Can You Use Scholarship Money for Anything?

Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 01, 2019

Can You Use Scholarship Money for Anything?
Scholarships can stipulate what you spend your winnings on -- find out how.
As you begin the process of financing your education, you’ll find that paying for college is more than writing a check for the classes that you attend. Rather, it’s an itemized list of fees, room and board and book charges. Needless to say, it can all really add up. When you win scholarships, you may be wondering if you can use scholarship money for anything. The answer is – yes and no.

Use Scholarship Money for Anything – Tuition

Firstly, scholarship providers will often indicate in their description of the scholarship what the money can actually go toward. Some providers will be very specific while others don’t really care where the money goes – as long as you meet the requirements for application and winning. The biggest chunk of education expenses is oftentimes tuition. So if you can use your scholarship money for anything, you should use it to go toward these costs. Some scholarship providers won’t even give you a choice on where to use the money. Rather, they will send it straight to your college or university to cover the tuition bill. It’s important to keep in mind that when you use your scholarship money for anything, it could have an impact on financial aid. Any scholarship money that is won has to be reported to the school. Typically, financial aid packages will be changed to account for the increase in money; however, schools will adjust student loans within the package before adjusting work study or grant aid.

Use Scholarship Money for Anything – Room and Board

When it comes to using scholarship money for anything, room and board also tops the list. While some scholarships stipulate that winnings can be used for tuition only, there are thousands of scholarships that allow winners to use the money for room and board as well. At some colleges, room and board is just as much as tuition – if not more. Being able to use scholarship money for anything, like room and board, can go a long way in helping students pay the full cost of attendance.
However, when a scholarship specifies that you can use the money for room and board, don’t forget to ask for further details. Many scholarships will cover room and board at the university only, meaning apartments or townhomes off campus aren’t permitted under the scholarship rules. If that’s the case, it could change a great deal for you – like where you live. Ultimately, though, when you can use your scholarship money for anything, it’s best to use it toward university-owned housing rather than rack up debt trying to pay for a coveted apartment off campus.

Use Scholarship Money for Anything – Education Expenses

In addition to using scholarship money to cover tuition as well as room and board, some scholarship providers allow you to use your winnings to cover any and all education-related expenses. Education-related expenses are items like textbooks, computers, transportation to and from school and student fees. When you can truly use your scholarship money for anything, all of these education-related expenses fall under that balloon. It’s important to keep in mind when assessing what to use your scholarship money for that these education-related expenses can really add up. Textbooks can cost hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars each semester. While you will hopefully only require one computer during your college career, it is still a significant investment before the start of freshmen year. Commuting to and from campus can also add up, especially if your commute is from one side of the country to the other.

Use Scholarship Money for Anything – Really, Anything

Finally, there are those scholarships available to students that really allow you to use the scholarship money for anything – which means truly anything. While some students might use the scholarship money for tuition or room and board, the option is open for students to use their winnings for spring break trips, pizza nights and groceries. These types of opportunities that allow students to use scholarship money for anything are typically larger, sweepstakes awards. They garner many applicants, making the chances of actually winning one harder than smaller scholarships. However, that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t try. You never know when the one chance to win is actually your big win.

Expert Scholarship Advice

As students seek out scholarships, you should always read the fine print. Before you apply to a scholarship, check out the scholarship details. In addition to reading what you need to complete the application, you also need to check to see if you can use scholarship money for anything. Does the scholarship stipulate what it can and cannot be used for? Did you read through the terms and conditions if there were any? If you still have questions after you’ve viewed the scholarship details, reach out to the scholarship provider. They would be happy to answer any questions about whether or not you can use scholarship money for anything – or if there are rules about which college costs it can cover. On a similar note, ensure that you know enough about the cost of attendance at the colleges to which you plan to apply. How much is tuition? How much is room and board? How much are your other education related expenses? With these costs in mind, you can better plan for covering the cost of attending college with scholarships. Remember, as stated above, once you’ve won a scholarship, you must report it to the college you plan to attend. Once it’s reported, your financial aid package will be changed to reflect the award amount. This practice is not to penalize you for winning a scholarship. In fact, it’s doing you a huge favor. The first piece of financial aid that will be impacted by your scholarship winnings are student loans, meaning it’s less money you’ll have to pay back after graduation. Scholarships are a great way to pay for college, and sometimes, you can use scholarship money for anything. Whatever the conditions, though, students should pursue scholarship opportunities like they would a full-time job. Apply to as many as possible to increase your chances of winning, and they may just enable you to attend college for free.

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Kathryn Knight Randolph

Associate Content Editor

Kathryn Knight Randolph is the Associate Content Editor at Fastweb. She has 17 years of higher education experience, working first as an Admissions Officer at DePauw University before joining Fastweb. In b...

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