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The Difference Between Scholarships And Grants


College can be extremely expensive, which is why many students try to find alternate ways to pay their tuition. One of these ways is by applying for financial aid. This can be in the form of scholarships or grants.

Both scholarships and grants help students pay for their higher education, including tuition, classrooms, board, and textbooks. Neither of them needs to be paid back like college loans, so what really is the difference between scholarships and grants? Even though both the terms are used interchangeably, they are very different from each other in terms of guidelines and eligibility requirements.

What Are Scholarships?

Scholarships are funded from a number of sources, such as schools, communities, and organizations. You would never have imagined but you can get a scholarship for literally everything. Whether it is an athletic scholarship or making a party dress out of tissue for a scholarship, you can always find out that is tailored to your needs. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a high school senior to apply for a scholarship. You can apply for one even as a sophomore or junior.

Most scholarships are merit-based but that is not the only thing that you need to focus on. Some scholarships also have other requirements that you need to meet. This could include choosing a particular field, having a selective racial or ethnic background, submitting an essay to the best of your ability, or achieving a high GPA consistently.

Other scholarships are purely based on merit. These could depend on your high school results, athletic performance, or skill that has been demonstrated in the past. It must be kept in mind that applying for a scholarship is demanding since loads of students are applying for them. This makes the process more competitive. In fact, sometimes scholarships even award money to students as an incentive.

Even though most students aim for big scholarships, there are smaller or local scholarships that are equally as good. These ones are less competitive which means that your chances of winning are higher. Even though you may not get as much money as a big scholarship would give you, you should be willing to accept any amount of money that will help fund your educational needs.

What Are Grants?

Contrary to merit-based, grants are more need-based. Students can avail them based on family income and how much money comes into their household each month. Grants are usually given by colleges and universities, and by the federal and state governments, for example, a popular federal grant program is The Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is the biggest and most popular grant program that you will find. While colleges and universities are responsible for half the grants given, the Federal Pell Grants are responsible for more than a quarter. The remaining grants awarded are divided between military school aid and state grant programs.

Grants are given on the basis of apparent financial need, such as the difference between the costs of attendance (COA) of a college vs. the expected family contribution (EFC). The Pell Grant, for example, is given solely on the basis of EFC. Other grants, such as the Cal Grants and New York TAP Grants are based around an income cutoff.

However, it must be kept in mind that grants that are funded by the state are only awarded to those who are pursuing an education within the same state.

Main Differences Between Grants And Scholarships


Many different organizations fund scholarships, such as businesses, religious groups, donors, community organizations, college departments, and even past alumni.

On the other hand, grants are given by the state or federal government as an aid to the college or university.


If a student is enrolled in a college, university, or higher education institute, he can easily avail of a scholarship or grant. Depending on his need. For a federal or state grant, the individual needs to be a citizen of the country. Moreover, scholarships are usually awarded to undergraduate students, even though there can be some exceptions.

After graduation, students can apply for private financial aid which is known as fellowships. Fellowships usually help fund research and advanced studies. On the other hand, grants are given to those students who are aiming to complete undergraduate or graduate programs.


As mentioned before, scholarships are merit-based. This means that they are awarded based on a student’s academic or extra-curricular performance. Moreover, an application needs to be submitted underlining why the applicant believes that he should be given the award.

On the other hand, grants are given to those who have a genuine need for finances, without which they will not be able to complete their education. If a grant is funded by the federal government, the student will need to fill the FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This will help determine whether or not the student is eligible for the grant. Remember, grants are not based on skill or achievement. They are purely based on the student’s ability to pay for their education.


There are loads of differences between grants and scholarships. When applying, it is best to do your research beforehand to ensure that you submit the correct paperwork and applications to ensure that your chances of achieving the funding are high.

You will find loads of scholarships and grants available in your area. Moreover, there are high chances that you will be eligible for some form of aid, whether need-based or merit-based.