Scholarships, Grants, and Loans Differences

There are a variety of financial aid options you can apply for to help you with your college expenses. The chart below briefly outlines the differences between scholarships, grants and loans, and what might be the best option for you. For more information, select the category title of the type of aid you'd like to learn more about.

Topic Scholarships Grants Loans
Does the money have to be paid back? No No Yes
Does interest or fees accumulate on the money? No No Yes
Do I need a FAFSA application? Varies (1) Yes Varies (2)
Are there limits to the money that I can receive? Varies (3) Yes Yes
Can only U.S. citizens receive money? No Yes Varies (4)

Varies(1): Some scholarship programs offer awards based only on academic merit, talent, community service, etc. Other scholarship programs may have the described attributes but also a need-based component as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Varies(2): Most federal student loan programs require a FAFSA application with the exception of the Parent PLUS loan application. There are many private nonfederal alternative loan programs available nationwide with no FAFSA requirement.

Varies(3): Students may seek out as many non-UNLV scholarships as they are able to obtain. Any UNLV scholarships would be limited to a student's financial aid cost of attendance less any other forms of financial aid received.

Varies(4): Scholarship programs are available to a broad base of applicants. Federal/state grants or loans tend to be funded with U.S. citizenship requirements, with the exception of the Millennium Scholarship program. There are some private nonfederal alternative loan programs available nationwide where a noncitizen can receive a loan with a credit-worthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer.