A Student Guide to Grants and Scholarships


Grants and scholarships are a great resource for students looking for ways to fund their education.  Despite the common stereotype, you don’t need to be the school valedictorian or captain of the football team to receive a grant or scholarship.  Students from all backgrounds can be eligible to receive one of the many grants and scholarships available.

What Types of Grants and Scholarships are Available?

The types of grants and scholarships that you qualify for depend on a number of variables.  Factors such as financial need, age, disability, and academic performance can influence which awards you can receive.  The requirements for each type of grant and scholarship vary, so you will need to do some research in order to determine if you are eligible for specific awards.

– Federal Grants:  Students in both the U.S. and Canada can qualify for grants funded by the government.  These grants typically consider factors such as financial need, cost of attendance, and expected student contribution.  In the U.S., students can apply for Federal Pell Grants by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Canadian students will need to contact the financial aid offices of their home providence to apply for student grants.

– Merit Scholarship:  Students who have a strong academic record, athletic performance, or volunteer experience should look for different merit-based scholarships.  Colleges and universities often award these scholarships to qualifying students who excel in different areas.  Other awards are available through various community or national organizations.  Check with your universities scholarship office to learn of available awards or search online scholarship databases to find awards that match you skills, talents, and abilities.

– Need-Based Scholarships:  Students who face financial difficulty should consider scholarships based upon financial need.  The financial aid office of your college or university often awards these scholarships based on the information provided on your FAFSA.  A number of scholarships are also based on specific disabilities.  If you suffer from a disability, look for scholarships designed precisely for students with that disability.  You can find more need-based scholarships by consulting a financial aid counselor, checking the scholarship board at your university, or searching an online database for scholarships that match your needs.

Apply for Grants and Scholarship

Students in the United States will receive the bulk of their financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Awards are made based on the information provided and may include grants, loans, and work-study.  The scholarship office of your university may also grant awards based on the information provided on your FAFSA.  Fill your FAFSA out early in order to receive all financial aid for which you are eligible.

Canadian students will need to apply through the financial offices of their province.  Awards for Canadian students may include grants, loans, or bursaries.  Also check with your university to learn about any scholarship that may be available.

Are You Eligible for Grants and Scholarships?

One of the most commonly made mistakes by high school and college students is not applying for all of the sources of financial aid they could receive.  Some students fear that they will not qualify, so they do not complete a FAFSA.  In reality, the majority of U.S. students applying for their first year of undergraduate school do qualify for some type of federal financial assistance.

In addition, many students do not apply for scholarships because they think they won’t qualify or think that the chances of receiving and awards are too low.  In fact, experts report that there are many scholarships that go un-awarded each year because qualifying students failed to send in an application.  The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to receive some type of award.  Remember, you have nothing to lose by trying, but any financial assistance you might gain will be well worth the effort.