What to Know About Student Grant Programs

  • October 10, 2023
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness
  • GreenPath Financial Wellness is a trusted national nonprofit with more than 60-years of helping people build financial health and resiliency. Our NFCC-certified counselors give you options to manage credit card debt, student loans and homeownership.


  • Federal, state, and private grants are financial aid resources that alleviate the financial burden of college.
  • Eligibility criteria may include requirements related to income, academic achievement/merit, and residency.
  • This blog post explores what you need to know about getting a grant to pay for college in the US.

Student grants are financial awards that help fund college tuition and expenses. For the most part, student grants do not need to be repaid, making them an attractive option for students seeking funding for their education.

Getting a grant to pay for college requires careful planning, research, and dedication.

By understanding the types of grants available, completing the FAFSA, meeting eligibility requirements, staying organized, and crafting strong applications, you can increase your chances of securing the financial assistance you need to pursue your higher education goals.

Note that in some scenarios, organizations may require that a portion or all of the grant funds be repaid. As an example, students who withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period such as a semester will likely have to repay a grant. Each grant program noted below has specific eligibility criteria, which may include factors such as income, academic achievement/merit, and residency.

It’s essential to review the eligibility requirements for each grant you’re interested in and make sure you meet them. Some grants may also have GPA or course load requirements, so maintain good academic standing to remain eligible.

Types of Student Grant Programs

Federal Grants:

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers a variety of federal grants to students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools. Check out the grant programs for more details and to learn how to apply:

Federal Pell Grants

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants

Federal Student Grant Programs website is a good resource to bookmark to research details for different federal student grant programs.

State Grants:

Many states offer grants to residents pursuing higher education within their state. These grants often have specific eligibility requirements and application deadlines, so it’s essential to research the options available in your state. Use this resource to research state grants: US Department of Education

Merit-Based Student Grants:

Merit-based grants provide free college funds to students based on academic performance, sometimes in combination with financial need.  The most common types of merit-based grants are state-based grants, which award education money to students with certain grade point averages and income levels. Additional resources are available to begin learning about merit based grants.

Need-Based Student Grants:

Need-based grants are often awarded to students who may not be able to attend college without the funds.  Sometimes your family income is a key in the formula for determining the ability to pay and sometimes it is not.  The amount you receive each year may change depending on federal budget restrictions, your family’s expected cost contribution and your student status. The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is awarded only to students with the most need.

There are also federally-funded work-study programs, which provide financially needy students with on-campus (or, in some cases, off-campus) job opportunities. These part-time positions are held while the student is enrolled in school, and are available to both part-time and full-time undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. However, not all schools participate in the Federal Work-Study Program. It pays to check with a school’s financial aid office to find out if the institution participates.

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Institutional Grants:

Colleges and universities may offer their own grants to students based on academic achievement, talent, or financial need. Be sure to check with the schools you’re applying to for information on available institutional grants.

Private Grants:

Various private organizations, nonprofits, and foundations provide grants to students. These grants can be based on factors such as academic merit, field of study, or community involvement.

Other Student of Grants:

There are plenty of other grants out there, such as grants for minorities, women, disabled individuals, etc.  These and other types of student grants may have different eligibility requirements. Do some research online at the official Federal Student Aid website, CollegeScholarships.org or FinAid to get a better understanding of what you might qualify for.

It All Starts with the FAFSA

For most federal and state grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the starting point. The FAFSA collects information about your family’s financial situation, which is used to determine your eligibility for federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, as well as other forms of financial aid, including loans and work-study programs.

Once you’ve submitted a FAFSA form, your college or career school will let you know how much you may receive and when you may receive it.

It’s crucial to complete the FAFSA accurately and submit it by the deadline, as some grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

FASFA Website

Discover What to Know About Completing the FAFSA. Click here to learn more about the FAFSA application process.

Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success

  • Stay Organized and Apply Early: Applying for grants can be a competitive process, so it’s essential to stay organized and start early. Make a list of all the grants you’re eligible for, along with their application deadlines. Create a checklist of required documents, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays. Starting your grant applications well in advance of the deadlines will give you ample time to prepare and submit high-quality materials.
  • Write Strong Essays and Personal Statements: Many grant applications require you to write essays or personal statements explaining your educational and career goals, financial need, and why you deserve the grant. Take your time to craft compelling, well-written essays that highlight your achievements and aspirations. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or advisors to improve your application.
  • Seek Help and Guidance: Navigating the grant application process can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Seek guidance from your high school counselor, college financial aid office, or scholarship search websites. They can provide valuable information on available grants and help with the application process.

Connect with GreenPath

How does your financial situation stack up? Financing a college education takes planning, and it can be helpful to look at your entire financial picture. Connect with a GreenPath caring, certified financial expertConnect with a GreenPath caring, certified financial expert to understand your options.

Persistence and determination can go a long way in your quest for college funding. Good luck!

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Julie Rogier (She/Her)

With a multi-decade career in communications, Julie Rogier serves on GreenPath’s content marketing team. She has presented on financial wellness for groups including the 2021 and 2022 Financial Services Midwest Summit, and regularly writes about financial health and wellness for several publications including U.S. News and World Report.

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Greenpath Financial Wellness

GreenPath Financial Wellness is a trusted national nonprofit with more than 60-years of helping people build financial health and resiliency. Our NFCC-certified counselors give you options to manage credit card debt, student loans and homeownership.