College Grants for Undergraduate Students
There are many forms of college grants to help you pay for your undergraduate education. The most important thing to remember is that you must research and plan well in advance when it comes to college grants and college scholarships. The reason is not only that college grants and scholarships generally have an application deadline, but in many cases there is an annual budget of how much money is allotted for college grants. That means that qualified students may have better chances of receiving a college grant if they apply early. Because in cases of budget restrictions, once the money runs out no more college grants will be issued until the following academic year. Since college grants do not need to be repaid, they can help relieve students from the worry of piling up large amounts of student loans and avoid student debt.
Why It’s Best to Learn About College Grants While Still in High School
We recommend researching college grants during one’s junior year of high school. There are several reasons for this:
- A student’s high school counselor can be an excellent source regarding college grants and scholarships. By being aware of the options, students can be better focused on particular grants and scholarships for which they have better chances of eligibility.
- By investigating the expected costs of the colleges to which one is applying, it is possible to make a comparison between the different colleges’ expenses. That way one can avoid any last-minute surprises. In the case of some colleges, grants and scholarships may be available to cover the expenses. In the case of others, the cost may be out of reach unless college loans are taken into consideration. Recently it has been noted that more and more student loans are in default and this hurts the credit rating of fresh university graduates or those who have dropped out of college. Even in cases of bankruptcy, generally student loans still must be repaid.
- Financial officers at many colleges may be able to provide up-to-date details regarding college grants and scholarships that may apply to a particular student’s qualifications. By knowing about them in advance the student has a year to prepare for the application and can increase the chances of being awarded the college grant or scholarship.
FAFSA Forms and the Pell Grant
Students should apply for the Federal Pell Grant in early January of their senior year of high school. That way, qualified students will have a better chance of receiving a share of the funding available for their freshman year of college.
Students will find that by completing the paperwork for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), they will open the door to applying for a Pell Grant as well as the numerous grants that may be available from the state where a student graduates from high school. You can apply either with a paper copy or via the web.
Undergraduate students who are awarded a Pell Grant must apply each year they attend college. We recommend applying each January to stand a better chance at receiving continued funding.
It is also worth noting that Pell Grant recipients can also apply for another college grant called the Academic Competitiveness Grant. It is only available for the first and second year of the student’s undergraduate studies. This college grant awards up to $750 during the first year of college and up to $1,300 during the second year.
Another college grant to help pay for undergraduate studies, exclusive to Pell Grant recipients, is the National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant). This grant is available during a Pell Grant recipient’s third and fourth years of undergraduate studies. In the event of a five-year program, it may also apply. This college grant provides up to $4,000 per year. For more information regarding the Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National SMART Grant, please check the website www.studentaid.ed.gov.
State-Issued Undergraduate Grants
In addition to Pell Grants and other federal college grants, we recommend students to look into state-issued grants to help them pay for college. To qualify for such college grants, you will likely be required to complete additional paperwork. Keep in mind that most state grants will only apply to the state where the student graduated from high school. In other words, they students generally must study at a college or university in the the same state where they graduated from high school. To learn more about individual state college grants, it is best to check with the financial officers of the college(s) the student wishes to attend, as well as with the high school counselor if the student is still in high school.
An example of a state grant for undergraduates is in the U.S. state of Georgia, where residents who have recently completed a high school college preparatory curriculum with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or better should be qualified to receive a Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship in the amount of $3,500 per year.