Students use all kinds of financial aid to pay for college, including grants, scholarships, loans, and fellowships. But what exactly is a scholarship? What is a college fellowship? And what is the difference between the two?
Scholarships and fellowships make it easier for students to pay for college. But these two forms of financial aid differ in important ways. Understanding these differences can ensure that you maximize your aid and limit student debt.
What is a scholarship?
Each year, college students apply for 5 million scholarships worth a total of $24 billion. But what exactly is a scholarship?
Scholarships provide free money to undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike loans, which borrowers must repay, scholarships never have to be repaid. Scholarships based on need and merit award free money to recipients, and most cover a single academic year.
A variety of organizations offer scholarships. State and federal governments also award scholarships, as do colleges and universities. Professional associations, businesses, private donors, and foundations may also run scholarship competitions.
Grants, like scholarships, provide free money for college; however, grants are more likely to come from government agencies and require proof of financial need.
Also Check: How Do You Get 100% Free Scholarships?
What is a Fellowship?
Like a scholarship, a fellowship provides financial support to students with no repayment requirement.
However, unlike scholarships, most scholarships support postgraduate students. There are a small number of undergraduate scholarships, but most commonly a fellowship funds master’s and Ph.D. students.
Also, compared to a scholarship, which typically provides a fixed amount of aid for a single year, a fellowship typically covers tuition costs and provides a monthly stipend.
While many organizations offer scholarships, fellowships typically come from colleges and universities, government agencies, and foundations.
For example, Fulbright scholarships support graduate students conducting research abroad. The Jacob K. Javits fellowship funds graduate students in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, while the National Science Foundation awards graduate research fellowships to students in STEM fields.
A fellowship differs from an assistant. Graduate assistants, such as teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants, take on professional responsibilities in exchange for funding. TAs, for example, teach courses and assign grades. Fellowship generally does not come with any work requirements.
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How are scholarships and Fellowship applications different?
Scholarships and fellowships also differ in terms of their application processes. Students may only need to apply for scholarships offered by their institution. For other scholarship and fellowship applications, students complete an application process that is sometimes lengthy.
The professional associations, companies, and foundations that award scholarships define their own eligibility criteria and application requirements. Applicants may be required to meet specific criteria and have a specific anticipated career path or background. Many scholarships consider factors such as community service, leadership, and financial need.
Fellowships offered by the government or foundations may require several steps. Applicants are typically required to submit material such as a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a research statement. The Fellowships committee may even conduct interviews to award funds.
The process can take months. For example, Fulbright applicants submit their materials between March and October. The national selection committee reviews the candidates and notifies those who advance to the second round in January. Recipients may receive notification up to May or one year after their application has been submitted.
Students looking for financial aid options should consider scholarships and Fellowships. Be sure to take the time to review the eligibility guidelines and complete the necessary application materials.
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