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Guide to Winning Grants for College

Grants are one of the best ways that students pay for college

If you are like most students, you will not be able to pay for college without financial aid. The major types of financial aid that students will use to pay for college are scholarships, student loans, and grants.

As you are a savvy student who is using Scholarships360 we know that you don’t want to graduate with a ton of student loan debt. Certainly, small amounts of student loan debt can be fine, but you will want to focus your efforts on getting as much money in scholarships and grants as possible.

People often misunderstand grants and mistakenly lump them together with scholarships. However, they are a very different type of financial aid. Let’s talk about some of the differences between grants and scholarships.

Grants vs. scholarships

Grants and scholarships are similar in that you won’t need to repay them. You can think of these opportunities as “free money.” However, there are some key differences when thinking about scholarship and grants for college:


  • Primarily based on financial need
  • Awarded by the federal government, state governments, colleges, and outsider organizations


  • Awarded based on merit (ranging from academic achievement to talent in music, sports, or the arts).
  • Some scholarships may also be awarded to students from particular backgrounds, locations, etc.
  • Students can find a number of scholarships in our Scholarship Directory

Applying for grants

The first step to applying for grants is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The FAFSA will allow students to unlock a variety of financial aid options including college grants, federal grants, federal student loans, state financial aid, and even work-study.

The FAFSA will calculate the amount of money that your family can afford to pay for college,, which is also known as the Estimated Family Contribution or EFC. A lower EFC means that you will qualify for more financial aid, including grants.

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are one of the most common types of federal grant that students may receive. They aim to support low income students who have demonstrated financial need.

For the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $6,345. Note that the maximum Pell Grant award will range from year to year.

Applying for state grants

Your home state may also offer grants for college. The U.S. Department of Education has a handy tool to help you connect to your state’s department of education. This is a great first step for finding grant opportunities in your state.

What about private grants?

The line between scholarships and private grants is murky. As a result, some private grants may be categorized as scholarships. In these cases, the application process will be similar to that of scholarships.

You can expect to complete an application, essays, and sometimes provide academic information. Many of the private need-based grant applications may also ask for some sort of proof of demonstrated financial need.

Next steps for students

As a student looking for grants for college, the most important thing to do is apply for the FAFSA. This will help students unlock need-based grants and student loans from specific colleges, the federal government, and state governments. You can also look into local grants and scholarships.

Additionally, students should also look into specific grant opportunities through their state department of education, as well as private grants that are need-based scholarships. And remember, scholarships are also a great source of funding for college! You should look into any trustworthy scholarship opportunity that you qualify for. Our scholarship search tool is a great way to get started. We’ll provide you with custom-matched scholarship opportunities to suit any situation. If you put in the work to find scholarships, you can graduate debt-free!