When looking into funding your post-secondary education you will inevitably come across both grants and scholarships. While both represent the same end, money if you receive it to help with your education, there are some limited differences between the two.

Differences

Both grants and scholarships are offered to students as a way of defraying some of the significant costs incurred as part of a secondary education.

Scholarships are:
  • Typically awarded based on merit, with minimum GPA requirements and being a top student will generally lead to scholarships being received.
  • Additional factors and criteria may be required instead, or additionally, that reflect the values or purpose of the organization or individual giving the scholarship.
  • Occasionally applicants may have to write an essay as part of their application.
Grants are:
  • More often awarded based on financial need. Students who are often on the edge of being able to pay for school will be eligible for grants to ensure they can complete it.
  • Some grants come with additional criteria based on the organization or individual giving them.

The Process

Applying for grants and scholarships can be a very time consuming process and as such it is important that you review carefully the requirements and the actual terms of the financial aid. If one grant is for $500 and only issue to one recipient while another is for $5,000 and issued to twenty recipients you should clearly focus on the latter.

Most schools have financial aid departments to assist in navigating the process and the numerous options that are ultimately available to you. Any student seeking financial aid should leverage these departments as they can save you time, and often have you applying for many different grants and scholarships with a limited number of applications filled out.

Grants and scholarships both represent free money to you so applying for any you qualify for is a worthwhile venture. The process can definitely be time consuming but even a single one can make the difference between staying in school and dropping out for many students. Before starting the application process you should consider what special scholarships or grants you may be eligible for. Special distinctions include:
  • Athletic ability
  • Religious background or affiliation
  • Parent's membership in certain groups, or even their employers
  • Race based awards
Considering scholarships specific to these points can be greatly beneficial. In a given year you could end up being the only person applying for a scholarship offered by your parent's employers, winning the award almost by default.

Both scholarships and grants are offered by all sorts or organizations, ranging from government to non-profits to corporations. So you shouldn't limit yourself to applying to those available from just a single source.