Grants and Scholarships Overview

The most desirable type of student aid comes in the form of grants and scholarships (student aid awards that you do not have to pay back). College is an expensive investment, so you should research and apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Don't forget – in addition to applying for federal and state grants, you should research private scholarships.

There are many scholarship websites, but beware that those that request money are usually scholarship scams. Be suspicious if the scholarship application requires a fee (even a low one), if there is a "guarantee" that you'll win, or if it says "everyone" is eligible. The Federal Trade Commission's website offers advice on how to avoid being duped by scholarship scams.

How Do Federal and State Grants/Scholarships Work?

To apply for a federal or state grant, you must complete a federal student aid application (FAFSA). The criteria for deciding these grants include your financial need, academic major, and academic accomplishments. Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible, because many student aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. You may submit your aid application to the Department of Education starting January 1st prior to the academic year that you will be attending college.

How Do Private Grants/Scholarships Work?

The first step to finding private scholarships is research. Many religious, ethnic, and civic organizations offer scholarships, as do employers and veterans' organizations. Leave no stone unturned when hunting for "free money" to lower the amount you'll have to pay out of pocket for college.

Check with your high school counselor for a list of local grants/scholarships. You must complete an application for each program, but the effort will be worth it if you receive any!

For a list of scholarship search utilities, visit our resources page.

Federal College Grant Eligibility and Award Amounts

Here's an overview of the five federal college grants for current and future college students. Select the link for each grant to get comprehensive eligibility and award information.

Federal Aid Program Eligibility Requirements Award Amount
Pell Grant
  • Available to students who demonstrate financial need and have an EFC of $4,995 or lower
As much as $5,550
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  • Available to students with the lowest EFCs who show financial need
  • Priority is given to Federal Pell Grant recipients
As much as $4,000
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
  • Provided to students who intend to teach primary or secondary education in a school that serves low-income students
  • Students must commit to teaching at least 4 years within eight years after graduating
  • This grant will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan if you fail to complete the TEACH commitment
As much as $4,000
Von did very well. I would not have understood the times I needed to file for FAFSA without his help. He also explained the next steps for me, including possible tax credits. I appreciated his help. Thank you very much.
- Maria W.
Rockville, MD