A few times, I’ve received this question from students of mine who were in the enviable position of having a lot of scholarship offers and government money for university. They asked whether the scholarships and government money should be the main factor to decide which school to attend.

In one case, my student’s daughter had her heart set on one university, but had more money offered for a different school. My advice to her was to look at several factors. The first is that the daughter would probably be disappointed forever if she didn’t get to go to the university of her choice. Second, just the scholarship amounts were different. The same government money was available for both schools. This was in the US, and these were both public universities in the same state, so the state’s government money was the same. And third, a young scholar who is able to qualify for some scholarships is likely to also be eligible for many more. The happy conclusion to that story is that the daughter did in fact get a scholarship from the school of her choice and that, plus the government money, mean that a good portion of her tuition will be covered.

Every situation is different, so when you’re deciding whether to have the scholarships be the deciding factor, your own financial situation comes into play, plus how much ongoing government money will be available to help cover costs. If money is tight, then it might be possible to initially go to the school where the scholarship and government money offers are highest, then keep applying for scholarships at your school of choice, with the intention of transferring there a year or two down the road. Maintain good grades, and this can be a good option for you.

Sometimes too, scholarships will be tied into the field of study, rather than a particular school. So if you target those as well, then they may be applicable to a number of different colleges and universities. These are usually available through professional associations or foundations started by someone who is or was in a particular profession.

You may also find some scholarships that are offered locally in your town or through clubs, which do not restrict the school at which they can be used. They may depend more on other factors, such as where you reside, or your association with an organization. There might be local government money offered in particular areas.

Another one of my students from the Atlanta area has a son who was offered full ride scholarships at two different universities, one in state and one across the country (a full ride scholarship covers all tuition, books, and course fees, and sometimes even housing). For him, another consideration yet might be whether he wants to be far away from his family.

Considering all of this, there’s not one right answer for every person or situation. When you’re in the position to choose among different scholarships and government money that are offered, that can be just one factor among many. I always encourage paying as little as possible out of pocket for higher education, but it’s an individual decision to weigh the different variables and determine the best course of action.