How to Get Grants for College to Avoid Student Loans

Happy smiling millennial girl holding paper document, received good news letter, university admission notification.

College is not cheap- this is a widely known and well accepted fact. While tuition varies depending on the college and degree, you are looking at spending at least tens of thousands of dollars. As nice as it would be, most of us do not have that kind of money lying around, so we have to find a way to pay for it.

Grant Options for College to Avoid Student Loan Debts

For many people, student loans immediately come to mind, but those should be a last resort. Student loan debt is difficult to get out of, and most people stay stuck in it for years and decades. The average student debt ranges from $26,900 to $55,882 depending on the state and the type of school the student attends.

Before you resign yourself to debt, you should look for grants for college. Grants do not have to be repaid, so if you can get grants for college, you can avoid that student debt. At the very least, even if you have to get some student loans, you can minimize your student debt by getting grants for college.

This guide is intended to give you a starting point for getting grants and some information on grants that you might qualify for. It is in no way all-inclusive, but it can give you a great start.

Fill Out the FAFSA

The first step you need to take for any type of financial assistance is to fill out the FAFSA- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It asks you a series of questions regarding your financial information. If you lived with your parents the previous year, it will also ask for their information.

Before going any farther, let’s address the fact that not every student’s parents will be willing to help with the FAFSA and some are not able to. This does not automatically disqualify you for aid. If your parents are unable to provide their information due to being mentally incapacitated, incarcerated, or they are abusive, you can fill out the FAFSA, indicate that you cannot provide their information, and then call the financial aid office to apply for a student dependency override.

If your parents are simply unwilling to help, it changes things a little. You should still fill out the FAFSA and indicate that you cannot provide your parents’ information. Then, as soon as possible, call the financial aid office at your school to explain the situation. The lack of parental information may disqualify you for some aid, but not all. If there is anything you can apply for, the aid office should be able to help you. Many grants are not dependent on parental information, anyway.

After you have filled out the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). It will provide your EFC, or Estimated Family Contribution, and the estimated amount of aid you might qualify for. This report will let your college know if you will qualify for grants, how much of your tuition should be covered, and if you will need additional aid.

Even if you do need more aid for school, you do not immediately have to jump to student loans. There are other grants for college that you may be able to receive and you should exhaust those possibilities first. Let’s go over some of the most common grant options.

Federal Grants for College

Federal grants include Pell grants, one of the most well-known grants in America. These are grants that are based on financial need. Most Pell grant funds go to students whose total family income is less than $20,000, though the family income of up to $50,000 sometimes qualifies.

There are other stipulations, such as the student is looking to earn their first Bachelor’s degree, but exceptions are made for some post-graduate degree programs. The amount of the Pell grant often changes every year, and student awards are determined by different factors. However, the maximum Pell grant amount for the 2022-2023 school year is $6,895.

That amount is enough to cover some community college tuition. When I attended my local community college, the Pell grant was enough to pay for all of my classes and my textbooks. Even if it does not pay all of your tuition, it can still help tremendously.

In addition to the Pell grant, you might qualify for the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Every year, the schools that participate in this program receive a set amount of funds. The school then determines which students have the greatest financial need and award them some of those funds, which could be anywhere from $100 to $4,000. This is a program you should look into as early as possible. The schools only receive these funds once a year, and once the money is gone, you have to wait until the following year.

State Grants for College

After federal grants are state grants for college. The types of grants available vary according to the state.

Some states provide grants to minorities. Others might specialize in assisting those with a disability or who were in the foster care system. Other states might award grants to students in certain fields that desperately need to be filled in that state. Your school or state agency should have the necessary information for these grants.

Grants for Women

As there is an apparent difference between men and women in their opportunities and income levels, some organizations have taken an active role in making changes. There are several grants available specifically for women, including The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education and the Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award.

Grants for Minorities

There are also grants geared toward ethnic minorities, such as Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and more. Sometimes, these grants will be made available through filling out the FAFSA. Others take more research, but your school should have some information on them.

Do not just think about the federal grants available to minorities, either. Check with any ethnic organizations or groups. I am Native American. The tribe I am registered with provides a certain amount of grants and scholarships each year. These are apart from any that my schools knew of. It is always best to do your own research as sometimes private organizations do not advertise their grant programs.

Minorities illustration

TEACH Grants for College

If you are going to school to be a teacher, you should look into TEACH grants for college costs. While these do not have to be repaid, you do have to agree to teach in a school that is in an underserved area for four years after graduation. It seems like a pretty good trade off – you get help with college costs and you get the chance to impact the lives of children who need caring teachers.

Military Grants for College

If one of your parents served in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan after 2001 and passed away because of it, there are grants available to you. Talk to your school counselor or the financial aid office at your college of choice for information on these.

School Grants for College

Individual colleges also sometimes have grants and scholarships for their students.

I was once awarded a scholarship for keeping my GPA high in the first two terms of college. The award was only about $800 each term, but that definitely helped cut back on my student loans.

Talk to your school about what is available from them. They might not be available in your freshman year, but you can start working toward them from the beginning.

Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)

The Academic Competitiveness Grant is an additional aid for those who qualify for the Pell grant. In order to be eligible, you have to have completed what is termed a “rigorous secondary school program of study” with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA. The Secretary of Education determines what programs qualify each year, but it is referring to programs such as Honors and AP courses. You can speak to your school counselor about the ACG- he or she can help you determine if you are eligible.

SMART Grants for College

Pell grant recipients should also consider the SMART Grant program, which is the National Science Mathematics Access to Retain Talent. It is awarded to students who are entering STEM college programs, foreign languages, and other high demand careers. There are other requirements, including being a junior or senior in your degree program and having a minimum 3.0 GPA. This award is up to $4,000 per year.

Special Interest Grants

If you are a musician, artist, photographer, vocational student, or something similar, you might be able to find grants for your specific interest. These may require a little more research on your part as they will likely come from local organizations, but you might find some that are nationwide. Talk to your teacher as they probably have some inside scoop.


Every year, there are writing competitions, art competitions, science competitions, and more. Some of the prizes include grant and scholarship money. Whatever you are interested in doing, look for competition. Enter as many as you can that award college aid or cash to the winners.

Employer Grants

If you have a job, your employer may have their own grant program. I have heard of quite a few companies having grant and scholarship programs. Some were large and others were small. If your employer does not, ask your family members if any of their employers do. You never know what you might run across.

Tips for Getting Grants for College

There are a couple of things you can do to make your chances of getting a grant higher.

One of the biggest mistakes among college students is waiting until the last minute to apply for their financial aid. Doing so is only working against yourself, though. If you can, it is a good idea to start your research in your freshman year of high school. Even if you cannot yet apply, you will know what you need to do to be eligible and can mark the application date down now.

If you are past your freshman year, it’s okay. Just start as soon as you can. Even if you do not have time to apply for them all this year, you can always apply next year.

As you can see, you can get more than one grant at a time, so there is no reason to only apply for one. You should take the time to apply for as many as possible. Who cares if you have to get 10 small grants? It all adds up. If you apply for enough, you might not need a penny of student loan money.

Applying for grants should not be a one time thing for your entire college career. You should be searching for and applying for them every single year. Some grants are not available until you have completed a certain number of classes, like the SMART grant mentioned above. The award I received only came after I completed a full year with that high GPA. Take some time each and every year to research what you qualify for.

In the midst of applying for 35 grants for college, it is easy to forget what you have and have not yet done. You should try to maintain a list of the grants you have applied for and need to apply for. You can keep this on a sheet of paper if you like, but if you have a spreadsheet program, you can keep up with more details to help you stay on track. Start by making the following column headings:

  • Grant Name
  • Grant Purpose: Is it for minorities, STEM, simply income based? This will help you remember what you actually applied for.
  • URL for application: Whether you need to revisit the site later or you have not yet filled out the application, keeping up with the website to apply on is a wise move. And, if you are going to reapply the following year, you already have the information on where to do so.
  • Status: Have you applied yet? Are you awaiting results? Have you been approved?
  • Date of Application: It is important to remember when you applied. Many times, an application will tell you about how long it takes to receive results. Keeping up with your application date will let you know how much longer it should take or if you should reach out to someone because it is taking too long.
  • Approval Amount: If you are approved, type the amount into this box. This will help you keep up with how much of your college costs are currently covered and how much farther you have to go.

This spreadsheet can make the application process a little smoother. You can pull it up again next year when it is time to start applying for grants, too. You might also use it to keep up with information on grants that you do not yet qualify for but will in the future. It is a lot easier to make note of that information now than to try to remember where you found it next year.


After you have exhausted all other possibilities, you may still need to consider student loans. If this is the case, be sure that you shop around for the best ones. Different student loans have different terms and interest rates, so you need to research what you are getting. You can rely on Loanry to help you with this.

Additionally, keep in mind that student loans are not the only way to pay for school. Compare the rates and terms to personal loans as well. You might find one that is more affordable and that you can pay off much easier. You do not want to end up as another student loan debt statistic, so you should do all that you can to minimize student debt or avoid it altogether.


The Ultimate Study Guide to Student Credit Cards

As exciting as college can be, it’s also a bit overwhelming – and we’re not just talking about the papers and exams that are cramming your schedule. We’re talking about the financial aspect, too. Even if you have financial aid, there are probably some expenses it doesn’t cover. Sure, you could ask your parents for help, but you want to be independent. And anyway, you need to prepare for life after college. How can you do that while paying for your own expenses? Student credit cards.

What Is a Student Credit Card?

Student credit cards are a lot like regular credit cards in the sense that you use them to pay for your purchase and then repay the money. The differences typically come with the approval process and the perks that come with them.

Let’s talk about the perks first. Most regular cards offer perks like airline points or cash back at the gas station. These are great rewards for many people. However, they don’t always apply to students.

You know what does apply? Free annual membership to Amazon Prime, meal perks, and streaming subscriptions.

Those are the types of rewards you can gain from using a student credit card. Even better, some offer things like a statement credit if you keep your GPA up to a certain level. Talk about an incentive to hit the books!

Another difference is in applying for the card. Issuers that offer student credit cards are well aware that you haven’t yet had time to build a credit score. Some students haven’t used their credit a single time. Therefore, they make contingencies for that. They typically go more by income than anything else. And most allow you to get your parents to co-sign or even for you to claim your spouse’s income if you happen to be married. In short, they can be a bit easier to get for many students than regular credit cards.

Reasons to Get a Credit Card As a Student

There are plenty of good reasons to get a student credit card. Before we dive into those, though, it’s important to understand something. Credit cards are handy and can help you out. But if you use them irresponsibly, it can mess you up for years to come.

So as we talk about these benefits, remember that we are talking about responsible credit card usage. Don’t let your credit card be an excuse to go wild and fill your dorm full of stuff you can’t afford.

Now that we’ve had that talk, let’s get to the fun stuff.

You’re in college to learn, right? Why not extend your curriculum to learn how to manage credit the right way? By using a student credit card, you learn how credit works as a whole, how to track your spending, how to pay your bills each month, and more. And these lessons can follow you until the day you breathe your last breath.

Understand that you’re new to it, so you’re going to make some mistakes. That’s okay – we all do. Mistakes aren’t something to beat yourself up over, though. They’re something to learn from, so you can do better next time. So, as long as you’re mindful while you use it, you can learn a lot from using a student credit card.

It’s not uncommon for college students to live on Ramen noodles and to barely skate by with finances. In fact, many people actually enjoy that part – at least to some degree. It’s part of the college experience. However, not a single one of those students will deny that they’d like to order a pizza during all-night study sessions or not have to wait for a monthly stipend to buy deodorant.

Student credit cards can help you get by in between paychecks or monthly allotments without having to call and explain to your parents why you blew all of last month’s. This is, however, one of those don’t go crazy areas. An occasional burger or pizza and purchasing necessities are good. Just try to keep the spending in check.

You won’t always have a dorm room to stay in or student aid to help cover your needs. One day you’ll graduate and, unless you want to move back in with your parents, you’ll need to rent a place. Unfortunately, this can be hard for most recent graduates as you’ve spent the last two to four years focusing on school.

A student credit card can make a big difference at this time. If you’ve been using and responsibly managing your card while you’re in college, you have two to four years of positive credit history. This can help you get approved for everything from an apartment to a new car.

It can even help you land a good job and get lower insurance rates. Bottom line: you can pave a brighter financial future simply by being responsible with your credit before you ever actually need to use it. Who doesn’t need a jumpstart in life?

We talked a little about the perks above, but it’s worth mentioning again. Some student credit cards come with some pretty amazing rewards. Who can’t use a free year of Amazon Prime? Granted, these benefits vary between card issuers, but most offer something that a college student can put to work.

For example, there are some cards that offer forgiveness for one late payment in a given period. Since you’re just starting to learn how to manage your credit, this benefit can be really awesome. Some companies even have scholarship programs for their participants. And most offer 0% interest in your first year of use.

Pros and Cons of Student Credit Cards

Okay, so let’s review the pros and cons.


  • Ability to build your credit history and score before you’re responsible for all your own bills
  • Incredible learning experience with real-world applications
  • Freedom to take care of needs and wants between checks or allotments
  • Great rewards programs that can help you through your college career
  • Ability to take care of emergencies, like flat tires or dental appointments for toothaches
  • Opportunity to build healthy financial habits early
  • Usually easier to get than a regular credit card


  • Leads to temptation to spend when you shouldn’t or to spend more than you should
  • Could be stuck with a high-interest rate after introductory offer
  • Irresponsible use can impact your future for years or even decades to come
  • Usually a lower credit limit than regular cards
  • Might need a cosigner or have to choose a secured card

How to Get a Credit Card As a Student

Getting your student credit card doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need to follow these steps:

1. Think about what you need the card for and what kind of perks would be nice for you. Before you start looking for one, it’s better to have an idea of what to look for.

2. Start your engines – I mean, your research. Compare the different cards available to find which one offers what you’re looking for.

3. When you’ve found a few that you like, take a look at their requirements. Determine if you’ll need a cosigner, what types of income they require, what documentation they accept to prove you’re a student, and anything else you can find.

4. Gather all of the documentation you need. The process can move a little quicker if you’ve got everything in hand before applying. And if you need a cosigner, go ahead and talk to your parents at this point.

5. Lastly, it’s time to apply.

5 Best Credit Cards for Students

We’re going to help you get started with your research by showing you five pretty awesome options below.

1. Discover It Student Cash Back

This card is a pretty good one, as it’s really easy to apply. You don’t even need a credit score to do it. And yet, you can earn 5% cash back on pretty much anything you buy using PayPal.

So, when you go on an Amazon shopping spree or splurge on pizza night – or do the responsible thing and buy school supplies – you’re earning 5% of that back. If you don’t use PayPal, you still earn 1%. Even better, they match everything you earn that first year.

You also get 0% interest for the first six months. Unfortunately, that can jump up to 22.74% after that period, so you’ll need to be prepared for that.

2. SavorOne Student Credit Card from Capital One

If you like the idea of cashback and monetary rewards, this is a pretty good card. You can earn 3% cash back on streaming, dining, entertainment, groceries, and more. And you earn a $100 cash bonus if you spend $100 on your card within three months of getting it.

There is no annual fee, which is great. At this time, though, there is not a 0% interest rate introductory offer. Instead, you’ll pay 15.24% to 25.24% from the beginning. They do run introductory offers sometimes, though, so look into it before you avoid this card.

3. Chase Freedom Student Card

The Chase Freedom Credit Card is a little different than the other options on this list so far. It offers a lower cashback amount at only 1% on all purchases. This might seem undesirable, but it can actually be nice.

It means you don’t have to keep up with how much you’re earning – it’s the same amount all of the time. And, unlike most cards, you don’t need to hit a minimum balance to redeem those rewards. You can redeem them at any time – no matter how few or how many you have available.

There are some other benefits, too. For instance, you get a credit limit increase after you make five timely payments. There’s also no annual fee and you get $50 after you make a purchase using your card in the first three months.

4. Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

If you’re going to college a long way away from home, this might be the best card for you. The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students allows you to earn 1.5 travel points on every single dollar you spend.

And if you spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days, you get a bonus of 25,000 points. These can come in really handy when it’s time to fly home for the holidays or during summer break. And the good thing is you don’t have to worry about blackout dates.

Additionally, there is no annual fee. You get 0% interest for the first 15 billing cycles, but that can increase to 24.74% once that intro period is over.

5. Journey Student Credit Card From Capital One

For those who love to stream, the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One gives a $5 streaming subscription credit each month as long as you make timely payments. Subscriptions like Amazon Music Unlimited, SiriusXM Streaming and Satellite, Spotify, Disney+, and Prime Video are all eligible.

Additionally, you earn 1% cashback on all purchases. And you can increase that to 1.25% if you make your payments on time. There’s no annual fee, but the interest rate is 26.99%. That can quickly add up. The best way to earn all of your rewards and prevent yourself from having to pay such high interest is to pay your balance before the end of the billing period.

How to Responsibly Manage Your Card

One of the most important tools you’ll learn to use as an adult is a budget. It is a clear plan about what you need to pay and where to send your money each time you get paid. That helps you make smarter buying decisions, as you know how much money you have for extras.

As a college student, you might not yet know how to budget or be very comfortable with it, but there is a simple solution for it. Head to the Goalry Mall and sign up for your member key. There you’ll find a budgeting tool that can help you stay on track.

You’ll also find other financial tools and a plethora of educational resources that can teach you everything you need to know about finances. By the time you graduate from college, you can be a master at managing your money.


Student credit cards can be a very helpful tool – as long as you manage them responsibly and find one that suits your needs. Take the time to look through the options listed here as well as any others you come across. Compare them before making your final decision. Then, put a budget to work to ensure that your card helps you instead of negatively impacting your future.