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What Is The Difference Between Scholarships and Grants?


While the terms scholarships and grants are used interchangeably, many people confuse these options since they have numerous similarities.

Grants are predominantly need-based, while scholarships are typically merit-based. These are the essential differences between these two awards. The merit-based scholarships are awarded based on some type of achievement including a hobby or ability.

Similar to grants, scholarships may be given based on specific background criteria including religion, ethnicity, etc. Grants most often are free college money that don't need to be repaid. 

How To Find Free College Funds Via Federal Grants

A federal grant is a type of federal financial assistance. In this instance, the American government redistributes some of its resources to recipients who demonstrate a need for financial assistance who are eligible. Once you follow the specific steps, you will uncover the best way to find out which options will best suit your needs. 

First Step: Complete the FAFSA

Both state and federal governments hand out grants for college students. You will have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to secure your eligibility. You are required to complete the FAFSA application for grants so that colleges can assess how eligible you are in terms of financial aid. 

Second Step: Determine Your EFC or Expected Family Contribution

Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is one of the main factors to determine your grant eligibility. This calculation is made from the information you give on your FAFSA.  

The EFC is the amount of money your family is presumed to contribute based on financial facts. This amount is calculated whether your family intends to pay or not. Students who have higher EFCs are typically eligible for loans as opposed to grants. However, don’t be discouraged and simply provide accurate information so the calculations can be completed on your behalf. 

Third Step: Know Your Federal Grant Options

Colleges may disburse grant funds either in equal installments or one lump sum. Federal financial funds are sent to your school and then credited to your account. 

Federal Pell Grants: These are the most popular source of federal grants. The Federal Pell Grants are given based strictly on your financial need. 

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): These funds are available to help low-income undergrads who require significant financial aid to attain their college tuition. 

Academic Competitiveness Grant: This is a combination of a need-based and merit-based grant that is suitable for college sophomores and freshmen.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: These specific grants are offered to kids who have lost a parent or guardian after September 11, 2001, due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

TEACH Grants: The Teach grants are offered to students who agree to teach for four years at low-income elementary or secondary schools.

National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant: This grant is awarded based on merit and need and is offered to college juniors and seniors. 

Fourth Step: Look Into State Grants For College Funds

Once you have researched each of the options for federal grants, look into what state grants may be available. Begin by using the Department of Education to contact the appropriate state grant agencies.

Fifth Step: Check Out Special Grants To Find Additional Funds

Did you know there are numerous grants dedicated to international students, minorities, women, men and students with disabilities? There are tons of specific grant options that are commonly overlooked. Do your research to see if you apply for any of these categories and make time to fill out an application.