Grants are similar to scholarships in that they are free financial aid that you are not required to repay unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund. But that's where the similarities end.
Unlike grants, scholarships often have a condition attached to them – for instance, you can only receive the money if you get a specific grade point average.
Unlike scholarships, student grants are commonly funded by federal and state governments with the federal government being one of the largest providers of student grants. Approval is typically based on a variety of metrics, including economic need, ability to pay, student status and academic requirements. when you fill out the FAFSA, you are automatically applying for all the federal grants, including the Federal Pell Grant, the FSEOG and the Federal Work-Study Program.
Two general types of grant programs for college students are need-based grants and merit-based grants. First year students may find that they receive less grant awards than they do in subsequent college years. The new GI Bill provides college grants for veterans equal to the tuition for any public university.
Federal Pell Grant
The most common federal grant is the Federal Pell Grant. It is designed to provide financially disadvantaged undergraduate students with financial assistance. The grant is limited to undergraduate students. The Pell Grant deadline is usually June 30. If eligible, students can be reimbursed for money already paid for school. The amount awarded can be adjusted as family circumstances change, such as a drop in household income. The amount of other student aid you might qualify for does not affect the amount of the Pell Grant.
Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
Students with the most need may qualify for the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants or FSEOG. Students must have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0 on their financial aid Student Aid Report (SAR) to qualify for the FSEOG. The amount of the award is determined by the school’s financial aid office. FSEOG awards range from $100 to $4,000 a year.
Unlike Pell Grants, the amount of FSEOGs you receive depends not only on your financial need but also on the amount of other aid you get and the availability of funds at your school.
To apply for the FSEOG you must fill out and submit the FAFSA.
Other types of federal student aid grants are:
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
Both this and the National SMART Grant encourages students to take more challenging courses in high school, making them not only more likely to be successful in college but also to pursue college majors in high demand. This grant program was made available for the first time for the 2006-2007 school year for first year college students who graduated from high school after January 1, 2006, and for second year college students who graduated from high school after January 1, 2005. It provides up to $750 for the first year of undergraduate study and up to $1,300 for the second year of undergraduate study. The Academic Competitiveness Grant award is in addition to the student’s Pell Grant award.
National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant)
This grant program is for full-time undergraduate students who are enrolled in the third or fourth year of undergraduate study. The award is for up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth years. Like the Academic Competitiveness Grant, it is available through the U.S. Department of Education which provides financial assistance to qualified Pell-eligible students
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
TEACH is for students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. This grant is converted to an Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loan and must be repaid if you don’t fulfill the teaching agreement.