Grants are better than loans, in the sense that they do not have to be repaid. Most students do not apply for grants thinking that only those with exemplary grades qualify for them. While this is true in case of merit-based grants, there are numerous other grants available to students with specific skills and motivation, and many a time, it is not necessary to be an expert in a field to be eligible. Simply convincing the selection committee that you are passionate about your area of interest, helps. Yet another type of grant is a need-based grant for students whose financial condition is weak.
Start Your Search Early: The competition for scholarships and grants is increasing day-by-day, as more number are students are going in for higher studies. Many grants are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Therefore, make it a point to look for any relevant information as early as possible. For fall admissions, start as early as spring, and for next year’s spring admissions, start before fall. Some universities also have winter programs. In this case too, look for grants beforehand. Government grants take much longer to be disbursed. Plan accordingly, else you have to wait until the next year to reapply and avail the same award. Do not wait to send the application till you get admitted to a college. Your admission may be canceled if you are unable to get the grant before the deadline. Ideally, the admission process and grant search should proceed simultaneously.
Utilize Your Free Knowledge Sources: Some websites provide lists of scholarships, grants, etc., all in one place. You can also find out various categories that you can apply under. If these websites have user-uploaded scholarships, do check for the authenticity from the official websites. Find out and compare the grants available to filter the ones that suit you the best.
Research Well: Before beginning your application, gather as much information as you can about the institution offering the grant and the college you are going to apply to. If possible, find out about more institutions offering the same thing, along with more benefits, including decreased cost, and then select the best ones out of them. Sometimes, the colleges you are applying to, themselves provide grants. If you are not prepared at all, go for a gap year (take a gap). Dedicate it completely to finding the right school and grant for you.
Use an Academic Counselor’s Services: The academic counselor of your college may know your academic prowess well. But what you are going to write in your essay and about your hobbies, is under your control. Many students are able to get grants without paying a hefty fee for an outside counselor, provided they do their research well. However, paid counseling cannot be underestimated either. They will give you a very realistic picture of the colleges you are applying to, and their eligibility criteria. Make sure you tell them exactly what you are looking for, and give them a clear idea of your academic and financial background, for the best results.
Check the Eligibility Criteria: For every application you make, first go through the eligibility conditions. The following points need to be considered…
— Nationality/state of residence
— Financial need
— GPA (more stringent for merit-based grants)
— Adequate college preparatory work
— Academic inclination/motivation to study the course chosen
Apart from these, there are some other conditions that you need to fulfill too. For example, for doctoral degree grants, there may be an age limit. For grants created to uplift certain groups, you need to fall into those categories. There are grants for religious minorities, LGBT, etc., which cater to the same.
Keep Your Documents Ready: When applying for financial aid (need-based grants), your financial data is going to be thoroughly inspected. Also, for all types of grants, make sure you have all qualifying certificates and mark lists ready. Make multiple copies of them, because you may need to send copies of your application along with all necessary documents by mail.
Subscribe to Alerts: You can subscribe to notifying services which will mail you every time a new grant is open for application. This will always keep you updated, and you can also subscribe to multiple categories so that you can notify your siblings, classmates and friends in case they need any grants.
Avail All Options: Do not just bank on one application. The more number of institutions you apply to, the greater your chances of getting a grant are. Some companies also provide grants every year. Here too, do not just look for big companies. The organizations where your parents or you yourself work can provide you an educational grant. Another good idea is to apply for a grant under different categories. For example, if you are a woman belonging to a minority, you can apply for a woman’s grant as well as one in the minority community category. Check if both can be availed at the institution where you are applying to. If not, you can still apply for both, and if you get selected in each, use the one which is more beneficial to you.
Keep the Scores Up: Some grants require you to maintain a certain level of GPA to renew them for the next semester/term. If you fail to do so, the grant could be discontinued. Therefore, keep the scores well above the threshold. Check for the margin with the institution providing the grant. Some colleges may put you on a probation period if you fall short of the GPA for a semester or two. Your grant is not canceled, provided you regain your scores in this time period.
Be Realistic: Look for statistics of selected students. If people with similar qualifications, interests., hobbies, etc., as you, have been selected before, so can you. However, if not many people with a similar level of achievements have qualified, you need something really unique to get through. In such a case, you can also look for another financial aid source, where you have higher chances to succeed.
Be Open to New Ideas: Sometimes, a grant for the course of your desire may not be available. In this case, you can go in for a related subject for which a grant is available, or you can choose a general subject which may give you a chance to specialize in the future. Many a time, a grant unavailable in one state may be available in another. So be open to moving if you can afford the cost of relocation when your education is paid for.
Do Not Succumb: Do not stick to a financial aid for a subject you have no interest for, just because it is paid for. You can always research more and find out about grants in the field of your choice.
Let Borrowing Be Your Last Resort: Loans for college education are available at specific interest rates, but you should try your best to get a grant before considering this alternative. This is because, unless the loan is subsidized, you end up paying much more once you get a job after your education.
Remember that a college grant is different from a scholarship. It may not require any stringent eligibility, but it requires you to prove that you need the grant. The reason financial need is a criterion for a grant, is because if the organization feels you can afford the college fees, then they can award the grant to a more needy student. However, the fact that students are willing to pay an application fee to many institutions hoping to avail a grant, has encouraged scamsters to come up with different ways to trick them.
Things To Look Out For
Remember to look for information only on the official sites of respective institutions. In case of institutes you have not heard of before, check with authentic sources whether the institute is for real. Many institutions asking for a heavy application processing fee for ‘guaranteed scholarship’, can be frauds.
A high processing fee for a small amount of scholarship offered is the most common trick used in grant scams. The fee is generally not returned, nor do they provide any aid.
Fake institutes also provide a ‘money-back guarantee’ if you do not get a scholarship.
If you are receiving any form of communication about a scholarship/grant you never applied for, it could be a trick to extract your financial or other details.
Firms claiming to process your application themselves and do everything for you, are generally fake. For every scholarship application, you need essays, manuscripts, etc., which is a lot of hard work, and no institution will do it for you. You also need to be careful with grants that ask for your credit card and other bank-related information.
If you have not been asked to submit your academic details by the donor organization, it is most certainly fake.
Sometimes, you receive notifications of free counseling seminars, for which a fee is charged. In the end, all you receive is a small package containing the same information that you could easily find from a good scholarship website or your counselor too. Beware of any pamphlets or advertisements related to any such activities.
Some institutions will claim that you will not be able to get the information they provide anywhere else. Real donors provide information to as many forms of media as required, so there cannot be any information unique enough for you to pay for.
Finally, be careful with any intermediaries that claim to help you get a prestigious grant. Always check directly with the source website, not through any indirect media.
Now that you know how to go about looking for a grant, you can start applying for one in the subject of your interest.
How To Apply
Complete the Application: Always fill in the application form carefully. Never leave any of the questions unanswered or blank. If you feel a particular question doesn’t apply to you, mention it therein. Give all additional supporting material like transcripts, letters of recommendations, and essays.
Follow Directions: Do not give unnecessary information or documents. Only provide what has been asked for.
Be Neat: It is always better to have a printed application form. Take a hard copy of the form even if your application is to be made online. Make photocopies of your application prior to filling it, so that in case of any mistake, you can use another copy.
Write an Impressive Essay: If you want your essay to create a good impression, then make it personal and specific. Mention all your concrete details of your experience that you are writing about. Make your essay come alive.
Boast About Yourself: Your application is the only impression the organization has of you before a personal interview (if there is any). Therefore, highlight your best qualities and abilities that make you stand out.
Be Careful About Deadlines: Make sure that all you keep track of all your deadlines. Nothing is worse than a late submission.
Confirm Submission: Make sure that your application reaches the relevant department on time. You do not want to miss out on a grant because your application was delayed or lost in the post. Keep the acknowledgment e-mail or any receipt you get from the organization safe.
Make Backups: Always have backups/copies of your application and other documents ready; in fact, keep a complete backup file, so that you are well-prepared during any eventuality.
Final Proofreading: Recheck your entire application before you submit it.
Get Others’ Opinions: Once you are finished, ask your friends, parents, teachers or seniors to review your application and provide valuable inputs.
Do Not Hesitate to Take Help: If you feel that you need help with any aspect of your application form, then call the funding organization or a counselor for assistance.
As you might have realized by now, the amount of research you do on the plethora of scholarships available, and the number of well-written applications you send to various institutions at the right time, becomes the major factor in deciding whether you qualify for a grant.
Why Do Organizations Finance Education?
The chief purpose a grant serves is altruism. Welfare of people who need it and prove that they deserve it through their educational qualifications is really important to many organizations who are financially capable of making a difference by providing aid. Many institutions provide grants for certain communities to uplift them, and many others to those suffering from some ailments, because the donors or people close to them may have had experienced those conditions in their struggling years. Along with all these reasons, many private companies offer aid to be able to create a brand name and customer loyalty by being associated with social work. This way, they also get to create opportunities for the community while advertising themselves. Educational aids given to employees also create diversity at the workplace and account for tax benefits. Many government organizations want people to learn and appreciate high-in-demand skills in research and other areas, and they provide grants for the same. Some donors who have a passion for arts or music want others to follow suit and recognize it, also give out grants. Lastly, grants are also bestowed on account of a demised individual, who may have declared utilization of his hard-earned money for the benefit of society.
Are Grants Really as Varied as they Say?
There are many grants for ethnic and religious minorities. African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American communities, all have many grants for students. Not just these, there are grants for sports players, artists, veterans, single mothers, physically disabled students, and those working on college projects, or those suffering from certain diseases. States provide grants for high-need jobs like nursing and teaching. In grants-for-service programs, students have to work among the underprivileged or medical patients to avail funds. Also, there are grants for ‘non-traditional students’ or those who have not been able to pursue college education the traditional way. This includes working adults getting educated through evening schools and military personnel. Some grants are also based on lucky draws, and people with certain family names, etc. We can say that there is a grant out there for everyone, you just have to search for it.