When it comes to paying for college, grants are one of the most cost-effective ways to fund your education. Unlike loans, grants are considered “free money” and don't need to be repaid. While numerous grant program exists and the requirements for each vary, one federal grant program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG, provides funds for undergraduate students who have an “exceptional financial need.”

Applying for the Federal SEOG

First established in 1965, Federal SEOG funds are given to students who demonstrate severe financial hardship. To apply for an FSEOG grant, you must complete the online standard Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This will allow the college you’re attending to determine your eligibility for financial aid, including loans and grants. Not all colleges participate in the FSEOG program – approximately 3,800 colleges do – so you’ll need to check with your college’s financial aid office to determine whether FSEOG funds are available. You’ll also need to be a U.S. citizen and a full-time student to qualify.

How Much You Can Receive

Qualified FSEOG applicants can receive between $100 and $4,000 per year. The amount you receive is solely determined by your economic need; this, in turn, is calculated by the information you reported on your FAFSA. The more critical your financial needs are, the more grant money you'll receive. The average award is around $600, and the majority of funds are given to students whose family income is less than $30,000 a year.

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When You'll Receive the Funds

Should you be found eligible for the FSEOG grant, your school may credit the funds directly to your account, pay you directly via paper check or combine the two methods. Typically, schools apply grant money first to tuition and room and board and will pay you directly only if money is left over. Since you must complete an FAFSA annually, you can also reapply for these funds (as well as other grants) every year that you’re an undergraduate student. Moreover, since these are grants, you won’t need to repay them except under special circumstances, such as if you withdraw from your program or change your enrollment from full time to part time. Students who aren't eligible for FSEOG funds may qualify for a Pell Grant, which is another grant awarded to students facing financial hardship.

Next Steps

After you complete your FAFSA, you’ll be notified in writing, either by email or snail mail, of your status. If you’re eligible for an SEOG award, it'll typically be dispersed into two separate payments per academic year to cover the fall and spring semesters. How soon you learn of your status depends on the school itself; while it typically takes several weeks for your application to be processed, you may not learn of your grant or loan award until right before the semester begins. Since the process varies between schools, you’ll need to contact your college’s financial aid office to follow up on your FAFSA status.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.