Feb 29, 2024

Understanding the difference between Financial aid and Scholarships

When pursuing your higher education journey, it’s always important to consider your financial opportunities. The terms financial aid and scholarships might seem interchangeable, but they both have distinct pros and cons.

Before we begin, consider scholarships like a gift, and financial aid as more of a request from the student to the school for support.

Here’s a guide that can help you make a more informed decision on both separate financial opportunities!

Financial aid

Unfortunately, international students don’t qualify for federal or state aid. There are still some universities that offer need-based aid for international students, for example, being a first-generation student or applying through the CSS profile (to those colleges who accept this application from international students). Click here to check out the participating institutions, which allow international students to apply for the CSS profile. We highly recommend that you recheck individual university websites, under “Financial Aid and Tuition” and “International Students” tabs for further aid opportunities.

If you’re applying internationally with an American passport, you’ll be able to apply for financial aid (FAFSA). This form of aid can provide you with grants and loans.


Now onto scholarships - these are usually merit-based but there are also need-based opportunities as well. They take into account your academic achievements, talents, or background (for need-based).  Scholarships are much more competitive and may require exceptional achievements or an extremely strong GPA, making it even more important to maintain your grades and maintain a holistic profile. They can range in amounts from less than $1000 to a full-ride scholarship, and can be offered directly from your university or even from a private resource. Some scholarships are specific to your field as well, make sure to do your research on what your respective universities offer. An example of a popular scholarship opportunity is Boston University’s Trustee Scholarship, which covers full undergraduate tuition plus student fees.

So how do you know which one’s for you?

If you’re an international student with a strong profile, focusing on merit scholarships might be a better option since your chances could be a lot higher. If you are from a minority ethnic group, there are some need-based scholarships and financial aid available to you. There are many different factors taken into account when recommending and researching scholarships that can best suit individuals. Each student has their unique circumstances which is why it’s important to research based on your respective needs.

For a more in-depth understanding of financial aid and scholarship opportunities for the universities of your interest, reach out to your UniHawk counselor so you can explore all your available options.

Book a free consultation Now https://www.unihawk.com/enquire-now

By: Sam Rajesh, Admissions Counselor

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