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Borrowing Wisely
College Guide

Finding Free Money

Grants and scholarships are attractive ways to pay for college because you do not need to repay the money. They are step A of the ABCs of Borrowing Wisely.

Free scholarship search

CollegeAnswer.com provides access to an award database with more than 2.8 million scholarships worth over $16 billion. It is expanded and updated daily. The search combines superior search technology with highly accurate scholarship information to give you a customized list of scholarship leads.

Grants

Grants, like scholarships, do not have to be repaid. They are available through the federal government and state agencies. To get a head start on grants, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early in the year.

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program and is based on financial need. There is no minimum grade point average or other academic requirements, as long as you attend an eligible school. Awards are up to $4,731.

The U.S. Department of Education determines your eligibility based on your answers on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible.

If you receive a Pell Grant, your school will credit your college account with the grant amount, pay you directly, or both. The federal government guarantees that each participating school will receive enough funding to pay the Federal Pell Grants of all eligible students.

Eligible students:

  • Student must be pursuing their first undergraduate degree.
  • Student must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens.
  • Student must have a high school diploma, GED, or demonstrate the ability to benefit from the program offered.

Ineligible students:

  • Incarcerated students.
  • Students who owe a refund on a Title IV grant.
  • Students in default on a Title IV loan.
  • Males who have not registered with the Selective Service.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Schools distribute the need-based FSEOG to full-time and part-time students. Awards range from $100 to $4,000. Your college financial aid office will determine whether you're eligible from your EFC as reported on your ISIR (the school's version of your Student Aid Report).

If you qualify to receive a FSEOG, the school will credit your account, pay you directly, or both.

Eligibility:

  • Undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need (the lowest Expected Family Contribution) are eligible.
  • Federal Pell Grant recipients receive priority but are not guaranteed a FSEOG.

ACG and National SMART Grant

To meet the growing need for improved math and science instruction, the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 created two new grant programs:

  • The ACG (Academic Competitiveness Grant) is offered for the first two years of undergraduate study.
  • National SMART Grant (National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) is offered for the third and fourth year of undergraduate study.

These grants will encourage students to take more challenging courses in high school, making them not only more likely to be successful in college but also to pursue college majors in high demand such as science, mathematics, technology, engineering, and critical foreign language.

About the ACG

An ACG will provide up to $750 for the first year of undergraduate study and up to $1,300 for the second year of undergraduate study to full-time students who are U.S. citizens, eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, and who had successfully completed a rigorous high school program, as determined by the state or local education agency and recognized by the Secretary of Education. Second year students must also have maintained a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

The ACG award is in addition to the student's Pell Grant award. Student must submit a FAFSA to apply for this grant.

Eligibility
If you can answer yes to all of the following questions, you could be eligible to receive an ACG:

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • Did you graduate from high school after January 1, 2005?
  • Are you eligible to receive a Pell Grant?
  • Will you be enrolled as a full-time first or second year student in a two- or four-year degree program?

About the National SMART Grant

A National SMART Grant will provide up to $4,000 for each of the third and fourth years of undergraduate study to full-time students who are U.S. citizens, eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, and majoring in physical, life, or computer sciences; mathematics, technology, or engineering; or in a foreign language determined critical to national security.

The student must also have maintained a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in coursework required for the major. The National SMART Grant award is in addition to the student's Pell Grant award. Students must submit a FAFSA to apply for this grant.

Eligibility
To be eligible to receive a National SMART Grant, you must be able to answer yes to all of the following questions:

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • Are you eligible to receive a Pell Grant?
  • Are you enrolled as a full-time third or fourth year student in a baccalaureate degree program?
  • Do you have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average?
  • Are you now enrolled in an eligible major in one of the following fields: computer science, engineering, critical foreign languages, life sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, technology, or multi-disciplinary studies?
 
More information
 

To apply for a student loan, please contact the Fifth Third Education Hotline: 1-800-222-7192 (TDD/TTY: 1-800-535-4314).

For questions regarding existing student loans, please call either:

Sallie Mae 1-888-272-5543
Great Lakes Higher Education 1-800-236-4300