What's the difference between grants and scholarships?



Are grants and scholarships two different ways to say the same thing?  Or are they actually different?

This is a question that may be rolling around in your mind as you look ahead to your college search.  The world of financial aid can sometimes sound confusing and intimidating.  The truth is that minimal research on your part can answer most of your questions.  Financial aid advisers are there to help with the rest!  So, when you do get that far in your college search, be sure to take advantage of the advice that they have to offer!

But back to the main question:  what is the difference between grants and scholarships?  The quick answer is that scholarships tend to be merit-based while grants tend to be need-based.  But it goes a little deeper than that, since there are different ways to apply for each.


Who qualifies: Federal and State Aid is not based on any merit of your own.  Your skills or achievements will have no bearing on your eligibility (that may be good news or bad news depending on your point of view!).   Rather, this aid is need-based, offering support according to your financial situation. This also means that it requires no creative effort from you to apply!  All that is required from you is a submission of your financial information through the FAFSA. The amount of monetary aid for which you qualify is determined by federal/state funding availability and not by the institution itself.  There is a deadline, so plan accordingly!  See what the FAFSA deadline is for your state by clicking here and entering your state and college entry year https://fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm.

Institutional Aid is slightly different from Federal and State Aid.  It is still need-based, but your chosen institution specifies the requirements that must be met (in addition to your FAFSA submission) in order to qualify.

Where to look: Federal and State grants are awarded and disbursed through the educational institution where you enroll.  The application process for federal grants and some state grants is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  In Florida specifically, the FAFSA determines your eligibility for State of Florida grants.  Other states may have a differing approach.

If you would like more information on the FAFSA, we recommend visiting their site directly here: https://fafsa.ed.gov/.


Who qualifies: Expect to apply independently for this type of aid; rarely does a scholarship come looking for you!  Also, be prepared to state your case –in writing–  as to why you believe you deserve their consideration.  This may be as simple as submitting an essay, but each scholarship will have varying stipulations.  It is your own responsibility to search out available scholarships and determine which are the best fit for you.

Where to look: Sources can be found in some unlikely places!  However, a great place to start is your own personal interest and skill set.  Your competence or proficiency as an athlete, writer, etc, can play a roll in your eligibility.  Certain businesses, religious groups, philanthropic individuals with particular interests, and other private entities invest in the education of young people through scholarships.  Additionally, institutional aid may be available to you through the college to which you apply.  If you’re looking for unique places to apply for scholarships, you can read our previous post on the subject by clicking here

If you would like more information on the FAFSA, we recommend visiting their site directly here: https://fafsa.ed.gov/.

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Trinity Baptist College

800 Hammond Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32221
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