Spending a couple of hours filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the FAFSA®, may not seem like your idea of fun. However, skipping the FAFSA could mean losing out on need-based grants. If you qualify, grants can be an incredibly helpful addition to your financial aid award for one main reason: You don’t have to repay them.
Let’s jump into some specific details about grants, including the connection between the FAFSA and grants, types of grants, and more information about this worthwhile addition to your financial aid award.
Does FAFSA Give Grants?
The FAFSA itself doesn’t give grants because the FAFSA is an application. When you file the FAFSA, the colleges and universities you have on your list will award you money based on your individual FAFSA data. Filing the FAFSA can qualify you for grants from the federal government. Many states and colleges use FAFSA data to award their own aid. Grants can come from a few locations:
• The federal government
• State governments
• College or career schools
• Private or nonprofit organizations
Recommended: SoFi FAFSA Guide
Does FAFSA Give Grants for Graduate School?
As a graduate or professional student, you may wonder, “Does FAFSA give grants for graduate school?” Certain grants, such as Pell Grants, go to undergraduate students only. However, graduate students can tap into a few federal programs, though these are usually need-based. Here are two examples:
• TEACH Grants : Graduate students can get a TEACH Grant as long as they agree to teach in a high-need field in a school for low-income students. They must also agree to fulfill a few other requirements as well.
• Fulbright Grants : Qualified graduate students can tap into Fulbright Grants for study/research projects or for English teaching assistant programs. Fulbright Grants are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and can help students expand upon their international studies.
Some corporate grants and other organizations also offer grants for graduate students, though it’s important to note that the FAFSA isn’t necessarily needed to qualify. Take a close look at the qualifications for corporate grants and other organizations.
Recommended: Finding & Applying to Scholarships for Grad School
Is Pell Grant the Same as FAFSA?
No, the Pell Grant is not the same as the FAFSA, which is simply an application. The FAFSA is not the actual entity that gives you financial aid. Federal grants like the Pell Grant come from the federal government through the U.S. Department of Education.
Types of FAFSA Grants
Let’s walk through a few types of grants and their requirements that you may become eligible for when you file the FAFSA.
The Pell Grant program is the largest federal grant program available to undergraduate students. In order to qualify for the Pell Grant, you must demonstrate financial need.
How much can you receive from the Pell Grant? Right now, the maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,495 for the 2021-2022 award year (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022). Check from year to year because the award amount might change slightly.
Recommended: What Is a Pell Grant?
What are the Pell Grant eligibility requirements? The exact amount you’ll get depends on your expected family contribution (EFC), the amount your family should pay for college, and the cost of attendance. The amount you can receive depends on your status as a full-time or part-time student and whether you plan to attend school as a full- or part-time student.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
The need-based Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) gives each participating school a certain amount of FSEOG funds, and these schools give FSEOG Grants to students who have the most financial need.
You can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on factors beyond financial need, including:
• Application timing
• Amount of other aid you receive
• Availability of funds at the institution you attend
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program gives you funds through a TEACH Grant-eligible program at a school that participates in the program. You must agree to teach:
• Full time for at least four years
• In a high-need field
• At a low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency
You must also undergo TEACH Grant counseling and complete the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve or Repay to qualify.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
If your parent or guardian died during or as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan, students may be able to take advantage of Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants .
You can receive the same amount of grant money for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant as the maximum Federal Pell Grant for your award year. However, you cannot exceed your cost of attendance for that award year. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,495 from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.
Take a look at the eligibility requirements:
• You may not receive a Federal Pell Grant but must meet the remaining Federal Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
• Your parent or guardian died as a result of military service in the armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
• You were under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of your parent or guardian’s death.
To qualify, you must file the FAFSA form every year you remain in school.
Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA
Do You Have to Pay Back FAFSA Grants?
Do you have to pay back FAFSA grants? (It’s a common question — and a good one!) Like scholarships, you generally do not need to repay FAFSA grants, unless you withdraw from school and owe a refund. Filing the FAFSA is the only way you can qualify for federal grants.
FAFSA Grant Repayment
While grants generally do not require repayment, there are a few circumstance in which the grant may need to be repaid. Briefly, here are some reasons you may have to repay a FAFSA grant:
• You left or withdrew early from the program for which you received grants.
• Your enrollment status changed so that impacts your eligibility for the grant.
• You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for grants.
It’s a good idea to look carefully at the requirements for each grant. You can ask a financial aid professional at your college or university for specific information about grant eligibility, award amounts, and other requirements.
Additional Funding Options for College
When you receive a financial aid award from a college, it will include financial aid such as, FAFSA grants and scholarships, work-study, and federal student loan. Some students may also consider borrowing private student loans. Let’s walk through the definition of each, and note that you can also get financial aid for a second bachelor’s.
A scholarship is a type of financial aid that you don’t have to repay. Scholarships can be need-based or merit-based (based on talents or interests, independent of your financial need).
Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with financial need may be eligible for work-study programs. You can tap into part-time jobs, usually on campus, during your enrollment in school. Full- or part-time students can qualify for work-study jobs.
You cannot go over your work-study award limit. In other words, let’s say you receive $1,500 in work-study. You can work as many hours as you can up to that limit. Many schools offer you payment in the form of a check or direct deposit into your bank account.
Your school must participate in the federal work-study program, so check with your school’s financial aid office for more information.
Federal Student Loans
Most financial aid awards contain federal student loans, which come from the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Education.
Take a look at three main types of federal student loans:
• Direct Subsidized Loans: Direct Subsidized Loans are federal loans that have a low interest rate (currently 3.73% for undergraduate students and 5.28% for graduate or professional students). The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on Direct Subsidized Loans while you are in college. The amount of loan money you can qualify for depends on your year in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student. For example, dependent undergraduates can qualify for $5,500 total in Direct Loans. However, you cannot receive more than $3,500 of this amount in subsidized loans. Take a look at the Direct Subsidized Loan website for more information or ask the financial aid office at your school.
• Direct Unsubsidized Loans: The major difference between Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans is that the U.S. Department of Education does not pay the interest on Direct Unsubsidized Loans while you are in college. However, the interest rate is the same as with Direct Subsidized Loans (currently 3.73% for undergraduate students and 5.28% for graduate or professional students). Learn more about Direct Unsubsidized Loans from your college or university’s financial aid office or through the federal student loan website.
• Direct PLUS Loans for parents and graduate/professional students: Parents and graduate or professional students can take out Direct PLUS Loans through the U.S. Department of Education. The borrower must pay the interest on the loan. You (or your parents) must undergo a credit check. You can receive up to the cost of attendance for a Direct PLUS loan, though your school will likely subtract any other financial aid received.
Federal student loans offer benefits such as fixed interest rates and income-driven repayment plans.
Private Student Loans
Private student loans differ from federal student loans because they don’t come from the federal government. Private student loans can come from a bank, credit union, state agency, or a school. Private student loan interest rates vary and can usually borrow up to the cost of attendance (the amount of money it costs to attend your school), including living expenses.
It’s a good idea to shop around among lenders for the best interest rates. Once you land on the right lender for you, go through the lender’s application process. It’s worth noting that private student loans lack the borrower protections afforded to federal student loan so they’re typically considered an option only after borrowers have reviewed all of their other choices.
You may also need a cosigner when you get a private student loan. A cosigner signs for the loan with you — they are just as responsible for the repayment of your loan as you are. Not everyone who takes out a private student loan needs a cosigner, but if you don’t have any credit (or if you have less than stellar credit), you may need to ask a trusted adult to cosign a loan with you.
Recommended: Do I Need a Student Loan Cosigner? – A Guide
If you’re wondering whether you want a FAFSA grant on your financial aid award letter, the answer is yes! You do not have to repay grants, so they’re a lot like scholarships in that way. You must file the FAFSA in order to qualify for federal grants for college, so take the time to fill it out carefully and apply as soon as you can. The FAFSA opens on October 1 every year.
When federal aid isn’t enough to pay for college, students may consider private student loans. Ready to let SoFi help you find the best private student loans? SoFi offers competitive rates with flexible repayment options. Forget about origination fees, late fees, or insufficient fund fees — SoFi doesn’t charge them. It takes just minutes to check your rate.
Photo credit: iStock/syahrir maulana
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
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