Fast Facts on Federal Grants

August 30, 2012

The National Center for Education Statistics conducts various research on federal grant and financial aid programs in addition to many other statistic surveys. These studies show that 66 percent of all undergraduates receive some type of financial aid. In addition, 52 percent received grants that averaged about $5,000. The information that comes from these surveys can help you get a better picture of what to expect from each financial aid programs as well as what kinds of programs are available. There are those that are more popular than others, such as the Pell Grant program, but there are many more grant programs. In addition, loans, work-study programs and fellowships are also available as federal money to help with your education. For those who are just entering postsecondary education or who are returning, you should understand all the aid that is available to you and how to get it.

1. There are over seven types of grants.

Most students think that it's just the Pell Grant that they apply for with the Free Application for Student Aid. There's actually more to it than that. When you apply for FAFSA, you are being considered for several grants, those that are through your college and those that are through the government. The Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), TEACH Grant, National SMART Grant, and Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) are all available to students who qualify. Many of these grants are based upon whether you qualify for the Pell Grant. If you are receiving a Pell Grant, then you may also qualify for National SMART Grant, FSEOG and ACG.

2. Students should file the FAFSA in early January.

The deadline for completing the FAFSA may be July by federal standards, but the deadline for most schools is March 1st. In addition, January 1st is the opening day for all to apply for FAFSA. You are behind if you haven't applied for aid as of yet. That means thousands of students have already applied to get some of the cash that is available for students, and that cash flow quickly dwindles towards summer. There are reserves for financial aid that are mostly for appeals. Yes, you can also appeal a decision on your financial aid if you believe you should qualify for more money. It's best to apply for FAFSA online in the first week of January to get the most aid and receive your package in the quickest amount of time.

3. Grant money is paid through your school.

Even if the money comes from the government, it goes directly to your school and your school is the one that pays the grant to you. Through a check or direct deposit, you'll receive these funds in your first week or second week of the semester. You only receive a lump sum, in which your tuition and fees is automatically deducted. The amount leftover is supposed to last you until next semester, paying for supplies, books and some living costs.

4. Some grants come with conditions that must be met.

There are some grants that aren't readily available to everyone. For one, you may need to have some merit or academic achievement to get the award, or you may have to pay back an award like a loan if you don't meet certain conditions after taking the money. For example, the TEACH Grant is specifically for those in education programs who must graduate and agree to teach at a US Department of Education designed low income school. If you don't teach at one of these schools, the grant becomes a subsidized federal loan that has to be paid back. Check the qualifications and conditions of any award to make sure that you are getting what you want and that you will comply with the rules.

5. Your parents' information may not be needed.

Families with middle class income often get left over the financial aid pool. If you're afraid that your parents make too much money, you may not need to provide their information. However, you have to be over the age of 24 to file independently. However, when you do this, only your assets, bank accounts and tax forms are considered.

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