As a former college admissions counselor I used to tell every prospective student that there's a lot of money out there, but you're going to have to spend some time working to get some of it. It was true then and it's true now. The college grant and scholarship "industry" is a multi-billion dollar hodgepodge of governments and organizations that will be happy to give you some money if you qualify for it.
Some college grants - like the Federal Pell Grant and most state grants - are a needs based program that give tuition money based off of you or your families income. Other college grants and scholarships are doled out by thousands of different businesses and organizations throughout the country. These grants and scholarships can range all over the spectrum from educational based to needs based.
Before you apply for any grant or scholarship you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. Be aware that there are certain companies out there that will charge you to fill out the FAFSA. DO NOT pay to fill out your FAFSA. Remember that the first word of FAFSA is "free."
There are four main ways for you to search for and apply for college grants and scholarships, which I will explain in detail below.
Federal Pell Grant/State Grant
The Federal Pell Grant is a needs based grant that is awarded to prospective students whose income is on the lower end of the spectrum.
To qualify for the Pell Grant you must have graduated high school or have a a recognized equivalent like a GED, demonstrate you have a need for the grant, be a United States citizen, have a valid Social Security number, be registered for the selective service (if you are between 18 and 25), be enrolled or accepted to be a "regular student" at an accredited college or university, be enrolled at least "half-time", and maintain satisfactory academic progress.
Each state also has their own state grant that is awarded in a similar fashion, but each state does have their own rules and regulations as to who is eligible to receive their grant.
Additional State Grants and Scholarships
Each state also has a plethora of grants and scholarships that are given out to prospective students based on a variety of criteria. Using Oregon as an example again, there are six separate state grants that are given to prospective students depending on their eligibility.
States also have a wide variety of scholarships that students can apply for. Scholarships are different than grants because grants are mostly needs based or tailored to a specific group of people while scholarships are awarded to people who apply for and receive said scholarship. There is no maximum of scholarships a student can apply for, but be aware that many scholarships have a strict criteria of who can apply for and receive the scholarship.
College or Career School Grants and Scholarships
Most colleges and career schools also have their own list of grants and scholarships that are only available at the college or career school. Always remember to ask your college admissions counselor about the scholarships and grants that the school has that you may be eligible for. They will be more than happy to walk you through the process.
Private Philanthropic Grants and Scholarships
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of private grants and scholarships that are out there for students. You just have to take the time to fill out the applications. Be aware that filling out an application does not guarantee that you will receive that grant or scholarship, so the best thing to do would be filling out as many applications for as many grants or scholarships that you think you are eligible for. That way you will stand a better chance of being awarded some scholarship money from somewhere.