There are numerous ways that you can beat the high cost of tuition. Two of the main ones are scholarships and educational grants. I sometimes get questions about what the difference is between them, as well as what all the other types of educational grants are, such as fellowships, subsidies, work study programs, and more.

What they have in common is that any free money that you can get to offset your education costs is worth seeking out and securing. Being familiar with the various types of educational grants will help you tailor your funding search to best suit your unique situation.

Funding for college or university can come from a variety of sources, such as government grants for education, money from foundations, or funding from the school itself. It’s a smart strategy to cast a wide net when you are seeking school funding.

Generally speaking, grants that are provided for higher education are usually in the form of government education grants. They may come from the national or local (such as state or provincial) level. Although there may be restrictions on who gets them, they usually aren’t tied to performance. In some places, they’re available to every student entering of continuing higher education. In other areas, the government education grants are income-restricted. In still other cases, there may be groups of people designated to receive the government education grants, such as children of war veterans or students with disabilities.

Scholarships differ from government education grants, again generally speaking, in that they are usually awarded for academic or athletic performance, or having particular characteristics. They come from a variety of sources, such as the government, companies, organizations, foundations, and individuals. Usually you have to apply for them, but some are automatically awarded. For example, there are some scholarships available to the top scorer on a test or in an academic contest.

Now, that being said, some scholarships are also set aside for pretty odd reasons, such as just being available to someone with a particular last name or who partakes in an unusual hobby. It’s pretty much up to the ones doing the funding what the conditions are for earning the scholarship, and many of them really use their imagination. There’s not quite so much latitude with government education grants for oddball criteria to qualify for funding.

Some other ways that scholarships typically differ from government education grants is that scholarship applicants will often be asked to write an essay, answer some questions, or undergo a personal interview with the scholarship committee. You may also be asked to show that you’re a “well-rounded” candidate. Even if the scholarship is for, say, academic performance, applicants who also have done charitable work, held leadership positions, or spearheaded community projects will be judged more favourably.

Scholarships may be for a limited duration, or may be renewed yearly until graduation, if the recipient maintains good progress in school. Some highly accomplished students entering university may even be offered a “full ride” scholarship, paying for their tuition, books, housing, and miscellaneous expenses (e.g., lab fees) throughout their entire time at university. These are typically reserved for outstanding scholars or athletes who will be an asset to the university that they choose to attend. Some of my own Free Money students have helped their kids locate and secure full ride scholarships worth very significant amounts of money. Needless to say, their parents are pleased and proud, and I’m happy for them.

To recap, education grants are usually government education grants, offered to a large number of people. Scholarships vary a lot as to who’s offering them and what’s required to get them, but in most cases, they are awarded for academic or athletic achievement.