What Are Grants and Scholarships?

College Board Scholarship Search

Grants and scholarships are two of the most common types of financial aid. Let’s break down what they are, how you can receive them, and tips for keeping them while enrolled. 

What is the difference between grants and scholarships?

Grants and scholarships are both types of financial aid. They are usually referred to as “gift aid” or “free money” because they don’t need to be repaid.

Grants are need-based aid, which means your ability to receive them is determined by the financial resources you report on your financial aid forms, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or CSS Profile®.

Scholarships usually require some type of application and can be awarded based on a combination of factors including merit. Merit aid is financial aid that does not consider a student's financial need but rather is awarded based on academic, athletic, artistic, or special interest. 

How can I apply for grants and scholarships?

Grants often come from the federal government, your state government, or your college or career school. To receive federal or state grants, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA. You may also have state financial aid applications depending on your state. Look up your state’s financial aid requirements on the NASFAA website.

Since grants are need-based aid, many institutions will use the information provided on your financial forms to determine if you are eligible for any additional institutional grants. However, you may need to fill out an additional application, like the CSS Profile, so make sure you reach out to your school’s financial aid office to get more information.

Scholarships can come from your state, college, or an outside source. Some scholarships may be automatically awarded, but many require an application. Each scholarship has its own requirements, so it’s important to carefully look over applications before starting. For more information about outside scholarships, check out this article on Finding and Applying for Scholarships.

How can I find grants and scholarships?

Both grants and scholarships can come from various sources including federal and state governments, your college or career school, community organizations, or employers. When searching for grants or scholarships, it’s important to be careful and make sure the information and offers you receive are legitimate. Keep in mind that there should be no payment necessary to find grants, scholarships, or other types of financial aid.

What are some common types of grants?

Grants from your state and college can vary quite a bit, but two common federal grants you might see are the Federal Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

● Pell Grant: Your eligibility is based on the results of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), cost of attendance, and whether you’ll be attending college full-time. Federal funding levels determine the maximum Pell Grant amount. View this Federal Student Aid flyer to learn more about grant amounts. 
● Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): Your eligibility will be determined by the individual college, your financial need, and the funds they have available. The maximum FSEOG you can receive is $4,000. 

What are some tips for maintaining the grants and scholarships I receive?

To continue to receive federal and state financial aid, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA and state aid applications annually. Other outside or institutional grants and scholarships may also require an annual application.

The requirements to stay eligible for a grant or scholarship you’ve received can vary by program. Some common requirements to maintain a grant or scholarship include maintaining a certain GPA, taking a certain amount of college credits, or maintaining a certain major. It’s important to know this information so you can keep the gift aid you were given. You can find this information by either contacting the program you received your grant or scholarship from, or you can check the program’s website. 

Whether you are a current college student or preparing to enroll, applying for grants and scholarships can help make college more affordable. If you’d like to learn more, check out this article on different types of financial aid.