Financial aid is a primary concern of the majority of graduating high school seniors preparing for college today. High school seniors, especially first-generation college prospects, typically need a substantial amount of funding to pay for their first year of college and beyond. While it is no surprise that college tuition and fees are expensive, the price tag for an undergraduate education has expanded across all sectors, maintaining a steady rise in recent years. Between 2011-12 and 2016-17, published tuition and fee prices rose by 9% in the public four-year sector, by 11% at public two-year colleges, and by 13% at private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation. This can leave many students and their families reeling from the pressure not only of selecting the best school and program, but also seeking the funds to pay for a college education.

Data source: The College Board

This is where grants for high school seniors come in as a potentially ideal source of financial aid for eligible students because grants, like scholarships, are a form of college financial aid that do not have to be repaid. Grants for high school seniors are typically awarded for undergraduate programs, including not only associate and bachelor's degrees, but also vocational training.

Federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, are available to high school students whose family income may qualify them for need-based financial aid. Applying for federal grants by completing the FAFSA should be the first step for graduating high school seniors, especially those who are first-generation college students experiencing this process for the first time with their families.

While grants and scholarships are similar — almost interchangeable in some cases — grants for high school seniors are usually awarded based on financial need, while scholarships are awarded based on merit and/or academic performance. To apply for a grant, particularly federal grants, you will likely be required to submit documentation regarding your income and financial needs for college through the FAFSA application process.

Grants for high school students are also available from private organizations, corporations, and nonprofits, offering varying award amounts based on enrollment status, the source of the grant, unmet financial need, and type of program. Some grants are intended to cover a significant portion of overall tuition costs. Privately funded grants may also be need-based as well as contingent on subjects being studied, minority affiliation, or other requirements.

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Eligibility Requirements

Though grant eligibility requirements can vary considerably, most grants for high school seniors prioritize those who need financial aid to attend college. In the case of federal grants, all students must complete and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to document their income status and financial needs. Some high school student grants are contingent upon additional requirements, such as part- or full-time enrollment or comitting to majoring in a particular field. The Part-time Grant from the Maryland Higher Education Commissions, for example, requires that applicants be Maryland residents, demonstrate financial need, and enroll in their college program part time.

General Federal Grants for High School Seniors

Federal Pell Grant

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: ASAP after October 1, annually

Pell Grants are federal grants awarded to students pursuing a first bachelor's degree, a category which encompasses high school seniors preparing to enter college. Pell Grant applicants must complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for aid and potential award amount, which is based on income.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

See Grant

  • Amount: $100-$4,000
  • Deadline: Varies

The FSEOG is intended for students who have received Pell Grants, but who still need additional financial aid to attend his or her first baccalaureate program. Awards through the FSEOG program are administered directly from the financial aid office at each individual participating college or university.

General Grants For High School Students by State

Cal Grants A, B, & C

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  • Amount: Up to $9,100
  • Deadline: March 2, annually

High school seniors in California may apply for three types of Cal Grants, which are divided into need-based and merit-based awards. The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) also offers a variety of grants for college-prep, outreach, and vocational programs for high school students.

Farther Foundation Student Travel Grant

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  • Amount: Up to $4,000
  • Deadline: Varies

Recipients of this unique grant for Chicago-area high school students receive financial support toward an educational trip to a country of their choice. The award is designed to provide a cultural immersion experience and international service opportunities for first-time college students abroad.

Move On When Ready (MOWR) Program

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies

A non-need-based grant (not determined by income as reported on the FAFSA), the MOWR award is available to public, private, and homeschooled high school seniors who are Georgia residents. MOWR, formerly called Accel, is designed to provide financial support as an incentive for high school students to pursue higher education in the state.

Missouri Advanced Placement Incentive Grant

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  • Amount: $500
  • Deadline: June 1, 2017

Applicants to the Missouri Advanced Placement Incentive Grant must have at least two grades of a three or higher on AP exams to qualify for this award. The grant includes a one-time grant of $500 per student, per year.

Part-time Grant

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  • Amount: $200-$2,000
  • Deadline: ASAP after filing FAFSA by January 1, 2018

Provided by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, this part-time grant is for high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree part time or those who are concurrently enrolled in both high school and college courses. Eligible applicants must be Maryland residents and demonstrate financial need by completing and submitting the FAFSA form.

Texas Grant

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  • Amount: up to $8,722
  • Deadline: ASAP after October 1 FAFSA deadline, annually

The Toward EXcellence, Access and Success (TEXAS) Grant is a government-funded grant program for both public community college and university students in Texas who can demonstrate financial need. Though the grant was developed by the Texas Legislature specifically as an incentive to prepare high school students for the college experience, eligibility is open to both first-time and returning students who are enrolled part time.

Vermont Non-Degree Grant

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies

Applicants to the need-based, non-degree grant provided by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) must be residents of the state who are currently enrolled at high schools with a continuing education program in vocational training, job skills, or college prep courses.

Grants for High School Seniors by Subject

Esther Katz Rosen Pre-College Psychology Grant Program

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  • Amount: Up to $25,000
  • Deadline: March 1, 2017

The American Psychological Foundation funds this award, which provides financial support and non-need-based incentive to qualifying high school students who are considering a career in psychology through a post-secondary program.

National YoungArts Foundation Grants

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  • Amount: Up to $10,000
  • Deadline: Varies

Students 15-18 years old who are interested in pursuing an artistic project or career in music or music composition are eligible to apply for YoungArts grants. Recipients may also be eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.