Getting scholarships for your college education is a huge financial advantage. Unlike loans, the other common form of financial aid, you don't have to repay scholarship money. Colleges and universities often award scholarships to students, as do some national foundations and scholarship programs. They can cover all or just a small part of the student's financial needs. Before you spend your scholarship money, be sure you understand the rules about your award.
The terms of your specific scholarship determine what you can use the money for. Your scholarship might specifically cover the full or partial costs of tuition, room and board, books and/or school fees, or it might give you full control over how you use the money.
Purpose of Scholarships
Scholarships are intended to help a student pay for his education that he might not otherwise afford. Some are based on financial need, but others represent an award for some kind of achievement. Those scholarships typically go to students that have excelled in an academic area or have shown they can balance academics, grades and extracurricular activities. There are also many scholarships designated for students who have overcome a lot in their past, students pursuing degrees in high-need areas, and learners outside the traditional college age group.
Some scholarships may limit what you can spend the money on and may even pay the school directly. Others give you the money and trust you to spend it wisely. It's important to understand how your scholarship works, so be sure to contact the awarding party.
School Tuition Costs
Tuition is typically the most expensive part of any education. Some scholarships cover a student's full tuition, but most pay a portion of the bill. Some awards pay tuition for a limited number of credit hours per semester. A student can take more hours if he wants, but he'll have to pay for them in some other way. Other scholarships apply only if the student is pursuing a particular degree. If you elect to get an additional major or advanced degree, you would have to find additional funding.
Room and Board
Full-ride scholarships cover living and eating expenses as well. Even if you move off campus, the scholarship usually takes care of your rent, within reason. The scholarship also pays for the two or three meals served by day in a college cafeteria. Other scholarships may cover partial room and board. For example, a scholarship may pay for a particular amount of food each week or semester. You're expected to use your own money to make up for the other meals.
Books and Fees
Books, another significant college expense, may or may not be included in a scholarship. Some local or niche scholarships are set up for books alone, or they may have flexible awards that can apply to any school-related cost. Scholarship money can also apply to student fees. Those fees, which go toward things like student activity funds, are normally attached to the tuition.