Paying For College-Part I

With college costs rising year after year, parents and students alike wonder how they can pay for a college education.  In this first of a three-part series, I’ll explore how you can access free money for college expenses. 


Many people do not realize just how much money is available through scholarships and grants.  Did you know there are over 2.8 million scholarships worth $16 billion available to students for undergraduate and graduate school? Not being at the top of your class does not necessarily disqualify you.  While grants are typically awarded based on financial need, many scholarships are awarded based on financial need, achievement, ethnicity, memberships, or special interests.


The best feature of scholarships and grants is you don’t have to repay the money so this should be your first stop.  You can do a scholarship search based on your individual profile whereby your personal profile is matched up with programs most likely to accept you.  To get started, go to the Resource Center at and click on College Funding- Scholarship Search.  You’ll need to provide your personal information, academic GPA, SAT and ACT scores, personal interests, and memberships to clubs and organizations. After submitting your information you will immediately receive a list of scholarships that match your profile.  You can then pick which scholarships you are interested in and apply on-line. You’ll also receive tips and other ideas for applying for scholarships and grants.


Remember, grants are awarded based on financial need. To qualify you must meet the federal grant financial criteria. There are four main types of grants available for students:


Federal Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program available to students. You must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to be considered for a grant. This grant is primarily based on financial need so you do not need a minimum grade point average or any other academic achievements to qualify. You must maintain satisfactory academic progress defined by your school to remain eligible for the grants each year.


Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is for undergraduate students who have an exceptional financial need. The college financial aid office will determine whether the student is eligible for the FSEOG.


ACG and National Smart Grant program was created to meet the growing need for improved math and science instruction. The ACG provides grants during the first and second year of school.  You must be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and must have successfully completed a rigorous high school program to be considered for the ACG. The National SMART Grant provides grants during the third and fourth years of undergraduate students who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and majoring in physical, life or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, or engineering.


Merit- based programs are provided by individual states and the federal government and they recognize and promote student excellence and achievement. Information on this type of program can be received from high school counselors.


For more details about the criteria required to qualify for grants or to apply on-line, go to the Resource Center at and click on ‘College Funding- Grants’.


Next week, I’ll discuss college funding with student loans.  My thanks to my associate Kimberly Reynolds and our intern Chris Bostock for their assistance with this article.