University grants are an offer of free money directly from the university. You always have to fill out the FAFSA, but there may be other forms needed in order to apply.
Here’s what you need to know to secure university grants:
1. Apply as early as possible through the FAFSA or CSS Profile.
Some grants are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis. It's best to fill out any necessary forms as quickly as possible. The FAFSA is available on October 1st. The CSS PROFILE, a fee-based application that many schools use for determining financial need, should only be filled out if the school you’re applying to requires it. Fill it out as soon as you know which schools you are applying to, but try to limit it to only the schools you're seriously considering. If your income is limited, try for a CSS Profile fee waiver. The guidelines are the same as fee waivers for taking the SAT.
2. Read grant rules when necessary.
Grants are sometimes code for financial aid awards that were traditionally called scholarships. There can be much more to the application process than financial need. With every grant that’s listed by the university, see what the rules are. Do you need to fill out extra forms or provide a recommendation letter or essay? Many grants will just be automatic after filling out the FAFSA or CSS PROFILE, but you still want to make sure you check with financial aid for all the grants and scholarships you could possibly qualify for.
3. Look for tuition discounts.
Tuition discounts are another term for free money from universities. These aren't generically called a scholarship or a grant, but they do reduce the price of college. For instance, an out-of-state student may get a tuition discount that will offer in-state tuition prices or a lower tuition rate. This kind of popular tuition discount--available at many state schools--is also called a waiver. When applying to colleges, it’s always a good idea to search the website and call the financial aid office to ask about tuition discounts and waivers.
4. Negotiate your financial aid award.
What’s the best part about being accepted into multiple schools? Negotiation. If one school is a little cheaper than another school based on the financial aid offer you received, call the financial aid office of the other school. Let them know what you received and see if they can match the offer. It never hurts, right? So why not try? Many students have succeeded. You just have to make sure you phrase it as if you’re choosing between the two schools and finances are important. NEVER say one school isn’t worth the extra tuition. It’s simply about which you can afford.