It is no secret that higher education can be pricey, leaving many hoping for someone to help them cover their expenses. The good news is that study grants can help you with that.

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Grants are given to students who require financial aid to support their studies. They can be awarded by national and international foundations and charities, non-governmental or intergovernmental organisations, and even governments themselves.

Unlike scholarships, study grants are issued by a third party as opposed to the educational institution itself. They are usually need-based, taking into account the student’s social and financial circumstances, as opposed to academic excellence. However, this also means that more people are eligible to receive grants, making them hard to get.

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If you feel you’re up for the challenge and ready to stand up to the competition, there’s much to choose from. Here are five of our favourite US-based study grants.

Fulbright Study/Research Grant

The Fulbright US Student Program is one of the most recognisable study grant initiatives. The programme distributes financial assistance ranging from academic grants to creative and performing arts grants. Among them, The Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling fellowship is a brilliant example of socially responsible charity, and one of the most unique grants out there.

The requirements for each type of grants differ, but generally the bare minimum includes biographical data, statement of grant purpose, affiliation letters, personal statements, and references. Once you've prepared these, you must be ready to meet the specific requirements based on the type of programme you are applying to, for example, foreign language forms for academic fields, etc.

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Google Scholarship Programme

There is more than one reason to like Google, but the fact that they've recently started to engage in philanthropy is definitely one of them. The Google Scholarship Programme is funded by the tech giant's deep coffers and provides financial aid for higher education to underrepresented groups. The Google scholarship has separate awards for women pursuing technological careers, Hispanic groups, and American Indians, among others. The scholarship requires a strong educational background and leadership skills and is estimated at USD 10,000. There are several scholarships/grants provided within the programme.

Federal Pell Grant Program

The Federal Pell Grant Program is a classic semi-postgraduate (graduate in US education terminology) study grant in the sense that it is given to low-income students. The US Department of Education initiative covers 5,400 educational institutions where students can apply to upon receiving the grant. It is given to both undergraduate and post baccalaureate students in order "to promote access to postsecondary education", the programme's website claims.

The amount of financial aid is determined by the recipient's family income, the tuition fee cost, the programme type (full-time, part-time), and the length of the programme.

If you're a prospective student in the US, and you are having trouble makings ends meet, perhaps this is your best bet.

Check out: Why You Should Do a Masters in the US

Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund Grant

This is one of the best gender equality grants on offer. This postgraduate (graduate in US education terminology) grant is designed for women from developing countries, enabling them to obtain a degree in Canada or the US. However, the grant only covers a portion of the costs and the candidates may have to fund the rest themselves.

Nevertheless, it is a generous offer designed to help the most vulnerable.

Churchill Foundation Scholarship

Although it bears the name of the British statesman Winston Churchill, the Churchill Foundation Scholarship is indeed a postgraduate (graduate in US education terminology) grant designed for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students with proven affinity and dedication to the many fields of hard science. At least 14 students receive up to 50,000 USD each year to promote technological and scientific progress.

Another unique feature of this grant is its US-UK focus and its close ties to Cambridge University. In the foundation's own words "the scholarship was set up at the request of Sir Winston Churchill in order to fulfil his vision of US-UK scientific exchange with the goal of advancing science and technology on both sides of the Atlantic".

Check out: 6 Reasons to Choose a STEM Masters Programme