​​​The definitions below are general descriptions of the meanings of the word insofar as this word relates to funding post-secondary educational studies. The specific meanings of these words may vary between educational institutions and between countries. You should always check with the scholarships administrator and course adviser at the host educational institution to confirm the definitions of these terms with respect to any agreement that you make with these parties.

If you cannot see a definition below, please ask a tutor at this web-page.


Oxford University dictionary:

"A grant or payment made to support a student's education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement: ‘Tim held a Humboldt scholarship’
‘he went on a state-sponsored scholarship to study engineering’".

Cambridge University Dictionary:

"An amount of money given by a school, college, university, or other organization to pay for the studies of a person with great ability but little money*". 

​* Note: Not all scholarships require the applicant to be financially disadvantaged.

A to Z


An allowance may have the same meaning as the word 'stipend'. Please see the definition of stipend below. In some cases, an allowance may refer to a type of stipend that is less generous than a stipend.

In many cases, an allowance refers to funds provided for specific expenses. For example, a letter that awards a scholar an allowance may state a condition such as "recipients will receive an allowance of up to USD$5,000 per year to cover text books, uniforms and stationery that must be purchased to complete their program of study".


Cash and/or some other benefit given to a scholar who wins a prize or competition. 

Sometimes the award (money or gift) must be used to purchase goods or services that relate to a current study program.

Some awards are similar to the definition of 'prizes' listed below. For example, you may win a cash award of $USD1, 000 for being the top student in a subject (e.g. Accounting 1001). Most prizes allow the winner to purchase anything that they like if the recipient is awarded cash or a voucher.


An amount of money given to a person by an organization, such as a university, to pay for them to study.

Competitive scholarship

Please read the definition of scholarship above.

A competitive scholarship is awarded to the best applicant. The Review Panel usually takes into account factors such as each applicant's academic history and other achievements such as professional work experience.

Virtually all scholarships are competitive. There are more applicants than there are scholarship winners.

Non-competitive scholarships are rare. An example of a non-competitive scholarship is when a scholarship contract states (for example): "All students who complete the Bachelor of Education Degree course at this University may study an additional Honors year on a Scholarship funded by this university".


An essay is an academic piece of writing that some scholarship administrators and colleges/universities instruct scholarship applicants and future students to submit with their application.

The essay normally requires a student to prepare a critical piece of scholarship that displays some degree of originality. The essay guidelines may list mandatory criteria such as:

1. Maximum and minimum word limits.

2. A referencing (citation) guide that applicants must adhere to such as Harvard or Chicago.

​3. Directions about what topic applicants must discuss (for example: globalization, organic farming practices).

Fee Waiver

A fee waiver is a specific type of scholarship. A college/university offers the recipient free tuition.

Many universities/colleges offer fee waivers to talented graduate research students, such as PhD candidates who show potential to bring acclaim to their field and/or the university.

Financial Aid

Financial aid refers to different options that students can use to finance their studies. In most cases, Financial Aid refers to funding sources that enable students to pay tuition fees and other mandatory costs such as annual enrollment fees and college amenities fees. In most cases students can draw on one or more sources such as:

1. Loans from the college, government and other sources.

2. Scholarships provided by the host college and other sources.

3. Prizes and other awards coordinated by the host educational institution.

Students who are able to pay their fees in advance out of their own funds do not need to apply for financial aid. Such students may be referred to as 'self-funded' students.

The term 'financial aid' may have a specific meaning at different colleges and universities, especially in the United States and Canada. You should check the definition with your educational institution on a case-by-case basis.

Full ride scholarship

A 'full ride scholarship' is not an official term. This term is used mostly by scholarship searchers on forums such as chat sites. This term refers to a scholarship that covers all tuition fees and all other expenses associated with a course of study.  These additional expenses may include return flights, university administration fees, health insurance, books, study materials and basic living expenses.


A gift is a general term that refers to cash or another type of resource given to a scholar to aid the scholar's academic success. A gift is not a loan. By definition, the recipient does not need to repay the donor.


Unlike loans, a grant provides money for college expenses that does not need to be paid back. A grant may be paid to a scholar for a specific purpose. For example, the college may state in its letter of offer that you are eligible for a "grant that will fund you up to $5, 000 per academic year to purchase computer hardware and/or software that is essential to complete your academic studies".  


A loan refers to an agreement that a student makes with another party whereby the other party finances the student's studies at the time of enrollment. The student repays this money back to that party at a future date. Student loans normally fund tuition fees and they may obtain these funds from one or more of these sources:

1. Private lenders (such as a bank)

2. Public lenders (such as the Federal Government)

3. The university/college where you study

4. Another party such as your family.

Universities and colleges normally assist their students to obtain funds from sources 1., 2., and 3., above.

The terms and conditions of loans vary. Variable conditions include factors such as:

1. The rate of interest payable

2. The date that a student's first and final payments are due

3. Details about how the student's payments may vary depending on their future financial earnings

4. The amount of money that the student lender must earn before they are due to make their first payment.

You should check the terms and conditions of your loan contract carefully before you sign as these clauses may vary widely between colleges.

Merit scholarships

A merit scholarship is similar to a competitive scholarship. The Scholarships Review Panel may offer the scholarship to the applicant who has the best grades and has the strongest achievements in other fields. Other achievements that this Panel may assess include sporting excellence and relevant work experience.

Motivation letter

A motivation letter is a personal statement that an applicant for a scholarship or college/university course may be required to submit with their application. This letter normally explains the applicant's academic history, personal history and career objective. This letter enables administrators to assess an applicant's suitability for a scholarship or program of study.  This PowerPoint presentation explains the motivation letter in detail.


Needs-based scholarship

A scholarship that is awarded to successful applicants who cannot afford to pay for their tuition fees. 

Governments and colleges/universities have their own rules that determine who "cannot afford to pay their tuition fees". You must meet this definition to be eligible for a needs-based scholarship. These rules normally take into account your current income and cash assets, as well as the income and cash assets of your parents if you are under a certain maximum age, which may be around 26 years.

​A needs-based scholarship is not a gift in most cases. It is a loan that may be offered as a part of a student's application to receive financial aid.


Cash and/or some other benefit given to a scholar for winning a competition.  For example, a corporate sponsor may offer a cash award of $1, 000 to the top graduating student in a subject (e.g. Accounting 1001) each year at a particular university. 

Reimburse / reimbursement

Payment made to a scholar by a college or another sponsor for expenses that the scholar has previously paid for out of their own personal finances. These expenses must normally relate to the scholar's studies. The sponsor normally defines what goods and services they will fund and advises these term and conditions to the scholar in writing.


A stipend is a regular payment made to a scholar. This payment may be made weekly, fortnightly (every two weeks), monthly or on some other basis such as quarterly.  

A stipend is normally offered to a scholar to assist them with their basic living expenses such as travel, rental accommodation, food, school books and health insurance. A stipend is normally a modest payment that does not cover the full amount of a scholar's living expenses. Many scholars who receive a stipend are required to work part-time on occasion to earn additional funds to cover their basic living expenses.


A subsidy is a partial form of reimbursement. This payment may be made in advance or returned to the student by the funding party after the student has incurred the expense out of their own funds. 

For example, a scholarship provider may agree to subsidize a scholar's tuition fees by 50% on an annual basis for a maximum of 4 years for a Bachelor Degree course. If this student's tuition fees costs USD$30, 000 per year, then their subsidy is $15, 000 per year.

Teaching Assistant Agreement

Students may exchange their labor for tuition. This labor may relate to general administration support and/or teaching-related work such as tutoring, lecturing and marking assessments. This Free School presentation provides details about this finance source.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees refer to the charges that a student must pay to their college/university to receive teaching services from academic staff such as tutors and lecturers.

 The      ree  School