain funding, I will look at the various available funding sources that profess interest in genetics or cancer, and submit a proposal asking for a certain sum of money. My proposal would contain the specifics of my project, my intended use for the money, etc. If the research board approved of the project, I would receive funding from them, called a “grant.”
Student grants are generally given by – though not limited to – the government. For our purposes then, grants are essentially the same as scholarships. The only thing that really differs is the application process, and that mainly in acquiring federal funding.
How Exactly Do I Get The Government To Help Pay For My Education?
It will allow the government a solid picture of your needs, and give you an assessment of how much you need to pay in supplement to government money (because let’s face it, the American government is fairly stingy – and needs to be, with the debt we’ve accumulated).
The process is relatively simple, and the FAFSA web page gives a detailed, step-by-step direction of how to fill out the form, with before, during, and after stages all laid out for you. Just follow each step in order, and you should have no problems getting your reward.
Don’t be daunted by what may seem like a long, drawn-out process, or the number of necessary legal documents. It may take a while, but all the extra measures are precautions for your own benefit, to make things easier in the long run. If you really get discouraged, get some advice from websites like Student Financial Domain, which exist in great abundance for the frustrated student!
Since you’ll be laboring on the FAFSA anyway, you may want to also consider starting with the MyFSA. It’s an easier application process, with access to other resources – plus, you can transfer your MyFSA profile to FAFSA on the web, to save some time!
Is Finding Grants Complicated?
The government is actually very willing to help students in the college process, and they have set up a number of resources with tips on funding your schooling (and just college tips in general). You may want to start with the self-explanatory College.gov – that’s just how easy they’re making this information.
This animated site, with videos, review quizzes, and links galore, really seeks to hook students up with pertinent information about college, whether it be reasons to go, testing strategies, payment methods, or more. On their “Need More Help” page, they even suggest
“Phone-Based Financial Aid Help. Want to talk to a real person? Call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to ask about federal student aid programs, funding your education or applying for financial aid with the FAFSA. TTY users can call 1-800-730-8913.”
If you’re not interested in the general stuff and want to skip straight to finances, you can jump right in at Student Aid On The Web. Here, you’ll find information about FAFSA, along with many other federal funds available to students. For information strictly regarding grants, download their new Grant Programs Fact Sheet PDF (right click to save), which gives you the straight facts for the most popular (and thus most common) grants in concise, understandable fashion. If you want to learn more about a specific grant, there is also a separate Grants Page, with links to each individual grant.
Student Aid on the Web also entails their own Financial Aid and Scholarship Wizard, with two different ways for you to search for scholarships. To make navigating around the site easier, there is a handy Sitemap available.
For those of us who get lost even with maps (virtual and otherwise), there is also a PDF guide: Funding Education Beyond High School, a consolidation of much of the information available on the Student Aid site.
Other Grant Resources
The U.S. Department of Education has dedicated a few of their own grant pages to answering questions such as “What Grants Can I Apply For…” “What College Aid Is Available?” and similar queries. There is also a section especially for Students, covering more general concerns that the ‘experts’ believe you and I must deal with.
Students.gov, the “Student Gateway To The U.S. Government” also has a list of Available Government Grants along with a list of Available Private Scholarships and their own selection of recommended scholarship search directories. For those interested in military service, there is also a list of resources regarding Military Funding For College.
Three other available resources (though not as highly recommended) for students interested in government funding are:
- E-Scholar – A collection of apprenticeships, cooperatives, fellowships, grants, internships, and scholarships within the federal government.
- GovBenefits.gov – Under their “Grants/Scholarships/Fellowships Quick Search,” you will find a listing of various programs related to education.
- FedMoney.org – Under scholarships, you will find another straight listing of programs, scholarships, fellowships, etc.
Though you’re more than welcome to explore any and all of these sites to your hearts content, these last three will involve a lot of reading, as many apply more to educators (be it the school, teacher, department, etc.) than individual students.
Where Else Can I Find Grants?
For those who are hesitant (for whatever reasons) to accept federal aid – or those with legality hindrances such as citizenship, etc. or those that simply want to maximize their ability to secure funds – there are still other options for grant money. The only possible problem is finding the funds…
Unfortunately, grants are more elusive than scholarships. There aren’t many comprehensive grant search sites for students who want money to help them through college – the sites that exist are generally geared more to researchers, non-profit organizations, schools, etc.
After intensively scouring the web through our trustworthy hunter, Google, I believe I can safely say that there is information out there – but really only if you’re willing to invest hours upon hours looking for it.
Now, it is entirely possible that you may get a lucky break (or be exceptionally skilled at internet searches) and secure solid information immediately. Please don’t let this warning discourage you from conducting your own searches. As a friend of mine is fond of saying: “Good things come to those who wait, but great things come to those who take initiative.”
Is It All Just A Matter Of Chance?
Not quite. As it was, the search for helpful grant resources was not entirely fruitless. Again, grant sites for students seem to be a rarity, but they do exist. I strongly recommend CollegeScholarships.org. They have a great grant page, with their own explanation of grants, along with grant categories, and a list detailing a broad selection of student grants.
This site also contains information regarding scholarships and grants, for those seeking to know even more about such opportunities, and though it doesn’t offer a search, there are subdivisions with numerous scholarships and their descriptions.
Another good grant directory is the one consolidated by Michigan State University Libraries, which also subdivides all of the grant opportunities into various categories under Academic Level (precollege, undergrad, etc.), Population Group (disabled, minorities, etc.), and Subject (arts, psychology, etc.).
Though less geared towards student scholarships as the one by College Scholarships.org, this collection does include scholarship grants, and will be a great resource to any students seeking to initiate an undergraduate or graduate project of some sort.
Also, because grants and scholarships are so similar, many scholarship search engines automatically include grants in their scope. Both of our two recommended search sites on the Scholarships page, Fastweb and Zinch, incorporate grants in their compilations of “matches.” If you’ve already perused these websites, two more that I would recommend are:
- CollegeBoard – Includes research grants (for students), internships, federal programs, etc. in their scholarship search, which is also matched to your profile; site also has helpful articles about loans, EFC, and FAFSA, among other things
- Careers & Colleges – Includes grants, fellowships, loans, etc. in their scholarship search (along with everything else), not to mention, by registering, you are AUTOMATICALLY entered into the site’s yearly $10,000 scholarship
In any case, like with scholarships, the money is out there – you just need to know where to look! Invest some time and effort and it will surely pay off. If you’ve found this resource useful, we would greatly appreciate your linking to us from your site, blog, or social profile.