What Is the difference between a grant and a scholarship?

What Is the difference between a grant and a scholarship?

When it comes to funding education or research, two terms that often come up are “grants” and “scholarships.” While both provide financial assistance, there are distinct differences between the two. Understanding these differences can help students, researchers, and organizations make informed decisions about which option is best suited to their needs. In this article, we will explore the disparities between grants and scholarships, including their definitions, sources, eligibility criteria, and application processes.

Definitions of difference between a grant and a scholarship

Before delving into the differences, let’s establish clear definitions for grants and scholarships:

  • Grant: A grant is a sum of money or financial aid provided by an organization, government agency, or foundation to support a specific project, research, or initiative. Grants are typically awarded based on the merit of the proposal and the potential impact it may have.
  • Scholarship: A scholarship is a form of financial aid awarded to students to support their education. Scholarships are often based on academic achievement, talent, or specific criteria set by the scholarship provider.


Grants and scholarships can come from various sources, including:

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  • Government: Both grants and scholarships can be provided by government entities at the local, state, or federal level. These funds are often allocated to support specific fields of study, research, or community development initiatives.
  • Non-profit organizations: Many non-profit organizations offer grants and scholarships to individuals or groups who align with their mission and goals. These organizations may focus on areas such as education, healthcare, social justice, or environmental conservation.
  • Corporations and businesses: Some corporations and businesses provide grants and scholarships as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. These funds are often targeted towards specific demographics, such as employees’ children or students pursuing degrees in fields relevant to the company’s industry.
  • Foundations: Foundations are organizations established with the purpose of providing financial support to various causes. They often offer grants and scholarships to advance research, education, or community development.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility criteria for grants and scholarships can vary significantly. Here are some key differences:

  • Grants: Grants are typically awarded based on the merit of the proposal or project. The applicant must demonstrate the potential impact of their work and how it aligns with the goals of the grant provider. Grants may have specific requirements, such as the need for a certain level of expertise or a track record of success in the field.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are often awarded based on academic achievement, talent, or specific criteria set by the scholarship provider. These criteria may include factors such as financial need, extracurricular involvement, community service, or membership in a particular group or organization.

Application Process

The application processes for grants and scholarships also differ:

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  • Grants: Applying for a grant usually involves submitting a detailed proposal that outlines the project or research plan, its objectives, methodology, timeline, and budget. The proposal is typically reviewed by a committee or panel of experts who evaluate its feasibility, potential impact, and alignment with the grant provider’s goals.
  • Scholarships: Scholarship applications often require students to submit their academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal essays, and sometimes participate in interviews or provide samples of their work. The scholarship selection committee evaluates these materials to determine the most deserving candidates.

Examples and Case Studies

To illustrate the differences between grants and scholarships, let’s consider a few examples:

Example 1: The National Science Foundation (NSF) offers grants to support scientific research in various fields. Researchers can apply for funding by submitting a detailed proposal outlining their research objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. The NSF evaluates these proposals based on their scientific merit and potential impact on the field.

Example 2: The Gates Millennium Scholars Program provides scholarships to outstanding minority students who demonstrate leadership qualities and a commitment to community service. Applicants must submit their academic records, essays, and letters of recommendation. The scholarship selection committee reviews these materials to identify students who align with the program’s goals.

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Statistics can provide valuable insights into the impact of grants and scholarships:

  • In the United States, the federal government awarded over $750 billion in grants in 2020, supporting various sectors such as education, healthcare, and scientific research.
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 85% of undergraduate students in the United States received some form of financial aid in the 2019-2020 academic year, including scholarships.
  • A study conducted by the Institute of International Education found that scholarships play a crucial role in enabling international students to pursue higher education abroad. In the 2019-2020 academic year, international students received over $8 billion in scholarships and grants.


In summary, grants and scholarships are both forms of financial assistance, but they differ in their definitions, sources, eligibility criteria, and application processes. Grants are typically awarded to support specific projects or research initiatives, while scholarships are aimed at supporting students’ education. Grants are often awarded based on the merit of the proposal, while scholarships are based on academic achievement, talent, or specific criteria set by the provider. The application process for grants involves submitting a detailed proposal, while scholarships require students to provide academic records, essays, and other supporting materials. Understanding these differences can help individuals and organizations make informed decisions when seeking financial assistance for education or research.

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