Mike Brown Updated on May 16, 2017

Scholarship money, which does not have to be repaid, are a great way to help students afford college. They are funds awarded that can relieve some of the financial burden on students and their families while attending college. But what can you use scholarship money for?  From books and lab fees to room, board, tuition and more, scholarships can cover many of the typical costs associated with higher education.  If you find yourself needing to fill the gap between your federal aid and any scholarships or grants you win, private student loans can help you bridge that gap.

What you can do with scholarship money

How your scholarship money is delivered to you may affect your options for using it. While money from most large scholarships is sent directly to your college, some scholarship money may be paid directly to you. It’s also possible that you will receive a refund check from your college for unused scholarship funds. If you receive scholarship funds directly, be sure to follow all rules about how you can – and can’t – use that money. If you have any doubt, talk to your financial aid office for guidance about how to use scholarship money and what expenses, like these, can be covered by scholarship money:

  • Tuition - Tuition is the price for taking classes and can range from 20% to 39% of the total budget for attending a year of college, according to the College Board. Most scholarship money can be applied to tuition as well as the other costs associated with college. 
  • Room and board - If you are going away to college and will live in a dorm or an apartment, you’ll have expenses for housing and food. Some scholarships cover room and board costs. Your award materials will provide the details if your scholarship pays for housing. If you can’t find that information, contact the scholarship provider directly and ask if your scholarship will cover room and board.
  • Books and course materials - The average cost of books and course materials for a fulltime undergraduate student at a four-year public college is close to $1,300 per year, according to the College Board. Scholarship money can be used for books and supplies. Several scholarships from publishers and book stores are available that specifically cover book costs.
  • Living expenses - Other expenses associated with going to college can include transportation, technology and healthcare. Scholarships for living expenses may cover these costs, but it is important to understand the types of living expenses your scholarship money can cover before you spend it.

What you can’t use scholarship money for.

No matter the amount of scholarship money you are awarded, each scholarship will designate exactly what the money can be used for. It is your responsibility to understand those regulations. Read your scholarship award details carefully. Even if a scholarship covers living expenses, there will be language indicating the types of personal expenses allowed (such as travel or food).

Mind the rules to keep your money.

Scholarships come with strings attached, like requirements to keep a certain grade point average, take specific types of classes, or pay for specific items as mentioned above to ensure you will use the scholarship towards your education.  If you spend scholarship money on things the scholarship rules prohibit, or don’t follow other requirements, you may be responsible for paying the money back, possibly with interest according to the U.S. Department of Education.

College education is expensive. Scholarships are a sensible way to bridge the gap between the increasing cost of tuition and your budget. Fortune favors the prepared – research college scholarship opportunities and make a plan to apply. And when you do, make sure you avoid these seven big mistakes in order to enhance your chances of securing scholarship funds.

Wondering how to get scholarship money?

Just as a college education is worth your time and attention, so too is the search for scholarships. Take an organized and deliberate approach to finding scholarships that match your achievements and passions.

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