Advertiser disclosure

Guide to Securing Grants for College

It’s not always easy to go to college as it can be a big expense, but fortunately, there are plenty of options to afford your education! For example, students can receive grants for college to lower the price tag and the stress of continuing school. It’s important to take applying to grants seriously since most are need-based aid for those who qualify. Keep reading below to find out more about securing grants. 

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

If you are like most students, you won’t 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” or “gift aid.” 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 undergraduate students may receive. They aim to support low-income students who have demonstrated financial need.

For the upcoming 2023-2024 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $7,395. Note that the maximum Pell Grant award will range from year to year.

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.

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 can 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!

Related: What are the differences between scholarships and student loans?

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Grants are competitive, but often need-based aid
  • While scholarships can be need-based, they are different from grants because they can also be merit-based or awarded based on a certain skill you have 
  • Be sure to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible to get started on applying for financial aid
  • The Pell Grant is a common federal grant awarded to undergraduate students
  • There are also state and private grants that students can apply for, so be sure to check out local grants
  • While grant funding might help, it’s also a good idea to explore other avenues of financial aid like scholarships
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about grants for college

Is applying to FAFSA difficult?

Not necessarily. The most difficult part of filling out the FAFSA will likely be putting together all the required documentation to accurately report your financial situation. It might seem daunting, but all you have to do is get started. You got this!

Is completing the FAFSA worth it?

Yes! Completing the FAFSA is one of the only ways to qualify for need-based aid and allows for colleges to give you the best financial aid package possible. You should fill it out each year to make sure you remain eligible for your aid package.

What if I don’t use all my grant money?

 are funding that is sent directly to your school. Any remaining funds will likely be given back to you as a refund. You can then use those funds for any other expenses you might have. Learn more about how you get a Pell Grant refund and what you can spend it on.