How Do Students Qualify for Free Money?

The scoop on grants, scholarships, and merit awards

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Free money, also called grants, scholarships, or gift aid, is the best kind of financial aid because you don't have to pay it back. Of course, there's never enough free money to go around. Only about 50 percent of all college students get any. And most of those don't get all they need. But if you know who gives it away and whom they like to give it to, you can increase your odds of collecting some.

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 student or parent's employer offers tuition assistance.