Grants are one of the best sources of financial aid. Why? Like scholarships, they generally will not require repayment. Even better, many are based solely on income. You don’t have to worry about competing based on grades or other factors. The income is wide ranging, so many middle class families will still qualify.
When reviewing grants you may qualify for, here are three things you need to know:
1. Is it renewable?
Scholarship or grant money that is renewable each year is amazing: you won’t have to worry about where you’re going to get the funds for next year. But if it is renewable, you need to know the rules. Do you have to maintain a certain GPA, take specific courses, or avoid changing majors? Once you’ve received the money, you don’t have to worry about the rules to qualify. But if you do something that breaks the rules, you’ll have to look for other money in the future. For instance, if you plan on changing majors, seek out other money to make up the difference in the form of other grants, scholarships, or loans before you do so. If your grades slip, see if you have a semester to make it up before you lose the scholarship. You may also find other solutions to the grade issue when meeting with your academic counselor.
2. Who issues the grant?
Grants are generally issued by three sources: states, universities, and the federal government. The federal government has the tightest income restrictions. University grants can have a wide income range. For instance, one public school may offer grants for individuals making up to $75,000, while a private institution may offer some grant aid for families with income up to $200,000. While you should always fill out the FAFSA, it’s good to know there are a range of grants you could qualify for. It’s also a good reminder to apply to a wide range of schools. It’s not a rarity for a family to pay less for a student to attend a private college because of a solid financial aid package.
3. What is required for application?
To determine need, some schools require the CSS Financial Aid Profile--a financial aid form generally used for private schools--to be filled out in addition to the FAFSA. Other schools and states may require additional applications, transcripts, or even essays. Read the requirements carefully: you don’t want to miss out on financial aid because you fail to submit additional required information.