Grants and scholarships are often called “gift aid” because they are free money—financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually merit-based.
Grants and scholarships can come from the federal government, your state government, your college or career school, or a private or nonprofit organization. Do your research, apply for any grants or scholarships you might be eligible for, and be sure to meet application deadlines!
Certain scenarios may require that a portion or all of the grant funds be repaid, for example, if you withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period such as a semester.
What kinds of federal grants are available?
How do I get a federal grant?
What kinds of scholarships are available, and how do I get one?
Why would I have to repay all or part of a federal grant?
How do I repay a grant overpayment?
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers a variety of federal grants to students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools. We’ve given each of our grants its own page:
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
Almost all of our grants (listed above) are awarded to students with financial need. If you are interested in our grants, or in any federal student aid, you have to start by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid. Once you’ve done that, you’ll work with your college or career school to find out how much you can get and when you’ll get it.
There are thousands of scholarships, from all kinds of organizations, and they’re not hard to find. You might be able to get a scholarship for being a good student, a great basketball player, or a member of a certain church, or because your parent works for a particular company, or for some other reason. Find out more about finding and applying for scholarships. You’ll also want to be careful and avoid scholarship scams.
Here are some examples of why you might have to repay all or part of a federal grant:
- You withdrew early from the program for which the grant was given to you.
- Your enrollment status changed in a way that reduced your eligibility for your grant (for instance, if you switch from full-time enrollment to part-time, your grant amount will be reduced).
- You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid.
- For a TEACH Grant, you did not meet the requirements of your TEACH Grant service obligation.
Your school will notify you if you must repay part of the grant. From that point, you will have 45 days to either pay that portion of the grant back in full or enter into a satisfactory repayment arrangement. If you enter into a satisfactory repayment arrangement, the school may assign the debt to ED for collection or may keep the debt and allow you to make payments directly to them.
If you do not carry out one of these options, you will lose your eligibility for further federal student aid.