You may not hear this from every college advice site you visit, but student loans are to be avoided unless you absolutely need them. Federal student loans are a little better, but private loans will saddle you with harsh debt well beyond your graduation date. Grants are the far more favorable alternative.

Grants are money given to you for a specific purpose that you never need to pay back. So long as you use it the way it’s intended, it’s a pure come-up.

Federal Grants

The federal government offers a few grants that it’s in your best interest to research. If you come from a low-income family, Pell Grants can be a huge benefit to you. Depending on your qualifications, you can get as much as $6,495 towards your education, as of the 2021-2022 academic year. It won’t pay for the whole thing, but at a state school, it does take care of a pretty penny.

The Pell Grant, as useful as it is, is distributed based on need. There are a few other federal grants that are based on merit as well as need. Anyone under a certain income threshold can receive the Pell Grant, but only those who’ve demonstrated an interest in critical areas like math, science, foreign language, technology, or engineering. It’s called the Academic Competitiveness Grant and it can be a huge help to students struggling to pay for college.

If you continue in one of these critical fields into your junior and senior year, you’ll qualify for the National SMART Grant of as much as $4,000. This is why it is so important to plan out your collegiate course of study, as opposed to winging it.

Geology Grants

Both undergraduates and postgraduates can earn the GSA/ExxonMobil Award from the Geologic Society of America if they take part in summer field research. The award can range from $2,000 to $10,000 and is not an unsubstantial boon to a future geologist’s education.

Math Grants

The field of statistics is historically male-dominated. In an attempt to level that playing field, the American Statistical Association created the Gertrude M. Cox Grant for Women. This grant is designed to help women pursuing a mathematics graduate degree.

Any student majoring in Mathematics can earn the Waldemar J Trijitzinsky Memorial Award from the American Mathematical Society for as much as $3,000.

Finally, for graduate students working towards a Mathematical degree, the National Science Foundation offers the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship which offers as much as $30,000.

Anthropology Grants

Anthropology is a science that doesn’t often get a lot of attention but is deeply integral to modern society. Anthropology is the study of humanity and its societies and cultures. The American Anthropological Association has a bunch of grants and fellowships to encourage students to specialize in the field. For groups that have been historically marginalized, there is the AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program. All you need to do to qualify is be a part of a minority group and focus your studies on science or research.

If you think you’ll have trouble paying for school, be sure to look for as many grants that apply to you as possible. The less you have to pay for college yourself, the better.