There are over 5,000 grants available for small business from the EU, central and local government and a wide range of organizations and trusts.

All grants have different criteria and different conditions, some will take the form of interest free loans others will be free grants of cash or they could be grants in the form of advice or business support.

Whether or not you qualify will often depend on where you are based, what business sector you operate in and what you want the money for.

What are Grants for?

This varies according to the type of grant it is. In some areas you can get assisted grants for marketing and export while selective regional assistance gives grants of up to 15% of the start up costs of a project.

The DTI’s Smart Grants, meanwhile, are aimed at helping companies in the technical sector conduct development of feasibility costs. And young entrepreneurs may be able to get loans from either The Princes Trust or Shell LiveWire

The Pro’s

Grants can provide valuable support for start ups and companies wanting to develop particular projects. They often come as a package with additional business advice and support which can prove as important as the cash.

Your local Business Link should be able to point you in the direction of relevant grant schemes and many business support organizations subscribe to a grants database. Alternatively there are companies that specialize in finding and winning you a grant on a no win/no fee basis.

The con’s

With so many grants on offer finding the one that’s right for you can be time-consuming – and then you have to wade through lengthy and complex application forms with no guarantee that your request will be successful. So you should carefully check the terms and conditions of a grant scheme before you even start applying.

There are companies that can help with this as they specialize in finding and winning you a grant on a no win/no fee basis that can make the process easier – but obviously you will sacrifice a percentage of the award if you do it this way.

Most grants will only give you partial funding for a venture or project so you may still have to find a proportion of your funding elsewhere.

Regardless the scenario you’re operating under, you’ve enrolled and it’s going to cost you money. How much? Well that depends on your eligibility for school loans, scholarships, or grants offered by governments (federal and state) or the school itself.School grants have special appeal because, like scholarships, they do not have to be repaid. This gives them that extra benefit over student loans. Grants can be accessed through federal and state government agencies via a detailed application process.The issue of applying for a school grant to help with the financial demands of higher education is certainly something you should consider. If and when you do, there are many resources available to make your application process less daunting.

The best way to approach the school grant process is to talk to the financial aid department at the school you’re interested in attending. A counselor in one of these departments will be able to point you in the direction of federal and state government programs for students.

Another great resource to learn about the process of applying for school grants is the US Department of Education’s website:

www.fafsa.ed.gov

And their web portal entitled Student Aid on the Web, located at:

www.studentaid.ed.gov

There you will find a wealth of information designed to guide you through the process of applying for a school grant.

Once you’ve decided to apply for a grant be prepared to provide detailed information and documentation about your current financial situation. It is also wise to apply as soon as possible, beginning January 1st each year. A separate application has to be made for every year of study.

As stated above, the school you are planning to attend may offer grants through an institutional grant program. They may have in place a process that will help cover the costs you cannot while at their institution. The criteria may be based on your financial situation or there may be no criteria at all: being awarded on academic merit alone.
Private corporations also assist with grant money to children of their employees who, because of stellar academic achievement, earn this reward as part of a company’s goodwill and commitment to the community. If you qualify for this scenario then it’s worth investigating.

Be Prepared

When initiating the process to acquire a school grant, a counselor at the school you plan to attend can help you with the specific requirements and documentation needed for a particular application.

Above All

Assess your level of financial need carefully so you can apply for the appropriate grant. Take these suggestions into consideration:

Secure all documentation required to make a thorough and complete application:
* Social Security number.
* W-2 forms and any record of income earned for the appropriate year.
* Driver’s License.
* Your Federal Income Tax Return, and if married, your spouse’s.
* Your parents’ Federal Income Tax Return if you’re a dependent student.
* Any records of untaxed income (i.e. Social Security, Welfare, Veterans Benefits, and the like).
* IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, foreign tax return, or any other U.S. territory’s tax return.
* Bank statements and any other investment records.
* Your alien registration number or permanent residence card if you are not a citizen of the United States.

Applying for a school grant can be time consuming and a little complicated the first time around. That’s why it is so important to prepare properly for the process, to have the right documentation at the right time, and to take advantage of the counsel available from people who do this for a living. In the end it will be worth it, when you’ve secured the school grant and have one less thing to worry about when it comes time to hit the books.