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Advanced Grant Search Techniques

A common misconception among students considering college is that they won't be able to find any financial aid to help them. But in fact, even though not all students will qualify for federal student aid, there are many other options available to help just about anyone who wants to attend college find a way to pay for it. For example, thousands of grants are available beyond the federally funded grants. Take some time to get to know your options for grants that may be available to you. Chances are good that there are grants you will qualify for.


Institutional Grants

Many colleges and universities provide institutional grants to help cover the difference between what a family can afford to contribute toward a student's tuition and expenses and the total cost. These, like federally funded grants, are need based. Merit-based grants (sometimes called merit scholarships) are also available from many schools. These are based on a student's academic performance and may or may not also consider financial need, depending on the school and the type of grant. To learn more about the types of grants available and the eligibility factors, contact the financial aid office at every school you are interested in and discuss all grants and scholarships available. Be sure to note any specific obligations that may come along with the grant.

Special Needs Grants

Many organizations have an interest in helping students with disabilities and who have had (or have) specific serious illnesses further their education by going to college. Many foundations and organizations that provide research and support for specific conditions offer grants. Check directly with these organizations for any disabilities or special needs you have been affected by. Some popular established foundations for students with disabilities that offer financial assistance to pay for college include:


Military Service Grants

Those who have served in the U.S. armed forces, or whose parents or spouses have served, are often qualified for a wide variety of grants, depending on their branch of the military and the state in which they live. Some grant opportunities include:

  • The Imagine America Military Award (visit for details)
  • Spouse Education Assistance Program (for spouses of Army personnel)
  • Spouse Tuition Aid Program (for spouses of Navy personnel)
  • General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program
  • Enlisted Commissioning Program
  • Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program
  • Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Program


Church and Civic Grants

Membership in certain churches or religious orders as well as civic groups may also provide the benefit of educational grant opportunities. To find out if your church (or the religion with which it is affiliated) offers grants for college, check directly with your clergy or minister. You can also directly contact the church's national administrative offices. Some offices to check with include:

Talent-Based Grants

If you demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts or athletics, grants may be available to help you pay for college. Specifically:

Sports Scholarship and Grant Sources:

Arts Grant Sources:

Theatrical Grant Sources:


Field of Study Grants

Many grants are also available to students who want to pursue a specific field of study. These sometimes include subjects in which there is high demand for workers, such as education and nonprofit employment. Examples of grant areas available include:

Math Grant Sources:

African Studies Grant Sources:

Archeology and Anthropology Grant Sources:

Farming, Agriculture, and Horticulture Grant Sources:

Parks and Recreation Studies Grant Sources:

Accounting and Insurance Studies Grant Sources:

  • National Society of Accountants
  • State Farm Insurance Company

Computer Studies Grant Sources:

  • Electronic Document Systems Foundation
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Student Enterprise Award

Hotel and Hospitality Studies Grant Sources:

  • American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation

Journalism Studies Grant Sources:

  • American Banking Association
  • Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship
  • Broadcast Education Association


State-Sponsored Grants

Many grants are available from state government branches to help students pay for college. Check with your state's higher education office to find out what specific grants are available in your state.

Grants for Women

Many colleges, universities and women's groups and organizations offer grants and scholarships designed specifically to help female students pay for college. Be sure to contact all schools you are interested in to see if they have any special grant programs for women. Also, note that often grants and scholarships for women are more numerous and offer more funding at women's colleges than at co-ed schools. Some organizations offering grants for women to pay for college include:

  • Soroptomist International of the America's Women's Opportunity Awards
  • Kalamazoo Women's Education Coalition
  • Raise the Nation Program
  • Jeanette Rankin Foundation Award
  • BPW Foundation's Career Advancement Scholarship Program and P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education

In addition, women who seek degrees in high-demand fields may also be eligible for grants from schools and organizations serving those fields. Well-known organizations awarding these types of grants for women include the National Physical Science Consortium, the National Black Nurses Association, and the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for Minorities.

Finally, women who have been victims of domestic violence or other severe hardship may qualify for grants and educational assistance to help them regain confidence and financial independence. One example of such a program is the Women's Independent Scholarship Program by the Sunshine Lady Foundation.


Grants for Minorities

Grants for ethnic and religious minorities are plentiful. If you identify as a minority, certainly check with the financial aid office of all colleges and universities you are interested in attending to see if they offer specific grants and scholarships for minorities. Also be sure to check with your state educational agency about state-based grants for minorities. Specific grant opportunities include:


Grant Sources for African American Students:

  • The United Negro College Fund
  • Frederick Douglass Scholars Program
  • American Psychological Association minority fellowship program
  • National Black Nurses Association
  • Corporations with grants for African American students, such as Coca-Cola Xerox

Grant Sources for Asian American Students:

  • Asian American Journalists Association
  • Asian Cultural Council
  • Asian Studies Regional Exchange Program

Grant Sources for Hispanic and Latino/Latina Students:

  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Scholarships


Grant Sources for Native American Students:

  • U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • American Indian College Fund


First in Family Grants

Students who have no family members holding college degrees may qualify for specialized first-in-family grant funding. The most recognized of these types of grant programs is the Sallie Mae Fund. Learn more about this grant program at

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