Federal College Grants and Scholarships

The best way to get a college scholarship or grant is to start the search early - reach out to advisors, friends and family for advice, and never stop looking! Scholarships and grants can be attained throughout your college years to supplement college expenses.

The government has federally funded programs that allow students of all backgrounds and income levels to attend college in the United States, without being taxed or charged interest. Federal grants are funded through tax-payers and are handed out using a need based formula, and do not need to be repaid. To apply for most of the top federal grants, a student simply has to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Below we detail the top scholarship search and scholarship rewards programs, as well as describe the top college grants, including:

Federal Pell Grants

The Federal Pell Grant program is the largest need-based student aid program. For many students, these grants are the foundation of their financial aid package. Pell Grants are only awarded to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or professional degree. Awards depend on program funding. You can receive only one Pell Grant in an award year. Students in a study-abroad program that costs more than their usual tuition may be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant aid to help cover those costs. (Check with your financial aid office).

Federal Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants (SMART)

The Academic Competitiveness Grant provided up to $750 for the first year of undergraduate study and up to $1,300 for the second year of undergraduate study to full-time students who were eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and who had successfully completed a rigorous high school program, as determined by the state or local education agency and recognized by the Secretary of Education. This program has been discontinued.

The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant, also known as the National SMART Grant was available up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth years of undergraduate study to full-time students who were eligible for the Federal Pell Grant and who were majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, or engineering or in a foreign language determined critical to national security. This program has been discontinued.

Both the Academic Competitiveness Grant and SMART Grant were available for the 2006-07 through 2010-11 award years but have since been discontinued by the federal government. Unlike other federal education, funding which is on a yearly appropriations basis, the ACG and SMART Grants were funded in whole through 2010. In 2010 the government decided, based on poor performance, to scrap these grant programs. One of the major factors in deciding to no longer fund these grants was the difficulty in verifying the "rigorous coursework" requirement. This, in addition to the low participation in the programs, ultimately led to the programs not being reinstated as of the 2011-2012 year.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants program is one of three federal campus-based programs. The program provides grants to undergraduates with exceptional financial need (students with the lowest Expected Family Contributions) and gives priority to students who receive Federal Pell Grants. Students are automatically considered when they submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students can be awarded between $100 and $4,000, depending on when they apply, their level of need, and the funding level of the school the student is attending. Recipients must be U.S. citizens enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate program at an accredited college or university. Nearly one million students receive Federal SEOG loans each year.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

Through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, Congress created the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program that provides grants of up to $4,000 per year to students who intend to teach in a high-need field in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. Recipients of a TEACH Grant must teach for at least four academic years within eight calendar years of completing the program of study. NOTE: If you fail to complete this service obligation, all amounts of TEACH Grants that you received will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan.

Cal Grant

Cal Grants are form of financial aid available to California students. Applicants can receive up to $12,192 per year to cover qualifying college expenses at eligible colleges and universities in California. Students must meet academic and financial aid eligibility criteria, as well as be a high school senior or recent graduate. Funds are limited on a first-come, first-served basis, so eligible students should apply well before the March 2 deadline.

College Scholarships

A scholarship is an award given to a student for the purpose of furthering their education. A scholarship can be a monetary award, or it can be an award of access to an institution. Scholarships are a vital piece of the financial aid system for two reasons:

  1. They provide money which generally does not have to be paid back
  2. They provide access to money which students may otherwise be ineligible for

Scholarships are awards that you do not have to pay back, making them preferable to loans, but getting a scholarship can be competitive. Scholarships are mostly merit-based, not need-based making programs like the ScholarshipPoints program, based on participation, a vital resource for the college bound.

There are thousands of scholarships available - you just have to find the right one for you! We recommend beginning your search at Student Scholarship Search. The site is updated regularly with new opportunities and scholarship lists to help connect students with details and directions on how to get applicable awards, scholarships and grants. StudentScholarshipSearch.com does not require any personal information in order to search the listings and it is free to use.

We also recommend ScholarshipPoints.com, a site where you enter to win scholarship money monthly - despite GPA, test scores or writing skills. ScholarshipPoints.com rewards visitors who participate in the site's online surveys and contests with "scholarship points" that you can enter into monthly and quarterly scholarship drawings of your choice. ScholarshipPoints.com gave away over $145,000 in scholarships to students and prospective students in 2012! You can win money just by registering, or referring friends.