Financial aid from a grant can allow students to focus on their grades rather than a job or two to help offset all of the costs that come with attending college. A good dose of research and a strong application can open opportunities and secure the best money grants for your needs.
Difference Between Grants and Loans
Typically, a grant doesn’t need to be paid back. Grants are given by state and federal government departments or agencies, family trusts or corporations. Students, business owners, entrepreneurs, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and others typically apply for grants all year long. This can make the field crowded, as many different types of people and businesses are vying for these free dollars.
By definition, a loan requires the recipient to return the funds in full. Often, loans from large corporations, government entities or banks add interest to the loan amount that needs to be repaid. Some loans even tack on penalties and fees if the loan is paid off early.
A loan may also be structured so that any amount of money that you pay each month is applied to the interest before being applied to the principal. These tactics can prolong the loan and your financial responsibility to the loan provider.
Government Grants for Individuals
There are two categories of grants for college students who are looking for funds. These are:
- Need-Based Grants – These are issued to students who exhibit a great financial hardship to pay for college on any level. There are many government hardship grants for which students can apply. An example is the Pell Grant, which is one of the top government grants for individuals who have financial needs.
- Merit-Based Grants – These are aimed toward students who are strong performers in school, which is reflected in their grades and standardized test scores. Merit-based grants are ideal for students who also show a strong proclivity for sports, community service or other personal achievements that make them stand out among their peers.
Student Groups That Receive College Grants
There are specific segments of the student population who are targeted for grant money. These include:
- Foster care youth
- Veterans and National Guard members
- Students with disabilities
- Underrepresented or minority groups
Private Grants for Higher Education
If you are pursuing a specific career, such as law, medicine, veterinarian medicine, theater or another art-related industry, there are grants geared toward students who excel in those fields. These types of grants are often from small businesses within a community looking to steer a stellar student to work with their growing company or from large corporations hoping to groom potential future prodigies.
Grants for Starting a Business
Sources for grants are everywhere. Grants for anything can be found locally and globally, from the local bank or law firm to the federal government and credit card companies.
There are many types of grants for business owners, including:
- Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
- Small Business Innovation Research Program
- Rural Business Enterprise Grant
- Visa Everywhere Initiative
- Lending Tree’s Small Business Grant Contest
- Wells Fargo Community Investment Program
- InnovateHER Women Business Challenge
- The Girl Boss Foundation Grant
- Chase Mission Main Street Grant
Tips for Applying for Grants
Consider what makes you stand out from the pack. Research all aspects of your interests, any hobbies in which you excel or awards that you’ve received that can help to get the attention of grant admission officers.
A strong grant application explains who you are and your plans for the future. Comment on how you’ve contributed to your community or school and what contributions you plan to make in the future that the grant money will assist you in achieving.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.