Scholarships, grants, and loans: What are they all about, and which ones should you use to pay for college? We broke down each option for you here!
We all know that college is expensive. It feels like you’re being charged for just about everything: housing, meals, textbooks, the sun, and the air you’re breathing. Fortunately, there are scholarships, grants, and loans out there to alleviate the immense burden of paying for college. Most high school and college students have the need for scholarships hammered in by the time they fill out their college applications. They might’ve also heard about grants and loans. However, the differences between scholarships, grants, and loans are often confusing in the midst of the stressful college apps season. Are you confused by the differences between college scholarships, grants, and loans? Read on to find out about how these three common forms of financial aid can help you afford the beautiful college sun and fresh college air a little more easily.
We’ve all heard about applying for scholarships, but what exactly are they? Scholarships are sums of money specifically designated for your education. There are billions of dollars in awards out there, available for anything from sports to academics to any other hobby you may have. The best part about scholarships is that all the money you receive is yours to use for college; it’s totally free to use and free of interest.
It’s up to you to find and apply for scholarships from external sources. However, you may also receive merit- and/or need-based aid from the university you choose to attend, which may or may not be awarded to you immediately upon your acceptance. It’s important to check with your colleges to see if they have any separate financial aid applications. Also, don’t forget to file the FAFSA, because it might be needed to get institutional scholarships in addition to federal financial aid.
Scholarships are similar to grants, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. One major difference, however, is that scholarships place a greater emphasis on student merits. All scholarships are awarded on a specific set of criteria, and they are offered by schools, nonprofit organizations, communities, and businesses. Because all students are welcome to apply (provided they meet the eligibility requirements), winners are often chosen out of a competitive pool of hundreds to thousands of students. Scholarship applications can also be time consuming as they often require a lot of thought and effort, application essays, and sometimes even recommendations. On the bright side, stellar students can win as many scholarships as they are able to-there is no amount limit, unlike many loans and grants.
Simply stated, grants are free money. The federal government, the states, and various institutions award grant money to students without expecting them to pay any of it back. Grants for college students can either be need-based or merit-based. To apply for a grant, you must meet certain criteria and file the FAFSA. Some grants are available to students who participate in specific activities, whereas others are offered to high-achieving students.