Scholarships vs. Grants-What’s the Difference?

Financial Aid Help | Nashville, TN

Scholarship and grant money are two very different definitions. Every year, students hear about all the money that goes unclaimed. Yes, there is some truth to that. Scholarships are available to students on the local/community level, organizational level, nonprofit level, and national level. As a college admissions advisor working with Brentwood, Nashville, and Franklin, TN students, I often see a theme when it comes to students and parents requesting scholarship help….Where do I find them? There is no cookie-cutter approach to this answer. There are many strategic ways to look and apply for scholarships. Where can we find scholarships and grants? Let’s review.

Federal and State Governments

Students can apply for grants and scholarships by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (also known as the FAFSA), and any supplemental forms that are required by your state. This usually needs to be done in the fall of your senior year of high school. Money/funds are awarded on a need-basis. Some states require students to meet certain academic requirements. Keep in mind that there are firm deadlines associated with the FAFSA. Federal and state funds are allocated per financial need.


Colleges also award need-based grants and scholarships. According to the College Board, approximately 25% of aid awarded in the 2016-2017 year came in the form of college grants and scholarships. The first place to check for college need-based assistance is with the financial aid department. Merit scholarships are typically awarded through the admissions office and usually (but not always) at the time of admission. Merit scholarships usually require students to have specific academic credentials (i.e., a class rank, GPA, and/or test score). Deadlines are important to consider. Some colleges will only consider a student for merit scholarship if they apply by a specific date. Other colleges have a finite amount and when the money has run out…it’s out. Remember, early planning is crucial—both for admission and merit aid chances.

Large National Organizations

There are great organizations who allocate a certain amount of money each year to students embarking on a college degree. It takes time and research to apply to the right programs. Although you are competing on a national level, adequate planning can set you apart from other scholarship candidates. Corporations and foundations are good places to start. You can also use website and apps, though I would stress the importance of ensuring legitimacy with those resources. Remember: Never provide a social security number to national organizations soliciting applications for scholarships.

Regional and Local Organizations

Sometimes looking in your backyard is a great place to start. Churches, nonprofit organizations, Rotary Clubs. Elk Clubs, cultural organizations, and community foundations all have very important missions, and sometimes this includes giving back to community youth.

Securing money takes hard work, commitment, and dedication. It is not something that you do in one day. As a college admissions counselor serving the Brentwood, TN, Franklin, TN, and Nashville, TN, I am aware of the resources that exist for students in our community. Remember: Competition is intense. With strategy and advanced planning, you can improve your chances of securing scholarship money. On a personal note: I applied for and was awarded a $40,000 merit scholarship while I was in high school, just before embarking on my undergraduate degree. I know first-hand the impact that this has on a student’s future.

#FinancialAid #Scholarships #MeritAid #CollegeAdmissions

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