Applying for Merit-Based Grants
The process of applying for a merit based grant is not a difficult one, though it is important that you pay attention to all of the details. The difference between being awarded a grant and being refused a grant can come down to the smallest detail of the application process so give it your full attention.
For a student just entering college, or even a student continuing their college courses, every penny counts. A grant award can mean fewer loans and less debt you will have to carry as you make your way through your college career.
Let's look at the process for applying for merit based grants to supplement your college financial plan.
Step One: Fill Out the FAFSA
The first step in any financial aid strategy is to fill out and submit the http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ or FAFSA. In order to be considered for any Federal need based, merit based or college funded grants or loans you will need to have submitted a current FAFSA. The application is easy and can be completed online or by mail. The FAFSA gathers information about you and your status as a student which will be used to decide your eligibility for various forms of financial aid. The information you provide on your FAFSA may also be used by private institutions and universities when determining your eligibility for any and all grants and scholarships they may offer.
Step Two: Get Your Student Aid Report
After you have submitted your FAFSA, it will be reviewed and you will receive your Student Aid Report or SAR by mail. The SAR will outline the amount of money you or your family is expected to contribute to your college fund. The lower your Expected Family Contribution or EFC, the greater your eligibility for financial aid.
It is here that the information you supply on your FAFSA becomes the most important. If your or your family's income was reported as substantially lower than the national average then you may qualify for one of the Federal need-based programs such as the Pell grant. While it is unlikely that these need based grants will cover the entire cost of your college education, they can be used to supplement to any merit-based grants for which you are qualified.
Step Three: Fill Out the State Grant Form
If after you have received your financial aid award letter from your school you still foresee trouble paying for college, you may apply for one of the many state sponsored merit-based grants that are available. As part of the Federal government's Leveraging Education Assistance Program, or LEAP, states provide merit-based grants and scholarships to qualifying students. These programs can be found on your states authorized government website.
The root of any merit-based grant application process involves supplying some form of GPA verification to your state's student aid commission. If your GPA is high enough then you may qualify for one of the grants being offered by the state. Read and follow all of the directions on your state's grant applications forms carefully and be sure you submit all relevant information accurately and on time. Submitting an incomplete application, or submitting your application late will automatically disqualify you from receiving any grant awards for the term and you will need to reapply next cycle.
Most students will face the need for some form of financial aid to bolster their college fund. Don't miss out on any of the financial aid opportunities that are open to you.