Applying for financial aid for college is a necessity. Even children of wealthy parents should (and do) apply for grants and other cash assistance when it’s time to pursue higher education. College costs are higher than ever before and continuing to rise, and there’s no reason to think that universities will suddenly become less expensive.
In short: applying for grants for college is a fact of life for students interested in any sort of education beyond high school, be it certification from a vocational school, an associate’s degree from a two-year college, or a full-fledged bachelor’s degree. Post-graduate studies are equally expensive, meaning candidates for graduate and doctoral degrees should apply for funding as well.
If you don’t know how to apply for grants for college, you’re missing out on the opportunity to earn free money to continue your education. Unlike loans, grants don’t need to be paid back. Though grants, like scholarships (which also don’t require repayment), come with caveats that can lead to the funding being retracted, if you follow the rules you will never owe anyone a dime of the money you receive to get your degree.
Steps to Applying for College Grants
This is a generic list of the steps you should take to begin the grant application process. Once you research the specific grants you’ll be applying for, you’ll have a better idea of the application process required. But for now, learning the basics of grant application will help you down the path towards earning money to pay for college.
1. Find Available Grants
If you don’t know what kind of money is available to you, you’ll never get your plan to use grant money to pay for college off the ground. Simply researching what kind of funding you can earn is the first step in your application process.
2. Improve Your Standing in the Eyes of Grant Committees
After you have a decent list of funding opportunities and the basic information about the cash that’s available and how it is awarded, it will be time to tailor your course schedule, extra-curricular activities, and other details to make yourself the best possible candidate. Depending on the money you’re after and the features the committee is looking for in their award recipients, you may need to increase your GPA, enroll in specific classes, take certain standardized tests, write essays, gather letters of recommendation, or participate in a specific contest to make yourself eligible.
3. Complete Applications & Follow Up as Required
The final step is to fill out the paperwork and send in any supplemental materials to the address provided by the group rewarding the actual grant itself. Knowing how to properly follow up on grant applications is a huge part of the process; some grant committees won’t want you to follow up at all, while others make this part of the process a requirement.
As you can tell from the generic language in the above steps, grant applications come in all shapes and sizes and with any number of different requirements. Until you put together a list of funds you’re after, you won’t be able to start applying for college grants.
Examples of College Grant Money Opportunities
This short list of grants currently available to prospective college students by no means represents the entirety of funding opportunities. Think of these as representations of the kind of money that’s out there for the taking. Look these offers over before you start researching on your own, then get out there and snatch up all the cash you can. College doesn’t have to bankrupt you and your family or put you in debt for the next twenty years, thanks to cash-flow available from groups like those listed below.
Here’s an example of two types of funding: money available from specific colleges and universities and cash handed out to students with specific needs, in this case, creative writing students interested in independent study summer projects through Rice University. This grant is available through the English Department at Rice, and hands out awards between $700 and $3,000 depending on financial need, student accolades, and the cost of the student’s proposed project. To earn this money, you must be pursuing a graduate degree in one of Rice’s English majors, preferably some form of creative writing. This money is generally awarded to students pursuing lengthy projects that require research outside the United States. Click the link above for more details on this award.
The ACE hands out a number of grants and scholarships to Cosmetology students. This money comes from companies like Sports Clips, Super Cuts, and other hair salon chains, as well as private foundations dedicated to providing students interested in Cosmetology with cash necessary to get their education. To earn any of this grant or scholarship funding, you must be currently enrolled in any AACS-affiliated school. The link above takes you to a page for more information on these funding opportunities.
Known as the SMART grant (get it?), this money is given to students who have achieved high levels of success in the fields of math, science, engineering, computer science, and even some foreign languages. You must be a junior or senior at any accredited undergraduate university to apply for a SMART grant, and your major has to be in any of the above fields, including majors in Arabic, Spanish, or any Asian language. SMART grants are worth up to $4,000 per year and are renewable once if certain standards are met. Unlike some cash for college, SMART grants can be used alongside Pell Grants, so student who already get Pell Grant money can apply for SMART cash as well. The cool thing about this award is that every student who fills out a FAFSA is automatically considered. Check out the link above for more details.
Applying for money for college isn’t hard; you just need to know how to do it. Once you’ve filled out your first scholarship or financial aid form, you’ll have no trouble repeating the process. It takes time to gather information and fill in the forms, but the money you earn makes any time spent on these applications well worth it.