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A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.
The most common scholarships may be classified as:
Merit-based: These awards are based on a student's academic, artistic, athletic or other abilities, and often factor in an applicant's extracurricular activities and community service record. The most common merit-based scholarships, awarded by either private organizations or directly by a student's intended college, recognize academic achievement or high scores on standardized tests.
Need-based: In the United States, these awards are based on the student and family's financial record and will require applicants to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify if the scholarship is a federal award. Private need-based scholarships will also often require the results of a FAFSA, which calculates a student's financial need through a formula looking at the expected family contribution and cost of attendance at the intended college.
Student-specific: These are scholarships where applicants must initially qualify by gender, race, religion, family and medical history, or many other student-specific factors. Minority scholarships are the most common awards in this category. For example, students in Canada may qualify for a number of aboriginal scholarships, whether they study at home or abroad. The Gates Millennium Scholars program is another minority scholarship funded by Bill and Melinda Gates for excellent African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific Islander American and Latino students who will be enrolling in college.
Career-specific: These are scholarships awarded by a college or university to students planning to pursue a specific field of study. Often the most generous awards are given to students pursuing careers in high-need areas such as education or nursing. Nursing students are in high demand and many schools in the United States will give future nurses full scholarships to enter the field, especially if the student intends to work in a high-need community.
College-specific: College-specific scholarships are offered by individual colleges and universities to highly qualified applicants. These scholarships, given on the basis of academic and personal achievement, usually result in either a full-ride to the college, or for a reduced rate of tuition.
Some scholarships have a "bond" requirement. Recipients may be required to work for a particular employer for a specified period of time or to work in rural or remote areas; otherwise they may be required to repay the value of the support they received from the scholarship. This is particularly the case with education and nursing scholarships for people prepared to work in rural and remote areas. The programs offered by theuniformed services of the United States (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned corps, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) sometimes resemble such scholarships.
A student loan is designed to help students pay for university tuition, books, and living expenses. It may differ from other types of loans in that the interest rate may be substantially lower and the repayment schedule may be deferred while the student is still in education. It also differs in many countries in the strict laws regulating re-negotiating and bankruptcy. In the United States, there are three types of student loans: two of them are federally subsidized and unsubsidized sponsored by the federal government and the other type is private student loans. The unsubsidized program allows students to borrow money with interest accruing during school and subsidized loans allow them to defer interest accrual until they are no longer in school. Student loans may be offered as part of a total financial aid package that may also include grants, scholarships, and/or work study opportunities. Private lenders are also currently guaranteed a return on their investment due to legislatively enacted changes in 2005, prohibiting the discharge of any student loan, unless the debtor is able to demonstrate "undue hardship.
A stipend is a form of salary, such as for an internship or apprenticeship. It is often distinct from a wage or a salary because it does not necessarily represent payment for work performed, instead it represents a payment that enables somebody to be exempt partly or wholly from waged or salaried employment in order to undertake a role that is normally unpaid (e.g. magistrate in England), or voluntary, or which cannot be measured in terms of a task (e.g. members of the clergy).
Stipends are usually lower than what would be expected as a permanent salary for similar work. This is because the stipend is complemented by other benefits such as accreditation, instruction, food, and/or accommodation. Universities usually refer to money paid to graduate students as a stipend, rather than as wages, to reflect complimentary benefits.