student carrying books

Grants, like scholarships and student loans, help students defray the costs of paying for their education. Most scholarships, however, are merit-based awards (meeting certain achievement standards as set by the scholarship sponsor) and student loans require repayment. Higher education grants are essentially free gifts of money that target students demonstrating financial need.

Many organizations offer higher education grants, including the federal government, state governments, community organizations, private endowments, corporate foundations, nonprofit organizations and colleges and universities.

A grant application is a comprehensive proposal that presents a business plan or plan-of-action to accomplish a goal that grant funding makes possible. Grant applications give applicants the opportunity to define friends and partners that will impact the pursuit of the goal. In addition, these applications indicate of organizational capacity and the public image associated with the project. ISTS offers an easy-to-use application platform to streamlines this process and first-class support to clarification and assistance.

There are four major categories of grants:

Federal and State (Public) Grants: The United States government offers a number of federal grant programs that help increase the percentage of individuals who are able to attend college. These programs include the well-known Pell Grant and the Academic Competitiveness (AC) Grant, which is available to college freshman and sophomores who have demonstrated achievement in academics, leadership and service. Many state governments also fund grant programs for residents who meet a specific set of criteria.
Private Grants: Since all types of students hunt for financial support to pay for college, grant providing organizations have developed programs targeting various student populations. These common populations include students from low-income or military families, disabled students, non-traditional students and students at specific levels in school (high school, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral).
Minority Grants: Grants specifically targeting a minority group, particularly Hispanics, African-Americans and women, make up a significant portion of all higher education grants available because many organizations seek to improve education opportunities for underrepresented individuals.
Corporate Grants: Corporations and professional organizations fund higher education grant programs to increase interest in their field and cultivate talented individuals for recruitment purposes. Educational grant opportunities are especially apparent in fields experiencing high demand, such as healthcare and teaching.

To administer a basic grant program, providers must:

  1. Review Applications
  2. Narrow applicants to best matches for grant program
  3. Select grant reviewers
  4. Research and interview candidates
  5. Identify dollar amount fund based on history and needs

Effective grant writing is the art and science of developing granting relationships with funder by generating a compelling story, while accurately depicting the benefits of the goal. Financial figures can strengthen the application and confirm the intended use of grant funding. It is important to note that these proposals specific fund requests for explicit purposes, possibly to be used sometime in the future.

Public grants are government-sponsored and have several common characteristics. Generally public grants are larger awards and subsequently more reliable for long-term projects. All the information about the program is available to public, including the established application process, required formats, and associated timetable. Public grant recipients are accountable to public officials and therefore program vetting is more time consuming and involves additional reporting and evaluation. These programs are more conservative and do not generally accept risky proposals, especially for new ideas.

Privately funded grants tend to offer smaller awards and are generally designated to fund one year projects. Private grants are not required to post program information publicly. As a result, applications processes, proposal formats and timetables may or may not be established. Private grant-making organizations have smaller staffs and may offer simpler and more flexible processes and requirements. Many of these private organizations have policies requiring grant seeking projects to target local communities. To encourage local participation, reporting and evaluation criteria are less stringent and these organizations are more likely to invest in new or innovative proposals.

Corporate grants function differently than other grant programs. These programs usually require “give and get” agreements. Students that accept corporate funding may be required to present findings or agree to a term of employment. Non-educational grant funding can be used for fund-raising events, special events or marketing.

Grant applications can vary in their length, type of questions and required depth of response. The following is a list of common questions found on grant applications:

  • Summarize the proposed program
  • What is the need to be addressed?
  • How was the need determined?
  • What intended outcomes do you hope to achieve during the grant period?
  • What other organizations have you consulted or planned with to develop program?
  • What are the proposed program activities?
  • Who will deliver services?
  • What is the timeline for activities?
  • What is the method and schedule for measuring results?
  • Who will be served? How did you determine your market?
  • How will you market your program?
  • Who are your past partners and what have you accomplished?
  • What was your past “season” program?
  • What have been your past results? Numbers?


In addition to written responses, most grant applications require supplemental attachments. Common supplements include:

  • Organization history
  • Biographies or resumes of staff and artists
  • Newspaper articles
  • Letters of Support
  • Sample brochures, programs, promotions
  • Marketing plan
  • Organizational chart
  • Outcomes Chart
  • IRS letter of determination
  • Timeline of events (past 3 years)
  • List of Board of Directors
  • In-Kind Contributions
  • Project Budget
  • Previous year’s actual financial results
  • Certified Audit
  • Executive Director’s Letter