Finding Institutional and Private Grants for College

By Patricia Gorden Neill - May 20th, 2013

While searching for scholarships can be easily done through the many worthy scholarship databases, finding institutional and private grants to help pay for college is more difficult, as many of these grants aren’t obvious. However, with a bit of dedicated snooping you should be able to find grant monies available from universities and colleges, professional societies, ethnic organizations, organizations for women, corporations and companies, regional governments and cities and local educational nonprofits.

College Financial Aid Office

You’ve applied to five schools and are hoping to be accepted by at least one of them. Don’t wait for that important acceptance letter, instead get in touch with the financial aid office of each college. What you need to find out is if there are any grants that would suit your circumstances or characteristics for which you might qualify. Colleges and universities often have endowments, money put aside just for helping students with a financial need, or with some sparkling talent or ability. Someone might have donated money to the school to help fund Methodist students or any other religious denomination. You won’t find that grant unless you ask and then apply. The first place to look for grants is your college’s financial aid office. If you’ve applied to five schools, then check with each one. Of course, if you end up not attending that particular school, then the grant you found might not apply to you anymore.

Academic Departments

Academic departments are another source for grants. If you’re planning on majoring in computer science, check with that department’s secretary to see if there are any grants for undergrad students. Students in various academic disciplines or taking a particular course of study can sometimes find grants for their work. Ask at the departments for your major and minor if you already know what you’ll be studying. If you’re already in school, say a sophomore or junior, ask your professors about grants for students with your major. While these grants may be called by different names, awards or scholarships or presidential grants, just be sure you apply for it if there’s any chance you can qualify.

Corporations and Companies

These grants might be called scholarships, but since both award money towards a college education, but we can ignore that in the search. The trick is finding them. If both your parents work, see if the corporation or company they work for has grant money for college bound students. Major corporations often have a foundation or endowment they are allied with that provides money for various good causes, including higher education. Check with all the major corporations located or headquartered in your state. Even smaller local businesses might have scholarships or grants to fund higher education. If you’re still in high school, ask your guidance counselor, as they usually keep on top of all college related information, including funding for needy or talented students.

Professional Associations

You may know of some professional associations already, if your parents or their friends belong to any, but if not, then you want to find a good professional association directory. Yahoo has a good number of directories, so start there. From there, you should be able to find the association’s main Web site and look for education fund or a similar key word. Naturally, you’ll only be contacting professional associations that might be within the purview of your college major, or again, if your parents belong. If you have a connection, then check with the association to see if they offer a grant or scholarship. If you’re planning on majoring in mechanical engineering, then it’s a natural for you to check with the professional associations connected to that industry.

Ethnic or Heritage Organizations

If your family is Irish American, find a directory that lists various Irish American organizations. While some of them may not have educational funds, undoubtedly some of them do. The same goes for every heritage and background. You will find at least one but probably more associations or organizations for each nationality that migrated to America over the centuries.

Other Organizations

If you’re African American, Native American or Hispanic, try looking for and contacting the organizations that exist to help people with your background. Just like the heritage organizations mentioned above, many of these organizations might have higher education funds to help out college students with grants and scholarships. Young women heading off to college should also check women’s organizations to see if there are grants for college. Women’s colleges also provide educational assistance to female students.

Military

Former armed services students can find out about grants and scholarships from states, institutions and the military itself. The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is another way to help pay for your college. ROTC has programs at over one thousand colleges and universities. You receive a paid education and a career after graduation in exchange for dedicating a few years to military service after graduation. Other education grants for former military students include grants for veterans, usually at the state level, and the Federal Tuition Assistance Program. If you’re currently in the armed forces, check into Military Tuition Assistance, which allows service members to obtain college degrees during their off duty hours.

Private Grants

Frankly, private education grants are even harder to find than grants from institutions or organizations. From $100 mini-grants awarded for an essay contest to full-ride academic grants, private grants span the spectrum. Make a list of all your characteristics, just as you did for the scholarship hunt, and see if there are any private education grants for dancers, composers, fire fighters, radio-controlled airplane operators, Frisbee throwers or any of your hobbies or favorite things to do. Fortunately, the Education Place has a Web page listing grant finding databases for students to fine tune their searches.

In summary, while grants are a little more difficult to find, if you begin to look around you, you’ll soon find grant sources waiting for your applications. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll qualify for most of the grants, you’re sure to find some that can help you fund your college years. It’s a bit of work to search, but since the payoff may be in the thousands, allowing you to attend college without taking out expensive student loans, then the searches are worth it.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.