How Can My Child Get Free Money?

Grants are "free money" and the best kind of financial aid because you don't have to pay them back.

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Grants, also called scholarships or gift aid, are "free money" and the best kind of financial aid because you don't have to pay them back. There isn't any real difference between a "grant," and "scholarship." But many of the biggest programs offering free money to low-income students use the word "grant." Many colleges award "scholarships" because that word sounds more impressive. Some financial aid officers also use the term "gift aid." Whatever they call it, free money is free money! Of course, there's not enough of this to go around.

How to Qualify

Need: The student has qualified as financially needy, usually by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or the CSS Profile.

Merit: The student is being rewarded for good grades, athletic skill, musical talent, etc.

Employment benefit: The parent's employer offers tuition assistance for dependents. Many universities, for example, give employees' children a break on tuition.

Students typically receive the money as a credit to a college tuition bill. But some organizations simply will write the student a check.