$15 million in grants & scholarships available this year for those who qualify10

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The Difference Between a Scholarship and a Grant

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An image of an instructor with an automotive program student at UTI Houston

The Difference Between a Scholarship and a Grant

If you’re applying for school and are interested in financial aid, you may have wondered how a scholarship and a grant are different. Scholarships and grants are two forms of “gift aid.” Both forms of aid can help cut down the cost of going to school.

“Both grants and scholarships are funds that will offset the cost of going to school and do not need to be paid back, so using them is a wonderful way to reduce loan debt for students and their parents,”10 says Ted Groff, a financial aid director at Universal Technical Institute (UTI).

Both forms of funding can be great to apply for if you could use some financial assistance. But what exactly is the difference between scholarships and grants?

What Are Scholarships?

Scholarships are merit-based awards that are given for a variety of factors based on a student's skills, abilities or interests. You could receive one for your grades, extracurricular activities during high school, community service, your gender or cultural background, or for a characteristic as random as how tall you are.

There are millions of scholarships available on national and local levels. The Federal Student Aid office recommends CareerOneStop as an ideal place to start your search.

You can search scholarships based on keywords related to your activities and achievements. Some colleges give out their own scholarships, while scholarships may also be available from nonprofits, community organizations and individuals.

Each scholarship has its own rules, guidelines and deadline for applying. Some scholarships will require that students maintain certain criteria to keep receiving scholarship money over time.

For example, a two-year scholarship that pays half the award each year might require the student to have a certain GPA after the first year to receive the remainder of the award.

There is no limit to the number of scholarships for which you can apply. Some students might apply for dozens or more. You can use all of the money you've been awarded, though some scholarships might stipulate what the award should go toward, like tuition or books. 

While some national scholarships may provide large monetary awards, there might be more competition for those compared to niche scholarships. Some students choose to focus on scholarships that are more unique, since there is likely to be less competition for them.

What Are Grants?

Federal grants are awarded by the United States government based on financial need. Financial need is typically calculated by finding the difference between the cost of attending school and the contribution the student’s family is expected to be able to provide.

Grants can also be given by a state government, a college or career school, or a nonprofit organization.

To be eligible for most grants, including federal ones, students must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Dependent students will need financial information from their parents to complete the FAFSA.

You can view the website to determine if you're a dependent student who must provide your parents’ information.

When completing the FAFSA application, you and possibly your parents will need to provide Social Security numbers, federal income tax returns and W-2 information in order for the government to determine the level of financial need.

Many grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have financial need, try to fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible after the form for the upcoming school year becomes available.

There are some situations when your level of financial need may change, including if you are awarded scholarships. However, you won't be eligible for any grant money if you don't fill out the FAFSA.

Like scholarships, certain grants have requirements for maintaining the grant money. For example, if you are awarded grant money for a specific program but you quit school, you may have to repay all or part of the grant you’re awarded.

Suggestions for Applying for Scholarships and Grants

The only way to know about your eligibility for scholarships and grants is by applying. If you’re unsure which type you want, apply for both! Since there is no charge to apply for grants and scholarships (beware of scholarship scams with application fees), Ted recommends applying for as many forms of financial aid for which you may be eligible.

“Take time to apply for as many as you can,” Ted says. “They should not cost anything to apply and they can greatly offset the cost of your education.”

Some scholarship applications may require multiple accompanying documents, like a personal essay or letters of recommendation.

To stay organized, it's helpful to use a spreadsheet and calendar reminders so you meet deadlines and gather the required materials for each scholarship.

As Ted mentioned, be wary of scholarship scams, and don’t waste your time with scholarships that require payment. The Federal Trade Commission lists some warning signs so you don't become a victim.

“Be persistent, don’t give up and watch out for scams,” advises Alexandra DeJesus, a financial aid director at UTI. “You should never pay money to get money.”

Make sure to thoroughly read the application instructions of each scholarship you're considering, too. Missing one part of the application could instantly disqualify you.

“Take the time to apply,” says Lyuda Berkoff, senior director of financial aid at UTI. “Most scholarship applications require the student to write a short essay. Don’t be intimidated by the writing.  The payoff is worth it! The more effort you put into the scholarship application, the chances increase of you being awarded the scholarship.” 

Maybe there’s someone in your life who is willing to proofread essays and double-check your applications with you. Or, you might consider paying a proofreader to give you editing advice.

Eliminating errors and polishing your applications could help you increase your chance of winning thousands of dollars in scholarship awards.

Apply for Scholarships and Grants From UTI

If you’re interested in attending a UTI campus, you should know that UTI makes scholarships and grants available to students.10

You can find UTI scholarship and grant information online, or just call or email our Financial Aid Department to talk with a friendly representative about your unique situation. We’re here to give you personalized information so you can narrow down your scholarship and grant search.

Call (800) 859-7249 or contact You can also visit the department online to see dozens of scholarships we recommend aspiring UTI students check out and apply for.

How to Fill Out a FAFSA

If you need any assistance while completing the FAFSA, we’re here to help. You can schedule an appointment with one of our Financial Aid Support Specialists by clicking below or by calling toll-free at (844)-338-0032.