Education Grants and Scholarships

A simple idea: take advantage of free money

As any college financial aid expert will attest, it's a tried and true principal of higher educational finance: before looking into loans to fund your child's education, you should first maximize all the free forms of financial aid you can find for your child. Generally speaking, that means college grants and scholarship aid.

Understanding education grants

Education grants refer to various forms of student financial aid that are given outright, and which need not be repaid. They may be awarded based on financial need, but other kinds of grants are also given based on anything from academic merit to a parent's employer or fraternal organization. College grants include:

  • Institutional Grants - sometimes referred to as merit awards, these are awarded by colleges and universities themselves, from the proceeds of their own fundraising efforts. Some are given for financial need, while others are tied to academic excellence.
  • Federal Pell Grants - a cornerstone of the federal student financial aid system, these education grants of up to as much as $5,000 a year per student, are pegged to a student's financial need and the particular school they'll be attending.
  • Academic Competitiveness Grants - one of the newer federal student aid programs, this grant amounts to $750 for first-year college students and $1,300 for second-year students, and often works in tandem with Pell Grants.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants - awards up to $4,000 a year for students with acute financial needs.

Understanding college scholarships

College scholarships may be awarded on the basis of academic merit, financial need, skill in a particular subject or area, or owing to some other unique characteristic. Your student may be eligible for a college scholarship from any number of local sources, including:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Local business or civic organization (Kiwanis, American Legion, Lions Club, etc.)
  • Church or other faith organization
  • Ethnic organization
  • Parent employer plans

Do your homework when searching for college scholarships

A note of caution: to avoid scholarship scams, be careful before engaging the services of a scholarship search service. Use a trusted source like the Charter One Scholarship Search tool. You might want to first check with the Better Business Bureau and your state attorney general. The Consumer Financial Protection Burearu also maintains a helpful watchdog site for scholarship scams.

Learn more about scholarships and financing options

You can find helpful information about scholarships and other college financing options by visiting our student resources page. If you still have questions call a student loan specialist at 1-800-721-3969, and we'll help walk you through the process.

Additional student loan and college planning resources

What Are State Grants?
Scholarship Search
What is Campus-Based Aid?
Resources for Students & Families
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