Grants for Single Mothers: The Complete Guide!

Single mothers often need financial help in the form of grants and scholarships to help pay for the schooling necessary to have a better life. They have not only themselves to provide for but a child or several children as well. That’s a big commitment – both in time and finances.

If anybody should qualify for grant assistance, most people can agree that single mothers are on top of the list.

There are plenty of grants for single mothers available.

They fall into several different categories however, and it’s important to get clear on these in order to be well informed when searching for financial assistance. Some types of assistance are grants, and others are programs that offer free money in more ongoing ways to help with basic expenses and such.

The latter are often not called grants, but in effect that’s what they are. That is, any money that need not be paid back can be considered a grant.

The following, then, are some of the grant types that single moms might want to consider along with advice on how to apply for them.

Educational Grants

One of the most widely offered types of grants, not only for single mothers but for others as well, are educational grants and scholarships. These are, of course, programs put in place by public and private organizations intended to help people pay for educational expenses such as tuition, books, or living costs while enrolled in school. So this is one main area of potential grant money for single mothers.

graphs of grants

The following section covers the main federal educational grants. These are some of the easiest grants for single mothers to get. The following are some of the main ones:

Federal Pell Grant

Taking care of educational expenses helps single moms both in the sense of allowing them to study in order to get into better paying careers and in alleviating financial strain while they are in school.

money graphs

The federal Pell grant is given to undergraduate students based on financial need. Single mothers who are starting or returning to school stand a very good chance of getting this grant.

Prospective students, in this case single moms, apply for this grant by filling out the FAFSA form. This form has questions about the individual’s income, household status, and a lot of other basic information. Since single mothers have dependents, this will in all likelihood factor quite heavily in their favor for getting the maximum award.

This grant and many other federal grants use a formula for determining eligibility called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The EFC is a calculation used by the US Department of Education for determining the amount of aid a student is eligible. Some components used in coming up with this calculation are the amount of declared income, whether or not the student is a dependent, the household size, the number of family members in school and so on.

So clearly single moms, having dependents, are good candidates for substantial Pell awards.


FSEOG stands for Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant. This grant is fairly similar to the Pell grant but it allows that institution someone is attending to decide how much money the student is awarded. Like the Pell grant, the student fills out the FAFSA form in order to apply.

SMART Grants

Science and Mathematics to Retain Talent (SMART) grants are granted to third and fourth year college students that are studying in science and mathematics fields. So if single mothers are involved in this kind of study, they can apply for these grants. Students must maintain at least a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in order to be considered for the grant. One good thing about this grant is that it can be received in addition to the Pell money, and the two combined together can really go a good ways toward paying tuition and may cover it entirely.


As noted above, you apply for these grants by filling out the FAFSA form. But the first step is to choose a college or university to attend, apply to it, and get accepted. Then the student mother should talk to a financial aid advisor at the school to both receive a FAFSA form (they can be filled out in paper form or online) and get further advice on financial aid options. It is not absolutely necessary to talk to a financial aid advisor, but it is strongly recommended.

State Educational Grants

In addition to federal educational grants, there are grants offered by state governments to help pay for college expenses. These vary from state to state. They usually do not use the FAFSA form as an application form but rather have their own forms. They can be an important source of grant money for single moms.


apply for grantsAgain, the financial advisor at a school will be able to supply the single mother with the appropriate forms and guidance. The state education department (usually findable and contactable online) can also advise and assist a woman in finding out about and applying for these grants. Search on the “[state name] department of education” for your state.

Private Foundation Educational Grants

In addition to these governmental grant sources, there are numerous private grant foundations, organizations, and even corporations that offer money to single mothers and others to attend school. These grants often have various qualification criteria. These criteria can be any number of things – subjects of study, ethnic status, income, family specifics, and so on.

So the idea for single moms is to find private grants with qualification criteria that fit their situation – i.e. being a single mother. The state department of education can advise student mothers on this as well. Internet searches will also reveal many of these foundation grants. Once a student mother has found a grant foundation, she can look at several grant categories it may offer until she finds one that deals with single mothers. Her status as a single mother of a certain ethnic minority group may also play into the criteria.


You should create a list of all the private grants she may qualify for, both through talking to a financial aid advisor and through doing online searches. You can then follow their application procedures, which should be clearly outlined and can usually be done online.

Basic Needs Assistance

Let’s face it, sometimes single moms have much more immediate expenses than college tuition. They need to take care of basic living expenses and the support of their children. Though not usually considered “grants” in the strict sense, there are many programs to assist mothers in difficult financial situations with meeting their basic needs and those of their children. These may be offered by the government or by numerous privately run charitable organizations.


The main federal welfare system designed to assist single mothers (which has been in effect since its founding in 1935 until its radical restructuring in 1996), was the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

This program provided funds to state agencies which in turn allotted it to needy families many of whom were single mothers. In 1996, under the Clinton administration, the program was completely overhauled and changed to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

This program made the assistance much more need based and restricted the length of time a family could receive the assistance to 5 years. It also gave individual states more free reign in designing their own versions of the program. Overall, the program provides financial assistance to single mothers and families in order to help them pay for basic expenses.


TANF (formerly AFDC) is run on a federal level through the United States Department of Health and Human Services. On a state level however, the program is handled by health and human services or social services departments. So single mothers should begin applying for TANF through the human services department in their state. These departments can furnish single mothers with applications (which can probably be filled out online as well) and will direct the mother in the process.

Private/Charitable Organizations

Single mothers should not think of basic needs assistance as coming only from the government. There are many private sources. A few examples are The Nurturing Network, Modest Needs, and Catholic Charities USA. The site offers information on these and others, and online searches and social workers and counselors can offer even more. It is even a good idea to contact local churches in the area where the single mother lives – churches often offer assistance to those in need.


The way to apply for these private basic needs grants is simply by contacting the organization, who will offer information on how to proceed. Websites for these organizations will often have a large amount of background information on the program and provide all the contact information necessary.

Other Grant Types

There are also more specialized grant types such as grants for art or literary projects, grants for scientific research, and business grants. These are mainly allocated on a state level. Since they are not necessarily directed toward single mothers (though some foundations or departments may have this as a criterion) they would be far too numerous to mention. But single mothers can, of course, apply, just as anyone else can.

A good resource site for finding these specific types of grants is the site This site lists all kinds of grant programs and links to sites for state agencies and foundations that offer the grants. If a single mother is lucky, she may find a grant for creative, scientific endeavors that actually is specifically allocated to single mothers.

Single mothers are among the most deserving parties for grants. They work hard not only for themselves but for their children. With a little organization and persistence, a single mom can find considerable resources and assistance. Between various type of public and private school and basic needs grants, the money is there.

Taking care of children while pursuing other goals can be a challenging task and single mothers should feel entitled to substantial assistance in this endeavor.