Student Financial Grants

Financial grants for students take the form of scholarships, fellowships, and student aid. Grants are much different than loans: loans must be paid back whereas grants do not. Student financial grants are available through the federal and state governments, non-profit organizations, and accredited intuitions of higher learning.

Let’s start at the institutional level. A college, university, vocational or technical school will have a Department of Financial Aid. Generally, and this is quite important, while the student will be requested to complete the FAFSA (Free Application Form for Student Aid. There will be a designated deadline. This means the student must submit the completed application with all attendant documents by that deadline date – no excuses. Furthermore, and equally important, the FAFSA will requires the institute’s unique code, and is easily available at the Financial Aid Office. Awards vary depending on numerous issues with the overarching one being financial need. Again, and this must be stressed, not all financial aid for students comes as grants; many programs are loan-based and/or are work-study programs.

The most identifiable grants for students are the Federal Pell Grants. Pell grants are a vital source of student financial grants with need, but come with stringent rules and regulations. Recipients must be enrolled in an undergraduate program leading to an associate’s or first bachelor’s degree. The recipients must meet all other eligibility criteria required for receipt of federal assistance and “an eligible student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) must be less than or equal to the maximum figure established by the federal government for the academic year. EFC is determined from the information reported on the FAFSA.” This is all a very complicated process, so the sooner the FAFSA is submitted, the better!

Scholarships, on the other hand, can be awarded for academic achievement. Many colleges and universities award scholarships to incoming freshmen. They can range from as little to $1,000 to $50,000 depending on the institution. And, too, scholarships are highly competitive! Some scholarships are university-wide or college-specific: others require separate applications. At the University of Minnesota, university-wide scholarships are available, and to be considered one simply submits the application for freshman admission. According to the university, “admitted freshmen are considered for these University-wide scholarships based on an overall assessment of their admission application.” So again, check with the Office of Financial Aid in regard to scholarships, eligibility requirements, and the application process.

Student fellowships are widely available, highly competitive, and awarded in numerous fields of studies from the Humanities to Medicine. Some fellowships are awarded to undergraduates. Most are awarded to graduate and doctoral students. Fellowships are made available to all those who qualify, but many are available only to women and minorities.

Finally, the student should conduct his or her own research to determine what financial grants are available. Does it take time? Absolutely. Can the process be long? Of course. But the outcome can mean the difference between getting a student financial grant versus not being awarded anything at all!

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