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Home » Scholarship vs. Grant: What’s the Difference?

Scholarship vs. Grant: What’s the Difference?

Education plays a crucial role in shaping our future, but the rising costs of tuition and other educational expenses can pose significant financial challenges. Scholarships and grants provide students with essential financial aid to pursue their educational goals.

In this article, we will explore the differences between scholarships and grants, the opportunities they offer, and the factors to consider when applying for them.


Scholarships are a form of financial assistance awarded to students based on various criteria such as academic achievements, extracurricular activities, talents, or specific demographic backgrounds. They aim to recognize and reward exceptional students and provide them with the means to pursue higher education.

Types of Scholarships

There are different types of scholarships available to students:

1. Merit-based Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding academic performance, leadership qualities, community involvement, or other exceptional achievements. These scholarships are highly competitive and often require applicants to have a certain GPA or standardized test scores.

2. Need-based Scholarships

Need-based scholarships are awarded to students with demonstrated financial need. These scholarships aim to bridge the gap between the cost of education and the student’s ability to pay. Applicants are required to submit financial information, such as income and assets, to determine their eligibility.

3. Athletic Scholarships

Athletic scholarships are awarded to student-athletes who excel in sports. These scholarships are typically offered by colleges and universities to recruit talented athletes for their athletic programs. The selection process considers the student’s athletic abilities, performance, and potential contribution to the team.

Application Process and Requirements

The application process for scholarships varies depending on the scholarship provider. Generally, applicants are required to submit an application form, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement or essay. Some scholarships may also require interviews or additional documentation.


Grants, like scholarships, provide financial aid to students, but they often have different funding sources and eligibility criteria.

Types of Grants

1. Federal Grants

Federal grants are funded by the government and aim to support students in pursuing higher education. The most well-known federal grant is the Pell Grant, which is awarded to undergraduate students based on their financial need. Other federal grants include the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant.

2. State Grants

State governments also provide grants to eligible students. These grants may vary in name and eligibility criteria depending on the state. State grants often consider factors such as residency, financial need, academic achievements, and field of study.

3. Institutional Grants

Institutional grants are awarded by colleges, universities, or other educational institutions. These grants may be based on both merit and financial need. Institutions use their own criteria to determine eligibility and award amounts.

Eligibility Criteria and Application Process

Eligibility criteria for grants differ depending on the funding source. Federal grants usually consider the student’s financial need, while state and institutional grants may have additional requirements.

To apply for grants, students typically need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any additional applications required by the grant provider.

Major Difference between Scholarships and Grants

While scholarships and grants both provide financial aid, there are some key differences to consider when deciding which option to pursue.

  • Funding sources: Scholarships are often funded by private organizations, individuals, or educational institutions, whereas grants can be funded by the government, states, or educational institutions.
  • Criteria for selection: Scholarships are usually awarded based on merit, talent, or specific criteria, while grants often consider financial need as the primary criterion.
  • Duration of financial support: Scholarships may cover a single academic year or extend throughout the student’s entire degree program. Grants, on the other hand, are typically awarded on a yearly basis and may require students to reapply each year.
  • Repayment obligations: Scholarships are generally considered “free money” and do not require repayment. Grants are also not required to be repaid, except in certain circumstances where a student fails to meet specific obligations.

Benefits of Scholarships over Grants

  1. Recognition of Merit: Scholarships are often awarded based on merit, acknowledging the academic achievements, leadership qualities, talents, or other exceptional accomplishments of the recipient. This recognition can boost the recipient’s confidence and provide a sense of validation for their hard work and dedication.
  2. Greater Availability: Scholarships are offered by various organizations, including private entities, educational institutions, and foundations. This wide range of sources means that there are numerous scholarships available, increasing the chances of finding one that aligns with the recipient’s specific qualifications and interests.
  3. Flexible Eligibility Criteria: While grants primarily consider financial need, scholarships can have diverse eligibility criteria. This allows individuals with different strengths and backgrounds, such as academic excellence, artistic talent, or community service involvement, to qualify for financial assistance.
  4. Exclusive Opportunities: Certain scholarships provide unique opportunities beyond financial aid. They may offer access to networking events, mentorship programs, internships, or study abroad experiences. These additional benefits can enhance the recipient’s educational journey and open doors to future opportunities.
  5. Enhanced Resume and Future Prospects: Receiving scholarships demonstrates a commitment to excellence and distinguishes recipients from their peers. Scholarship achievements can enhance a resume and make individuals more attractive to future employers, graduate schools, or other educational institutions.
  6. Potential Renewal: Some scholarships can be renewed for multiple years, providing consistent financial support throughout the recipient’s academic journey. This renewable nature allows recipients to plan their finances more effectively and reduces the need to search for additional sources of funding each year.

It’s important to note that scholarships may have their own specific requirements and obligations, such as maintaining a certain GPA or participating in extracurricular activities. However, the overall benefits and opportunities associated with scholarships make them a desirable form of financial aid for many students.

Benefits of Grants over Scholarships

  1. Financial Need-Based Assistance: Grants primarily consider the financial need of students. Unlike scholarships, which often focus on merit or specific criteria, grants provide support to individuals who require financial assistance to pursue their education. This makes grants a valuable resource for students facing significant financial challenges.
  2. Government Funding: Grants are often funded by government entities at the federal, state, or local level. Government grants are typically more substantial in terms of monetary value, providing a higher level of financial support compared to many scholarships. This can be particularly beneficial for students with limited resources.
  3. Wider Eligibility Pool: Grants tend to have broader eligibility criteria compared to scholarships. While scholarships may target specific academic achievements or talents, grants are available to a wider range of students, including those who may not qualify for scholarships based on merit alone.
  4. Availability for Specific Demographics or Fields: Some grants are specifically tailored to support students from particular demographic backgrounds or those pursuing education in specific fields of study. These grants aim to address inequalities in education and promote diversity by providing targeted financial aid to underrepresented groups.
  5. Sustainable Financial Support: Grants often provide sustained financial support over multiple years or for the duration of an academic program. This ongoing assistance allows students to plan their finances more effectively, knowing they have a reliable source of funding throughout their educational journey.
  6. Flexible Allocation of Funds: Grants typically provide students with more flexibility in how they allocate the funds. While some scholarships may be limited to covering tuition fees, grants can often be used to cover a wider range of educational expenses, including textbooks, housing, transportation, and other necessary costs.
  7. Opportunities for Non-Traditional Students: Grants often support non-traditional students, such as adult learners, individuals returning to education after a hiatus, or those pursuing vocational or career-focused training. Grants recognize the importance of providing access to education for diverse populations, regardless of their age or educational background.

While grants offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to note that the availability and amount of grants can vary based on factors such as government funding, eligibility criteria, and application deadlines. It’s crucial for students to research and stay informed about available grants and their specific requirements to make the most of these financial aid opportunities.


Scholarships and grants are valuable resources that help students overcome financial barriers and pursue their educational aspirations. Understanding the differences between scholarships and grants can empower students to make informed decisions when seeking financial aid.

By carefully evaluating the eligibility criteria, funding sources, and long-term implications, students can maximize their opportunities for financial support and achieve their educational goals.


  1. What is the main difference between a scholarship and a grant? Scholarships are usually awarded based on merit, talent, or specific criteria, while grants primarily consider financial need.
  2. Do I have to repay scholarships or grants? No, scholarships and grants are generally considered “free money” and do not require repayment.
  3. Are scholarships and grants available for graduate students? Yes, both scholarships and grants are available for graduate students, although the availability and criteria may vary.
  4. Can I apply for multiple scholarships and grants? Yes, you can apply for multiple scholarships and grants as long as you meet the eligibility criteria for each.
  5. Do scholarships and grants cover all educational expenses? Scholarships and grants can help cover a significant portion of educational expenses, but they may not cover all costs. It’s important to consider other sources of funding and plan accordingly.

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