November 28, 2012 | Marcus Varner | 4 Comments *Updated: April 18, 2017 The majority of college students stress about paying for college. And it is no wonder. For the average public university student, tuition and associated costs rose by 2.4 percent (in-state) to 3.6 percent (out-of-state) from 2015-16 school year to the 2016-17. So naturally, more than social life or even concerns about academics or career, students are worried about how they will pay for college. So how do you get money to pay for school? While scholarships and money from parents or other supporters may be an option, many students turn to grants to help fund their college education. Two-thirds of full-time students now rely on financial aid to pay for school, but at the same time, too many other students fail to take advantage of this source of money for college. Whether because of lack of knowledge about the process or misunderstandings about grants, these students miss out on the benefits of grants. Fortunately, in this article, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about grants to make the process as simple and painless as possible. Let’s start by understanding what grants are… and what they aren’t. Earn Your Associate or Bachelor’s Degree Online. You May Qualify For $5,920 in Grants! What are Grants? Simply put, grants are financial assistance that does not need to be paid back unless the student fails to comply with the conditions of the grant. For instance, if a student uses a Pell grant (described in more detail below) to pay for a semester of college but then drops out of classes partway through the semester, that student will need to repay the Pell grant. In all cases, in order to receive a grant, you have to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility. Also, since these things can be confusing, it helps to understand how grants are different from scholarships and loans: Grants – usually provided by the government, or government-funded groups, and require no repayment unless student fails to meet grant conditions. Scholarships – usually provided by a private organization and require no repayment unless student fails to meet scholarship conditions. Loans – can be provided by government or private organizations and require repayment by student with interest. What are Federal Grants? Students working towards a bachelor’s degree that can demonstrate sufficient financial need can apply for Federal Pell Grants. Students can receive up to $5,815 for the 2016-2017 academic year and $5,920 in pell grant aid 2017-2018 for the 2017-2018 school year.. Awarding of funds is based on your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) and the amount you need to pay for school. You will typically work out your EFC with a financial aid counselor at your school after you are accepted and enroll. If your EFC is too great (i.e. your family is capable of paying for school expenses without any aid), you might not qualify for financial aid. Students with lower EFCs will be more likely to receive financial aid and grants in particular. If eligible for Pell Grant funding, students may also be eligible for other grants, such as: Teacher Education Assistance For College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program For students who want to work as educators in low-income, high-need fields of study as determined by the Department of Education. Eligible students can receive up to $4,000 per year. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) These grants are also for undergraduates with financial need. Students receive between $100 and $4,000 depending on the school and EFC. FSEOG grants are only available to schools that have contributed to the FSEOG program – the school is required to contribute $1 for every $3 of federal money allocated to FSEOG. Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) This program is based on both need and merit. Students must qualify for Pell Grants, have a 3.0 GPA and have completed a “rigorous secondary school program of study” – Honors, IB, or AP courses. ACG provides up to $750 to freshman and $1,300 to sophomores. National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant Students must qualify for Pell Grants, have a 3.0 GPA and be majoring in an eligible field of study, like engineering, math, or science technology. The SMART Grant can provide up to $4,000 for each of a student’s third and fourth years as long as they have at least one class in an eligible field of study the year the grant is awarded. What Other Types of Grants Are Available? If you don’t fit into any of the grants above, fear not: those aren’t the only types of grants out there. There are many other grants that fall into the following categories: Career-Specific Grants These grants are awarded to students who intend to pursue a career that has a great need for new hires, i.e. teachers and nurses. For more information on what grants may be available to you, contact your college’s financial aid office or local student assistance commission. College-Based Grants Schools usually have funds set aside for low-income students. Grants may also be awarded based on merit, a field of study, or athletics. A minimum GPA may also be required to receive funding. Contact your college of choice for more information on college-specific grants. Student-Specific Grants These grants can be awarded for almost any personal attribute you can think of. The most common are those awarded to minorities. A few more categories you may qualify for are under-represented populations, non-traditional students, survivors, and international students. These may be funded through major organizations, local groups or private corporations. Unique Grants If you have a bizarre hobby, a weird skill, an uncommon interest or are entering an obscure profession, you may be eligible for a unique grant. Think about what makes you unique and talk with local organizations about what options may be available to you. State-Sponsored Grants These grants are awarded based on state-specific criteria. For a current list of grant opportunities, contact your state-based educational organizations, your high school, your college of choice, or local higher education assistance foundations. Grants by Degree Level Undergraduate grants are usually determined by your FAFSA application, while advanced degree grants are specific to your field of study. Grants may also be given by your employer to help you earn your advanced degree via tuition reimbursement. Often you are expected to continue working at that company after you’ve finished your degree. Earn Your Associate or Bachelor’s Degree Online. You May Qualify For $5,920 in Grants! What Do All Those Grant Acronyms Mean Again? By now, we’ve blanketed you with enough jargon to make your head spin. For everyone who is still confused about what FAFSA stands for or what their EFC has to do with a FSEOG, the financial aid acronym cheat sheet below should give you a better idea: FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid FSA – Federal Student Aid EFC – Expected Family Contribution FPL – Federal Perkins Loan Program FSEOG – Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants FWS – Federal Work Study PLUS – Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students COA – Cost Of Attendance FFEL – Federal Family Education Loan LEAP – Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership SSIG – State Student Incentive Grant CPS – Central Processing System SAR – Student Aid Report ACG – Academic Competitiveness Grant SMART – National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant TEACH – Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Still have questions about grants? Ask us in the comments section below! We’ll do our best to get answers. Earn Your Associate or Bachelor’s Degree Online. You May Qualify For $5,920 in Grants!