Types of Grants For College (and Financial Aid Too!)

One of the big questions many going to college have to answer is how to pay for it. The good news is that there are a ton of different options available out there.

How many are available to you depends on what types of aid you may qualify for. So it’s important to research all the options out there. With that in mind, let’s check out some of the options that are out there that you may qualify for.

Below you’ll learn about some types of grants for college as well as some other financial aid options.

Financial Aid vs Student Aid vs Financial Assistance

First off, let’s get some terms straight.

There are a lot of terms used for financial aid including student aid and financial assistance. At the end of the day, all you really care about it whether you get money to pay for college or not.

So don’t get too caught up in the terms. Just look at the options below, see which ones you may qualify for, understand whether they need to be paid back or not and you’re good to go.

Federal Student Loans

One popular option is getting a student loan from the government. This is a great place to start looking into financial aid options.

There are few requirements those applying for federal student loans must meet. You’ll need to have a valid social security number and either be a US citizen or eligible noncitizen.

Men between the ages of 18 and 25 applying for federal student loans have to be registered with the selective service.

All students will also need to have a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a GED or homeschooling program certificate) and enroll in an eligible school. They’ll also need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA). 

Once enrolled in college, students getting Federal Student Loans must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA and also remain enrolled in school at least part-time.

When it comes to paying back government loans, the specific terms depend on the type of loan you get. Many, though not all, federal student loans have a grace period of 6 months. That means you don’t have to start paying back the loan until 6 months after you graduate. However, the loans may accrue interest during that grace period so putting off the repayment may cost you more in the long term. 

Types of Grants for College

Unlike loans, grants for college tuition do not need to be paid back. This is basically free money!

There are federal and state grants available, as well as grants offered by private groups/industries or the colleges themselves. Some grants are offered only to those in lower income brackets.

However, not all grants are awarded based on financial needs. There are types of grants for college available to members of the military, single moms, specific areas of study like science or math, arts-based grants and more. There are also merit-based grants available as well.

Federal Work Study Programs

This is an option that allows college students to get part time jobs while in college. And instead of getting a paycheck, they get compensated with tuition.

Usually these jobs are either community service in nature and/or related to the student’s course of study. These are need based programs and you will have to apply.. If you’re not having an easy time getting a loan or grant, the federal work study program may be an excellent option to look into. 


You’re probably familiar with scholarships from a sports perspective. Many top student-athletes qualify for scholarships based on their athletic ability.

However there are many other types of scholarships available. Commonly scholarships are based on specific talents, academic achievement, specific interests or qualities a student has demonstrated.

Often these scholarships come from individual colleges/universities. But there are other groups that may offer scholarships. There are a lot of scholarship opportunities available so it pays to do some research and see which ones you may qualify for. 

Private Student Loans

If none of the above options look promising for you, there are private student loan options as well. These private student loans work very much like taking out a loan for a house or automobile. Though, keep in mind, you can’t write off student loans if you ever file for bankruptcy like you can with other types of loans.

There are some companies that specialize in only offering student loans. There are also some major financial institutions that offer them as well.

More on Grants and Financial Aid

This article is part of our Guide to Online College Grants.

Check out the next article in the series: Intro to College Scholarships