Along with scholarships, grants are a popular sources of funding for undergraduate students. Though many of us are familiar with scholarships, a large chunk of the student population remains unaware of what grants are, how they work, and how they can be applied for.
And right about now, if you're nodding your head in agreement, you're among such students!
For starters, grants are quite similar to scholarships, but the two entities aren't precisely the same. While both are beneficial means of monetary support for academically deserving but financially challenged students, obtaining grants is sometimes considered more stringent than receiving a scholarship.
Grants are funds disbursed by one party (known as 'Grant Makers' who are mostly a government department, foundation, corporation, or trust) to a recipient (usually, but not always, educational institution, a nonprofit entity, business or an individual). Much like a scholarship, a grant doesn't require repayment. It is, thus, a sort of gift from the grantmaker to the recipient. Most grants are directed towards funding a specific project and need some level of compliance and reporting.
In the US, most of the grants are offered by government departments or private and public trusts and foundations. According to the Foundation Center, these trusts and foundations number more than 88,000 and disperse more than $40 billion worth of grants every year. Trusts and Foundations that distribute grants are a little more complicated to research and can be found through subscription-based directories.
Financial circumstances can prevent some of the brightest sparks from fulfilling their potential and going to university or college. Families with a low income may not afford to lose a wage, a single parent may have other children to look after, or a family may not be able to send their children to college due to financial crunch. Regardless of the reason, the aim behind designing federal grants is that such factors don't play a part in significant decisions and that the spot offered by the university can be filled if an individual wants to go.
Did you know that most of the funding given to students all over America is provided by the federal government? In fact, America now has the power, as the largest student aid source on the continent, to ensure that individuals from lower-class families can manage to send their children to school. America disburses over $80 billion a year in aid, and that amount is set to rise in the future because there are more grants added to the list every year. But it is not just the grants America offers that can help out needy families; it is also the work-study assistance payments made to single-parent families and those families that can't afford to drop a wage. So in effect, there is a way to help needy individuals that want to fulfill their potential.
It doesn't cost an individual anything to apply for federal aid. If you wanted to apply for a regular scholarship, for example, then you'd have to pay an administration fee that doesn't even guarantee that your application gets read. However, if you apply for federal aid funding, you don't have to pay a single penny, and your application will always be reviewed before you are informed of the decision. Plus, you will always get a reason for the decision, which makes for a refreshing change!
The initial step when applying for a grant is to fill up the FAFSA form.
FAFSA stands for ‘Free Application for Federal Student Aid’. It’s a form that is filled annually by current or prospective college students (whether undergraduate or graduate) in the U.S. The government uses it to determine your eligibility for student financial aid, which includes Pell grants and work-study programs. Even though it’s called the application for federal student aid it’s actually the gateway to be considered for over 600 state-based aids as well as most of the institutional aid that’s available.
Nearly all US colleges and universities use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal and state-funded financial aid including grants, work-study programs and educational loans. In addition to the FAFSA, some states/colleges require additional forms or applications for aid. Check with your school’s financial aid office for any state and/or school specific requirements.
Note: The maximum aid amount is given for any student who is eligible for the Pell Grant and whose parent (or guardian) died while serving in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Additionally, you must be under 24 years or enrolled in at least part-time college at the time of your parent's or guardian's death.
We've consulted our counsellors and gone through our student chats to come up with this list of Q&A's. Without further ado, let’s get started.
A. Loans, grants, and scholarships are all means to fund higher education and research, but all three have some fundamental differences. The most tangible difference between the three is that a loan needs to be repaid with interest, whereas grants and scholarships don't need to be repaid.
Now let’s try to differentiate scholarships and grants.
Regardless of whether you apply for a scholarship or grant, merely submitting an application or a proposal does not guarantee that you will receive the promised funds. Everything depends on how strong your eligibility for qualifying is.
A. There are a variety of sources that can give you information about probable scholarship giving institutions or grant funders:
While it is useful to source information from the Internet, you should take care of confirming the institution's or funders' authenticity since several cases of fraud have been observed over the years. Never submit an application or proposal to any entity that asks for money to consider your application.
A. The process is a bit different as compared to submitting scholarship applications. The success or failure of your grant proposal depends on the way you draft your proposal. Make sure that your proposal:
Above all, you need to remember that grants are not quick funding solutions. The time between your submission and actual receipt of the funds can be up to a year. Funders often take a long time to make decisions about substantial grants, although sometimes they have short funding cycles for particular projects.
Typically, after you submit an appropriately drafted grant proposal, you receive a letter from the funder saying that your application is under review, or that it has been rejected. The time when you receive this letter varies from donor to donor. However, if you don't hear anything about your application for a couple of weeks after your submission, don't hesitate to follow up via phone or email.
A. Yes, but not all such aids. Graduate students are eligible for federal loans and Federal Work Study (FWS), but they are ineligible for free government Pell Grants. But they shouldn't be disheartened since plenty of non-government aid is available for them. They can look at college financial aid sites and dedicated scholarship websites for more options.
A. The majority of financial aid cheque will not go to you, but instead, head straight to your school. The cheques need to be payable to the prospective college you will be attending because they can then be used against costs such as housing and tuition. If much of a scholarship is spent on living costs and has covered the rent, you may have that amount back, but the rest of it will go into your account at the college. You may need to contact your prospective college before applying to see what their procedure is.
A. If you've been awarded a grant, it will most probably be on a conditional basis. You need to maintain a certain GPA to qualify, although that can sometimes be specific to particular subjects or classes instead of the overall grade. Different colleges and bodies set different targets for the students that they have awarded money to. This information is usually mentioned in the literature and students are advised to read it before accepting the offer.
A. That depends on the terms and conditions of the grant as set by the body that administers them. If you're awarded help from several bodies, you can take it, as long as you inform all such bodies that you hold more than one because this may affect their assessment. For example, you can keep a college and a federal hardship grant simultaneously, but you do have to inform both parties about the help you are getting.
If you wish to go for higher studies at a college or university but can't afford it even with the help of your family, one of the first places you need to find financial aid is in the United States Department of Education. The government's federal aid packages can help to fulfill your hopes and dreams and make higher education affordable. There is such extensive help available out there via federal grants that there is no reason why someone with talent shouldn't go to university.