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A young man (in bowtie) receives a scholarship at a ceremony.

A scholarship is a form of financial aid awarded to students for further education. Generally, scholarships are awarded based on a set of criteria such as academic merit, diversity and inclusion, athletic skill, and financial need, research experience or specific professional experience.

Scholarship criteria usually reflect the values and goals of the donor of the award, and while scholarship recipients are not required to repay scholarships, the awards may require that the recipient continue to meet certain requirements during their period of support, such as maintaining a minimum grade point average or engaging in a certain activity (e.g., playing on a school sports team for athletic scholarship holders).[1][2]

Scholarships also range in generosity; some cover partial tuition, while others offer a 'full-ride', covering all tuition, accommodation, housing and others.

Some prestigious, highly competitive scholarships are well-known even outside the academic community, such as Fulbright Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarships at the graduate level, and the Robertson, Morehead-Cain and Jefferson Scholarships at the undergraduate level.

Scholarships vs. grants[edit]

US Aid scholarship certificates

While the terms scholarship and grant are frequently used interchangeably, they are distinctly different. Where grants are offered based exclusively on financial need, scholarships may have a financial need component but rely on other criteria as well.[3]

  • Academic scholarships typically use a minimum grade-point average or standardized test score such as the ACT or SAT to narrow down awardees.
  • Athletic scholarships are generally based on athletic performance of a student and used as a tool to recruit high-performing athletes for their school's athletic teams.
  • Merit scholarships can be based on a number of criteria, including performance in a particular school subject or club participation or community service.

A federal Pell Grant can be awarded to someone planning to receive their undergraduate degree and is solely based on their financial needs.[4]


A Navy Rear Admiral presents a Midshipman with a ceremonial cheque symbolizing her $180,000 Navy Reserve Officers Training Candidate scholarship.

The most common scholarships may be classified as:

  • Merit-based: These awards are based on a student's academic, artistic, athletic, or other abilities, and often a factor in an applicant's extracurricular activities and community service record. Most such merit-based scholarships are paid directly by the institution the student attends, rather than issued directly to the student.[5]
  • Need-based: Some private need-based awards are confusingly called scholarships, and require the results of a FAFSA (the family's expected family contribution). However, scholarships are often merit-based, while grants tend to be need-based.[6]
  • Student-specific: These are scholarships for which applicants must initially qualify based upon gender, race, religion, family, and medical history, or many other student-specific factors. Minority scholarships are the most common awards in this category.[citation needed] For example, students in Canada may qualify for a number of Indigenous scholarships, whether they study at home or abroad.[citation needed] The Gates Millennium Scholars Program is another minority scholarship funded by Bill and Melinda Gates for excellent African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Latino students who enroll in college.[7]
  • Career-specific: These are scholarships a college or university awards to students who plan to pursue a specific field of study.[8] Often, the most generous awards go to students who pursue careers in high-need areas, such as education or nursing. Many schools in the United States give future nurses full scholarships to enter the field, especially if the student intends to work in a high-need community.[citation needed]
  • College-specific: College-specific scholarships are offered by individual colleges and universities to highly qualified applicants. These scholarships are given on the basis of academic and personal achievement. Some scholarships have a "bond" requirement.[9] Recipients may be required to work for a particular employer for a specified period of time or to work in rural or remote areas; otherwise, they may be required to repay the value of the support they received from the scholarship.[10] This is particularly the case with education and nursing scholarships for people prepared to work in rural and remote areas. The programs offered by the uniformed services of the United States (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) sometimes resemble such scholarships.
  • Athletic: Awarded to students with exceptional skill in a sport. Often this is so that the student will be available to attend the school or college and play the sport on their team, although in some countries government funded sports scholarships are available, allowing scholarship holders to train for international representation.[11][12] School-based athletics scholarships can be controversial, as some believe that awarding scholarship money for athletic rather than academic or intellectual purposes is not in the institution's best interest.[13]
  • Brand: These scholarships are sponsored by a corporation that is trying to gain attention to their brand, or a cause. Sometimes these scholarships are referred to as branded scholarships. The Miss America beauty pageant is a famous example of a brand scholarship.
  • Creative contest: These scholarships are awarded to students based on a creative submission. Contest scholarships are also called mini project-based scholarships, where students can submit entries based on unique and innovative ideas.[14]
  • "Last dollar": can be provided by private and government-based institutions, and are intended to cover the remaining fees charged to a student after the various grants are taken into account.[15] To prohibit institutions from taking last dollar scholarships into account, and thereby removing other sources of funding, these scholarships are not offered until after financial aid has been offered in the form of a letter. Furthermore, last dollar scholarships may require families to have filed taxes for the most recent year, received their other sources of financial aid, and not yet received loans.
  • Open: a scholarship open to any applicant.[16]

Notable scholarships[edit]

Name of scholarship with institution and/or sponsoring organisation[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peterson, Kay (4 September 2008). "Financial Aid Glossary". fastweb. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  2. ^ "University Reform: Report of the Royal Commissioners On the State of the University and Colleges of Oxford". The Observer. 1952. ProQuest 474208063.
  3. ^ Scholarships.com. "Loans Vs Grants Vs Scholarships - Scholarships.com". www.scholarships.com. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
  4. ^ "Federal Student Aid".
  5. ^ "College Scholarship". School Grants Guide. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  6. ^ Nykiel, Teddy; Helhoski, Anna (24 June 2016). "The Complete Guide to College Grants". NerdWallet.
  7. ^ "The Gates Millennium Scholars". Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  8. ^ "Scholarships College by Major". Discover. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  9. ^ Teng, Amelia. "Many slam A*Star scientist's protest against her scholarship bond". ST. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Dancing out of A*Star". Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Talented Athlete Scholarship, UK Government. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  12. ^ "The scholarship", Winning Students. Government of Scotland. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  13. ^ Bruenig, Matt. (March 31, 2014). " The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is an example of one.
    • Music scholarships: Some people receive scholarships for excellence in music, often taking into account their academic capacity. Some academic scholarships take into account musical skills, particularly if they are needed in the school's orchestra or marching band. Music scholarship recipients may be required to play in school ensembles.
    • Legacy scholarships: At some schools, there are special scholarships set aside for children or grandchildren of people who previously attended the school.
    Ralph Nader's brilliant plan for college sports: No more concussions or exploited labor", Salon. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  14. ^ Scholarshipfellow (March 24, 2017). "Contest Scholarships Archived 2017-03-24 at the Wayback Machine", Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  15. ^ Kelchen, Robert. (April 17, 2014). "The Political Attractiveness of "Last-Dollar" Scholarships", Washington Monthly. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  16. ^ "open scholarship". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 11 July 2023. in British English: 'a scholarship which anyone can apply for'

Further reading[edit]

  • Martin, Michel. "Scholarships: Who Gets Them and Why?" Tell me More 17