The 411 on Scholarships and Grants

The terms “scholarship” and “grant” are often used interchangeably, but there are usually differences between these two forms of aid.

Most scholarships are merit-based. This means that they are awarded to students with certain qualities, such as proven academic or athletic ability. Many scholarships have rules — maintaining a certain GPA, for example — that you have to follow to continue receiving aid.

Most grants are need-based. This means that they are usually awarded based on your or your family’s financial situation.


Sources of Grants and Scholarships

Both grants and scholarships come from the following sources.


Federal and state governments are sources of gift aid. The federal government is the largest source of need-based gift aid, primarily in the form of the Pell Grant.

State governments often fund grants and scholarships for residents attending college in their state


Many colleges offer grants and scholarships to their students. These may be merit-based or need-based, or a combination of the two. Colleges may have stricter requirements for keeping a scholarship than do other sources of scholarships

Private Organizations

Many companies, foundations, community organizations and clubs sponsor grants or scholarships. Grants and scholarships from these private organizations are called outside, or private, scholarships.