Student grants are free monetary gifts to people who are pursuing higher education. Unlike student loans, grants do not require repayment. Student grants also differ from scholarships, which are usually given to and by specific groups of people for a specific line of study and often require students to have exceptional grades.
Many different types of student grants are available including federal grants, state grants, private grants, minority grants, grants for the disabled, military grants, grants for women and grants for students who are low income or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Besides the obvious benefit of helping a student pay for school, prestigious grants look good on graduate school applications. Receiving a Guggenheim Foundation grant or a Fulbright grant--two well-known and highly competitive student grants programs--can increases your chances of excelling in your chosen field of study.
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Because grants come in many different forms, they are available to many different populations of students. Grants such as the federal Pell Grant are available to low-income students, regardless of academic success. Conversely, student grants are not always needs-based; private colleges and universities invest approximately one-third of their grant money in students with the ability to pay.
Grants almost always have application deadlines well in advance of the corresponding school year. Deadlines vary. Some grants are only available to incoming freshmen, whereas others are only available to to upper classmen and graduate students.
Prepare to devote an extraordinary amount of time when applying for student grants. Most applications are quite lengthy and have numerous requirements that may include personal statements and essays, financial statements, school transcripts and letters of reference. Check into unlikely sources of grants, including companies your parents work for and special alumni grants at the college of your choice.
Be wary of grant scams. You do not need to pay anyone for a list of student grants. The list is available for free (see Additional Resources). Never pay money to anyone to get a list of available student grants.