How to Get Grants for College

Too often, people applying for college get confused about the meanings of the various terms related to university financing. Words like scholarship, grant, aid, loan, and fellowship are easy to mix up. But it is important to understand the difference between all the different types of financial assistance that help people afford the ever-increasing expense of higher education; for example, if you accept a loan thinking it is a grant, you’ll get a nasty surprise when asked to repay that dollar amount upon graduation.

How to Get Grants for College

How to Get Grants for College

A grant is an amount of money awarded to a student that does not need to be paid back. It really is as simple as that. Whereas loans will one day have to be paid off, a grant is a gift. Applying for grants for college is important because, besides scholarships, grants are the only kind of higher education funding that you aren’t expected to eventually repay.

Why Are Grants Awarded?

You may be wondering why anyone would give away money for college without expectation of repayment. If you were raised to be suspicious of free gifts, like the writers at were, you’re probably thinking there’s some kind of catch.

Tens of thousands of organizations, be they colleges, state governments, private companies, foundations, or even wealthy individuals, have set up grants to assist students in paying their college expenses. Some do it out of a sense of obligation–they want to share their wealth with needy individuals trying to better themselves by earning an advanced degree. At the government level, money is set aside for grants to send kids to college, money that must be given out as part of state or federal budgets. It is in the government’s interest to improve the quality of the workforce, so they send people to universities and vocational schools so they can improve their skills. Another good reason for setting up a grant is as a healthy and legal tax write-off; philanthropists get a nice tax benefit by giving away grant money to send people off to school.

How to Prepare to Earn Grant Money

If you’re interested in earning grants to go to school, you need to prepare the way you would to earn any school-related award. That means improving and maintaining your GPA, participating in extra-curricular activities, excelling in athletics or volunteer activities, working part-time or full-time while still in high school, being an active member of a faith-based organization . . . the list goes on and on.

Since different grants reward different types of behavior, some looking solely at a student’s academic performance, others concentrating on excellence in the arts or sports, there’s no one way to prepare yourself to win grants.

If you’re a high school sophomore, it is probably time to start looking into the types of grants you’d hope to earn and turning yourself into the sort of student that grant committee  is looking to reward. That means doing some research to find grants and altering your behavior, your course schedule, and what you do in your down-time in order to make yourself eligible for grants.

Examples of College Grants

Want to know how to get grants for college? Take a look at these grants, how much cash they’re offering, what they’re looking for in a student, and build a resume that will make you eligible for that grant award.

1. David L. Boren Undergraduate Program for Study Abroad

This grant is paid to undergraduate students interested in traveling abroad to study culture and language outside the United States. Click the link above and you’ll notice that preference is given to students who plan to study languages or cultures that are of particular interest to national security issues; for instance, right now the David L. Boren grants are being handed out mostly to students studying Arabic, thanks to our country’s near-constant conflict with Arabic-speaking nations. These awards are worth up to $20,000, and never have to be repaid. This is one grant worth looking into if you are planning on studying abroad.

2. Future Farmers of America Grants

The Future Farmers of America Grants are given to undergrads who are studying farming or agriculture of any kind. This organization is massive and hands out an average of $2 million each academic year. The definition of “agricultural studies” is broad, so your major may make you eligible for a grant from the FFA without you even realizing it. Check out the link and see if you can get a piece of the millions of dollars in grant money available each year from the FFA.

3. The Mary Switzer Research Grants

These grants are available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. You need to have a bachelor’s degree and be actively pursuing a post-graduate education to be eligible, but if you have outstanding academic skills and are looking to complete research in any field related to disabilities and special education, you can get up to $65,000 in free grant money to earn your advanced degree.

4. Team America Rocketry Challenge Grants

Are you a high school student with an interest in rocketry? Maybe you’re a high school student who really wants money for college and wouldn’t mind making something cool and explosive. Either way, this grant is available to high school students who participate in the Aerospace Industries Rocketry Challenge and the National Association of Rocketry. Each year, several $1,000 grants are given out to participants in this program, and some winners also earn travel grants to NASA programs, shuttle launches (now unfortunately defunct), and stipends to help you pay for the everyday necessities of college life. Want to blow something up and earn free money for college? Click the link above and start thinking about rocketry.

If you attend college without some sort of grant money, it’s only because you didn’t try hard enough. Applications are simple, some consisting of little more than a 250-word essay and a registration form. You may only earn a few hundred bucks in free grant funding, but every little bit counts. Do your homework, find grants that match your interests, and make college a little less expensive by applying for grant money. It’s never too early or too late to start.

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