Ahh...the sweet smell of free money. We are, of course, talking about college grants. It doesn't get much better when you're facing the responsibility of paying for school. Grants are an awesome financial resource for college students looking at their financial aid options.

Wait, you didn't know that grants were free? Are you new here? We kid, of course. For those of you just beginning down the financial aid road, college grants are indeed free money. Unlike loans, which must be repaid, grants are gift funds that do not require repayment. College grants may be federally-based or organization-affiliated.

1. Federal Grants

  • Federal Pell Grant. This is the largest federal grant option, which is fairly straight-forward and has few requirements. The Pell Grant is based on an individual’s financial need. There are no defined academic requirements aside from attending a participating university, but keep up with schoolwork, as this grant may be revoked if grades are sub-par. The maximum Pell Grant amount for 2011-12 is $5,550. In addition to financial need, the received amount will be determined by the cost to attend your selected school and your status (full-time or part-time enrollment).
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Similar guidelines apply to the FSEOG. This grant is only for students with the highest financial need. The FSEOG provides to students who have the lowest Expected Family Contribution (EFC) levels (how much they can pay toward school). Those students eligible for the aforementioned Pell Grant get top consideration for this one too. The SEOG has limits, however. Each school receives a set amount of FSEOG funds per year and once it's gone--it's gone. The maximum award is set at $4000 per year.
  • Academic Competitiveness Grants. These grants exist to reward the highest-achieving low-income freshmen and sophomore students. Such recipients have course loads deemed to be "rigorous." While most grants provide to students mainly because of need, ACGs are both need- and merit-based. You must have applied for the Pell Grant, be enrolled full-time and maintain a GPA of no less than 3.0. These do yield lower award amounts, with the maximum set at $750 per year for freshmen and $1,300 for sophomores.

2. Organization-affiliated/Private

Association with various groups and organizations may have its benefits. So many groups provide college grant assistance for their members. The Aid Association for Lutherans provides grant funds to church members, so do the American Baptist Church National Ministries. Additional organization-sponsored grants are related to talents, and include both the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation grant for writers and the Carole Fielding Student Grant for film makers. Organizations related to your field of study tend to be helpful as well. The National Society of Accountants is known to offer grant money to students in this major, and the Broadcast Education Association supports future journalists. It is worthwhile to check with any group you can think of to see how they can help.

Free money...It's a wonderful thing. It's not so hard to get financial aid--you just have to know where to look! College grants may well be the solutions to your financial aid needs. One answer down, 100 more to go. Keep 'em coming and call Go Financial Aid for all the rest!

Categories: Financial Aid | Grants
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