Managing the financial aspects of a college education is a struggle for most people. Unless you are independently wealthy, you will probably need some financial assistance to cover the costs of tuition, books and living expenses while going to school. Financial aid comes in several forms, the most common of which are student loans, scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants are money you get without obligation to repay, providing you meet various requirements. The more money you can for your college costs from scholarships and grants, the less you will have to pay out of pocket. This article will focus on the steps you need to take to secure grants to help minimize your out of pocket costs.

Step 1. Gather Information

Before you can apply, you will need to gather information from a variety of sources. This will help you fill out the forms correctly and you won’t have to go scurrying for information at the last minute so you can complete them. While some grant applications may have a few unique requirements, most are the same. You will want to check with your grant issuer’s requirements to make sure you are covering everything they want.

  •  – Financial Information – This will include your own information and if you are under the age of 25, most colleges and universities will want to see your family’s financial information. This will include copies of most recent year’s tax returns and a lifting of any financial assets.
  •  – Personal Information – This is the usual information like name, address, social security number, names and addresses of any other schools attended and any other pertinent information.

Step 2. Meeting Eligibility Requirements

In order to demonstrate eligibility for a grant, a student must be able to prove compliance with a number of requirements. Again, check you sp3ecific grant’s list of requirements but in general you must:

  • -Demonstrate a true need for financial assistance
  • -Possess a high school diploma or equivalent
  • -Be enrolled as a student at college or university working towards a degree
  • -Ensure the institution you are enrolled at is eligible to receive grant payments
  • -Be either a citizen of the United States or a qualified non-resident of the United States
  • -Have a social security number issued in your name
  • -Be registered with Selective Service if required
  • -Maintain a passing grade point average
  • -Not be in default on any student loan of any kind
  • -Consent that funds will be used for school and school-related expenses only

Step 3. Complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)

The most commonly sought grant is the Pell Grant. Originally known as the Basic Education Opportunity Grant program, it is federally funded and assists with college costs up to a maximum of $5,500 per term. In order to be approved for the Pell Grant, you are required to complete the FAFSA. Every college and University will require that you complete this form as well. The Pell Grant is given on an as needed basis and you will be notified by your school as to whether or not you qualify. You can complete the form and learn more about FAFSA here.

Step 4. Check Out All Your Options

As you complete the FAFSA, you will find a section about the type of aid you might consider. This is where you really need to consider grants carefully. There are many opportunities and some will allow you to get money automatically for simply meeting certain conditions such having at one time been a ward of the state. Take a look at some of these options.

  • is a website specifically for those seeking information on grants not only for college but for small businesses and other needs. Once you register here, you can use the website’s search function to find out if you meet the qualifications for any grants. You may be eligible for some grants based on age, gender, race or other parameters. Some grants are offered to those willing to enter specific career fields or who have special circumstances.
  • -States also offer grants separately from the federal government that can help with the cost of a college education. These programs may be able to help you reduce your out of pocket costs. You need to check with your state to find out what is available and how you qualify.
  • -Third party grants may also be available from corporations and the public school system where you live. Amounts and eligibility requirements are mandated by the organization administering the grant. Usually eligibility is determined through demonstration of financial need, the maintaining of certain GPA, or your participation within a given club or as a member of the community involved in service or volunteer work.

Step 5. Meet with Your School’s Financial Aid Office

The person or people working at your school’s financial aid office have experience in helping students find creative ways to pay for school. If you are still in high school, your guidance counselor can help get you on the right path and help you make the right contacts to make obtaining a grant easier.

The financial aid office at your college or university will know of specific grants that may be career field-related or offered by someone in the community. Because of the nature of their work, they have contacts and resources that can help you obtain any grants you qualify for.

Step 6. Turn In the Application – On Time

Once you have completed the research and gathered your information, you are ready to complete the applications and submit them. Timeliness is of the essence. Do not wait until the last minute to complete your application. Computers go down, power failures occur and last minute interruptions might cause you to miss a deadline which would disqualify you when you might otherwise have been approved.

Tips on Finding and Getting Grants

Don’t expect to find everything that is available in one session. You may have to look several times to find all the grants you could be eligible for. It is an important journey you are embarking on and it is worth the time you spend on it.

Take some time to understand the programs open to you. Knowing the eligibility requirements, deadlines for filing and the amounts you may receive will help you get through the process more efficiently.

When you set out to find grants, don’t stop until you have exhausted every possibility.

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