A college education does not come cheap. Depending on the school a student chooses, the cost per college credit hour can reach hundreds of dollars. Add in the cost of textbooks, supplies, room and board, and many students may feel higher education is just not affordable. While loans can help with the upfront costs, students may not want to spend years paying it all back. But students do have another option -- grants. As long as the recipients meet the conditions set by the grantor, grants do not need to be repaid back at all. To increase your odds of getting a grant for college, apply early.

Apply for the Pell grant, a federal grant for low-income students. As of the 2011-12 school year, the maximum amount awarded to Pell Grant recipients was $5,550.To apply, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. A link to the form is available in the Resources section. Once you submit this form, the college you plan to attend will determine your eligibility. If you qualify and if funds are available, your school will apply the grant toward your account.

Apply for grants through your state's Education Department. Many states offer their own grants and scholarships. Some may be based on a student's financial need. Others may be offered to encourage more students to enter careers in which the state has a shortage, such as nursing or teaching. Your state Education Department's website will provide you with a list of what grants are available.

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Pore through books that list grants, find grants for which you're eligible, and apply for as many as possible. Such books include Peterson's "Scholarships, Grants and Prizes" and "The Scholarship Book." These books will list grants offered through private businesses and organizations as well as the government and provide you with information regarding eligibility requirements, whom to contact for more information and what you need to do to apply. Rather than spending the money to purchase the books, check your school or local library. Be sure to use the most up-to-date edition of the book available.


Apply early. Grant funds are limited, and often, there are more qualified applicants than there are grants available.

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