by Student Loan Daddy

Grants, like scholarships, can provide free money for your education. Although the terms “scholarships” and “grants” are often used interchangeably, scholarships are really a type of grant.

The term “grant,” on its own, doesn’t necessarily refer to an education grant offered as college financial aid. Broadly speaking, grants represent any provision of money in exchange for a prescribed purpose. Besides education grants, there are also housing grants, farming grants, research grants, and so forth.

  • Scholarships usually refer to grants provided for the purposes of funding undergraduate studies.
  • Fellowships are another type of education grant and usually refer to grants awarded as funding for post-baccalaureate projects or for special undergraduate projects that lie outside the standard undergraduate curriculum.

All scholarships and fellowships are grants, but not all grants are scholarships or fellowships.


A large proportion of academic grants are merit-based, awarded to students with excellent academic credentials. Many of these grants are awarded not for general education purposes but specifically to finance a student’s pursuit of a certain research project or particular course of study.

Research grants are typically awarded at the graduate studies and professional level and generally require you to submit a formal proposal and application.

There are some need-based grants, however. The most common are the federal grants awarded to qualifying undergraduate students as federal financial aid.


Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants are perhaps the most well-known federal financial aid grant. Pell Grants are awarded to eligible low-income undergraduate students.

The maximum Pell Grant award amount for the 2021–22 financial aid award year is $6,495. You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA in order to be considered for a Pell Grant.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs)

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are awarded to undergraduates who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Among students who qualify for a Pell Grant, those who fall in the highest need bracket will be considered first for a FSEOG, which is available in annual award amounts ranging from $100 to $4,000.

Since FSEOG recipients are culled from students who qualify for the Pell Grant, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA in order to be eligible for a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACGs)

Federal Academic Competitiveness Grants are combination merit-based and need-based grants available for undergraduate students entering their first or second year of college.

An Academic Competitiveness Grant provides you $750 for your first year of college studies and $1,300 for your second year.

To be eligible for an Academic Competitiveness Grant, you must be a Pell Grant recipient, and you must have completed a challenging high school academic program that meets federal requirements to be recognized as a “rigorous secondary school program of study.” If you’re entering your second year of college, you must have at least a cumulative 3.0 GPA after your first year of undergraduate studies.

National SMART Grants

National SMART Grants — Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants — like Academic Competitiveness Grants, are combination merit-based and need-based grants.

SMART Grants provide up to $4,000 a year and are available to undergraduates in their third or fourth year of college who are majoring in math; technology, engineering; physical, life, or computer sciences; or a critical foreign language.

To be eligible for a SMART Grant, you must be a Pell Grant recipient, and you must be maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

Iraq And Afghanistan Service Grants

The federal Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, instituted with the 2010–11 award year, is available to students who aren’t eligible for a federal Pell Grant but whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant award amount is equal to the maximum available Pell Grant award amount — currently $6,195 for the 2021–22 award year.

To be eligible for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, you must have been enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death, and you must currently be under 24 years old.

TEACH Grants

Federal TEACH Grants are awarded through the government’s Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program. TEACH Grant awards provide up to $4,000 a year to both undergraduate and graduate students who intend to teach in a public or private high school or elementary school that serves students from low-income families.

To be eligible for a TEACH Grant, you’ll need to fill out a FAFSA and be enrolled at a college or university that participates in the TEACH Grant Program. You’ll need to be completing course work that prepares you to be a teacher and meet certain ongoing academic requirements.

As a TEACH Grant recipient, you’ll be required to serve as a full-time teacher for at least four academic years. If you don’t complete your TEACH service requirement, all your TEACH Grants will be converted to unsubsidized Stafford student loans, and you’ll be charged interested all the way back to the date that your TEACH Grants were disbursed to you.

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