College is expensive. That’s the bad news. The good news? There are many options to help lower the price tag. Between scholarships, financial aid, and loans, students are sure to be able to drop the costs for their education significantly. The first place any student should look is grants.   

What are Grants?  

Grants are a form of financial aid that does not need to be paid back (in most cases). Basically, free money. Like scholarships, grants are awarded to students to help pay for college. However, while scholarships are generally merit-based, awarded to a student because of good grades or athletic/artistic skill, grants are typically need-based. This means that the student does not need to possess a specific talent or GPA to qualify for a grant.  

The most common grants are the federal and state grants, both of which are need-based. The PELL Grant is offered by the federal government to students from low-income families. The amount awarded to each student varies depending on what the government determines is needed. State grants operate similarly; however, most states only offer grants to students who are considered residents in their state.   

Merit-based grants are grants that are based on GPA, character, desired major, or leadership qualities. Typically, the GPA standard for grants like these is around 3.0, so students don’t need to be the next Einstein (or anything close) to qualify. Colleges or private institutions also look for things like clubs, extracurriculars, community service, or leadership roles when awarding these grants.   

How To Get Grants  

For the federal and state grants, all that is required is for a student to fill out the FAFSA. FAFSA applications usually open October 1st the year before the aid is required, and close June 30th after the academic year a student is requesting aid for. FAFSA needs to be filled out for every year that a student wants federal and state aid—so, every year.  

Studying for Grants, state grants, federal grants, Private Grants, and FAFSA

There are many other grant options from private sources, though these may come with criteria, such as keeping a good GPA or studying in a specific major. If the student fails to continue meeting the criteria for a grant, they may be required to pay it back as a loan. To be considered, students may need to apply with the specific institution offering the grant.   

Where to Find “Private” Grants  

The term “private grants” really just refers to grants that are not offered by the federal or state government, or, more broadly, not offered automatically as a result of FAFSA. This could be grants from a specific university, a business, or even the local church—so if you haven’t been, start attending now.

Finding private grants requires a little leg work. Start with man’s best friend – the internet. Search for grants offered by your home state and local areas. You can also check the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators website to find aid offered in your state or the state of the college you plan on attending. Then, search for grants for your desired major or career path. Don’t forget grants that are offered by the college itself, which can usually be found on the website or through a drawn-out call with financial aid. Another good resource would be  


Grants can be awarded for all sorts of things; some we can control—some we can’t. Here are some examples of grants to give you an idea of what sort of things to look for as you search for “free money:”  

  • The TEACH grant: offered to students who plan to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education in a “high need” area such as math, science, or special education. Students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and agree to 4 years of teaching at a low-income school after graduating.  
  • Jackie Robinson Scholarship Grant: offered to minority students with high financial need. They must score at least 1000 on the SAT, be a US citizen, show leadership qualities, have a recommendation letter, and plan to attend an accredited college or university in the US.  
  • Go Girl! Grant: offered to women in Coachella Valley, CA, at least 25 years old, who plan to go to university to better their life through higher education. Students must prove financial need, apply, and include a one-page autobiography to be considered.  
Studying for Grants, state grants, federal grants, and FAFSA
Studying for Grants, state grants, federal grants, and FAFSA

There is no limit to how many grants a student can have—so why not try for as many as possible? You may not qualify for all of them, but there are bound to be plenty out there that you do fit, and others that you can qualify for, once you know what they’re looking for. The college price tag is steep, but grants offer a way to pay it, without having to pay it.   

An ending thought, The Christian Connector offers over $25,000 in scholarship each year. You can sign up to receive some of these scholarships here: