Can You Use Scholarship Money for Living Expenses?

Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 10, 2019

Can You Use Scholarship Money for Living Expenses?
Use scholarship money for your dorm room, meal plan and other living expenses.
Scholarships are free monetary awards that students can use to pay for college. Students are awarded scholarships for a variety of reasons: academic achievement, financial need, extracurricular or athletic involvement as well as just plain old good luck. Given that scholarships are free money, one would think that they can be used to pay for anything, but that’s not always the case. Before you being spending your scholarship money, you need to find out the scholarship stipulations. Can your scholarship be used for tuition only? Can you use scholarship money for living expenses? Can you use your winnings for spring break trips? Knowing the scholarship requirements and regulations ahead of time will help you better plan for paying for school. You will know exactly where to allocate your scholarship, financial aid and savings funds.

Why to Plan to Use Scholarship Money for Living Expenses

It’s no secret that going to college is expensive. But what students and parents may not realize is that there are added costs on top of the tuition sticker price they see as they search for colleges. When it comes to paying for college, students also have to pay for room and board, books, fees, transportation and living expenses. Just as you can use scholarships to pay for tuition, you can use scholarship money for living expenses as well. What some students may not realize is that room and board can oftentimes be just as expensive as tuition – if not more. Room and board typically includes housing, meals and housekeeping of shared spaces, like bathrooms and study rooms.
Though the price of room and board seems shocking, it’s actually cheaper than living off campus. On top of paying rent, students find themselves having to pay for utilities, parking, laundry and a variety of other necessities. Furthermore, many scholarship providers will not let students use scholarship money for living expenses if they plan to live off campus. Ultimately, if a student has their tuition covered by other scholarships and grants, it’s best to use any additional money toward room and board.

How to Plan to Use Scholarship Money for Living Expenses

While there are thousands of scholarships out there for students to pay for college, not all scholarships are created equal – and that doesn’t just apply to dollar amount. Every scholarship is unique in that it requires different components for the application or different uses once the scholarship is awarded. That’s why it’s important for students to have a strategy if they plan to use scholarship money for living expenses. When looking for scholarships, be sure to check out the stipulations for a scholarship in addition to what is needed to apply. Don’t waste your time applying for a scholarship if it can’t even be used for room and board. On the scholarship detail page, students can find all of the rules and regulations for a scholarship. If they are not readily visible there, students can visit a scholarship provider’s website to see the stipulations of what the scholarship can and cannot be used toward in terms of college expenses. Here, students will be able to view if you can use the scholarship money for living expenses. Some scholarships can be used for tuition only. Others can be used for tuition, fees, room and board and books. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities, however, that can be used for whatever.

Types of Scholarship Money for Living Expenses

When a student is accepted to a college, they oftentimes qualify for merit aid. This merit aid gift is determined by academic achievement, financial need or extracurricular and athletic involvement. Sometimes, the amount awarded is enough to cover a fraction of the tuition costs. Other times, the merit award is so large that it covers tuition, room and board and fees. This is referred to as a full ride scholarship. While full ride scholarships are worthwhile to pursue, they aren’t typically awarded on a frequent basis. If students do not receive enough merit aid to cover the cost of attending a college, they can pursue other avenues: outside scholarships and grants and/or financial aid. Outside scholarships and grants can be awarded by the state or federal government, and students will find that they can use the scholarship money for living expenses. These scholarships can be found on sites like Fastweb, within the local community or through different academic departments at the college. Grants, on the other side, are typically awarded by applying for financial aid. Students should ask their high school guidance counselors or financial aid administrators about grants that could help them pay for living expenses, in addition to checking Fastweb for relevant opportunities. Some of the most popular grants include the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) and Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG). Another way to qualify for financial help for college is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines financial need, and colleges make decisions about financial aid packages based on the information provided. Students can qualify for grants, loans and work study through the FAFSA. Students can fill out the FAFSA as soon after October 1 to qualify for these types of awards. They may also need to file a separate application with their state. Students can use these types of aid, along with scholarship money, for living expenses.

How to Use Scholarship Money for Living Expenses

Once a student has won scholarship money, he or she has to report that scholarship to the college they plan to attend. This is so that the financial aid or merit aid package can be adjusted to reflect the winnings. Reporting scholarship money to the school is not meant to penalize the student for winning an outside scholarship. In fact, the school will first subtract financial aid from the whole package to accommodate the new money. That means there is a chance students can get their student loans eliminated from their package, which enables them to graduate from college debt free. When students report the money to the school, they can also indicate that they want to use scholarship money for living expenses. As we always say at Fastweb, the more scholarships a student applies to, the greater their chances of actually winning. With those winnings, students can use scholarship money for living expenses – provided that the scholarship allows students. Given that, students should seek out scholarship opportunities that will help them manage the cost of attending college with a goal toward graduating debt-free – or with as little debt as possible. Every dollar that is saved or won through a scholarship is a dollar that doesn’t have to be paid back. Once students fund their tuition bill, they can focus their scholarship money for living expenses.

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