If you’re looking to finance your higher education, then you’ve probably heard of grants. A grant is a type of financial aid that does not typically require repayment. Education is expensive, so it’s comforting to know that various organizations are willing to help deserving students fund their education. The primary purpose of grants is to help students with their educational expenses, including tuition fees, textbooks, living costs, and other related costs.

Grants are offered by various sources, including the federal government, state governments, private organizations, and educational institutions. They are typically awarded based on specific criteria, such as financial need, academic achievement, field of study, or other special qualifications.

First, it’s important to understand what grants are, and the types of college grants available today. To learn more about that, you can refer to our article on college grants. The next step is, of course, to actually apply for the grants for which you are eligible. 

So how DO you apply for a grant?

You can start with these few simple steps:

  1. Research. Research. Research
  2. Submit your FAFSA on time
  3. Go through your financial aid offers
  4. Reach out!

    The more information you have, the better equipped you are to make the best decision for yourself. You may be eligible for several grants that you won’t know about until you actively search for them. 

    Here are some resources you should make the most of:

    • Your high school/college/university academic counselor

    Academic counselors are usually trained to help students find the best solutions to further their educational goals. Your academic counselor or mentor is likely to have the answers you’re looking for, even about financial aid like grants and scholarships. 

    • Your local community

    Your neighborhood may just have a community that awards grants or scholarships to local members. And it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find these by doing a Google search for “grants near me”. So you might have to skip to step 4 for this one, but the results can be rewarding.

    • Organizations centered around your areas of interest

    A large number of grants are funded by organizations such as professional associations, non-profits, and agencies that aim to promote the development of specific fields of study. If you have a clear career or educational goal in mind, look for grants offered by organizations that cater to that specific goal. 

    • Your parents

    Sometimes, the solutions you’re looking for might be in your own home! Many private organizations and professional associations offer grants for members, employees, and/or their families. It’s wise to speak to your parents and express your desire to look for available grants offered by the companies they work for.

    Most grants or financial aid programs will have a website with information about the application process, eligibility criteria, requirements, and other essential details to assist you through the process. Be sure to go through this information carefully before applying. 

    Since many grants are provided by the government, it is recommended that you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. A number of awards are also doled out on a first-come-first-serve basis, so make sure you submit the form before the deadline so that you don’t miss out.

    Related: How to Fill Out The FAFSA

    If you are an international student who wishes to apply to an American college or university, you should still fill out the FAFSA. While you won’t be eligible for federal funding, you can still be eligible for grants from the state government (of the state in which your college is located). As an international student, you may have to fill out additional forms such as college-specific applications or the International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA). 

    After filling out the FAFSA, you’ll receive financial aid offers and information from various colleges, including scholarships, grants, work-study opportunities, and loans tailored to your financial need and academic performance. While you’re not obligated to accept everything, it’s important to review each offer carefully to understand the available assistance.

    By carefully evaluating the terms, amounts, and requirements of each aid package, you can make informed decisions that align with your financial situation and academic objectives, ensuring you secure the best funding for your college education.

    As mentioned before, numerous grants are awarded by states and organizations for specific subjects, communities, and even specific areas of interest. So once you’ve done a good amount of research and have filled out the FAFSA, consider reaching out to local organizations or associations in your field of interest and talk to your academic counselor to find the financial aid you’re eligible for. 

    Research is key when applying for the right financial aid. Most advisors recommend that you fill out the FAFSA, even if you are an international student applying for higher education in the States. Go through all applications, documents, and offers carefully to ensure you do not miss out on anything. Finally, make sure you talk to the right people to find grants for your specific interests. 

    Education grants come from various sources like the government, individual states, private organizations, and charitable foundations. It is important to research all the available sources that could help you with financial aid, scholarships, and specialized opportunities. 

    Federal Government:  

    One of the most significant grant providers in the US is the federal government through the Department of Education. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a key application process that determines eligibility for federal grants, as well as other forms of financial aid like scholarships and loans. The most well-known federal grant is the Pell Grant, which is awarded to undergraduate students with significant financial need.

    Related: What is the Federal Pell Grant?

    Individual States:  

    In addition to federal grants, individual states also allocate funds for education, often offering grants to residents pursuing higher education within their state. State-based grants can vary widely in eligibility requirements and award amounts, making it essential for students to research and apply for those most suitable to their circumstances.

    Private organizations and charitable foundations:  

    Private organizations and charitable foundations are another vital source of grants, particularly for specialized fields of study or demographic groups. These grants often target areas of research, community development, or underrepresented communities, expanding opportunities for students with specific interests or backgrounds.

    Grants and scholarships are similar as they both provide financial assistance to students to help cover the cost of education, but there are certain factors that make them different, such as eligibility requirements, sources of funding, etc.


    1. Based on Financial Need:

    Grants are typically awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. This need is determined by evaluating the family’s income, assets, and other financial factors through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or other institutional applications.

    2. Source of Funding:

     Grants can be funded by various entities, including the federal government, state governments, and colleges or universities themselves. For instance, the Pell Grant is a federal need-based grant program.


    1. Based on Merit or Achievement:

    Scholarships, on the other hand, are primarily awarded based on academic, athletic, artistic, or other achievements. While some scholarships may consider financial need as a secondary criterion, the primary focus is on recognizing excellence in a particular area.

    2. Source of Funding:

      Scholarships can come from a wide range of sources, including private organizations, foundations, corporations, and individual donors. They may be offered by educational institutions as well.

    While both grants and scholarships provide financial assistance to students, grants are typically need-based, whereas scholarships are awarded based on merit or achievements. 

    How to Find Scholarships 

    There are many ways to find scholarships. It is essential to ensure the legitimacy of scholarship information and offers received, as you should not have to pay to find scholarships or financial aid. Here are some ways you can find scholarships. 

    • College or career school financial aid offices
    • U.S. Department of Labor’s ‘free scholarship search tool’
    • Your state grant agency
    • Foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
    • Ethnicity-based organizations
    • Talk to your employer or your parents’ employers about potential scholarship opportunities.

    Exploring these options can boost your chances of finding suitable scholarships to support your educational journey.

    Grants offer a valuable opportunity to fund your higher education without the need for repayment. By conducting thorough research, submitting the FAFSA on time, evaluating financial aid offers, and seeking guidance from counselors and organizations, you can increase your chances of securing grants that align with your academic goals and financial situation. Embracing grants can pave the way for a promising future and a fulfilling life through education.

    How do I find grants that align with my work or interests?

    To find grants that align with your work or interests, follow these simple steps:

    -Check Grants.gov to search for grants that align with your work
    -Research for private grantmakers to find the ones that align with the mission and priorities of your organization
    -Search online databases to find funding opportunities and recent award information
    -Consult with a grant-seeking professional
    -Check with the U.S. Department of Labor to see if there are any grants available that align with your work

    What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a grant application?

    When writing a grant application, some common mistakes to avoid are:

    -Not following the set of instructions
    -Lack of clarity and focus
    -Insufficient research on funders’ interests
    -Inadequate supporting evidence
    -Neglecting budget detail
    -Poor editing and proofreading
    -Lack of evaluation plan

    What types of grants are available for US students?

    There are different types of grants available for students, including need-based grants, merit-based grants, institutional grants, research grants, and special interest grants for specific fields of study.

    How do I apply for federal student grants?

    To apply for federal student grants, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application determines your eligibility for various federal grants, including the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and others.

    Can I apply for multiple grants simultaneously?

    Yes, you can apply for multiple grants simultaneously. In fact, it’s encouraged to apply for various grants to maximize your chances of securing financial assistance.