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What happens when you win a college or university scholarship? Is the money sent to your bank account? Is a cheque mailed to you? Is it helicoptered to your home? You may also wonder what scholarship money can be used for? These are all great questions (but it’s guaranteed that the money won’t be choppered to you)!

Ultimately, there is no universal way that scholarship money is given out. There are also various rules about how you can spend the cash. Here are some insights to help you understand how you can expect to receive your scholarship and grant money, as well as the education expenses you can spend it on. This overview applies to both undergraduate and graduate students.   

How Scholarship Money is Delivered to You

Scholarship money may be delivered to you in one of several ways.

First, it may be delivered to your college or university in the form of a tuition credit. This means that your student account receives a deposit and the amount is deducted from your tuition costs.

Second, you may receive a cheque in the mail or an electronic cash transfer to your bank account.

Check Eligibility Criteria

How you can spend scholarship money is determined by a scholarship provider. These rules should be laid out in the terms and conditions or eligibility requirements of a scholarship opportunity.

In short, college scholarships tend to serve a mission or a mandate. Where you can spend scholarship money is usually consistent with this mission. For example, if a needs-based scholarship is focused on helping students with the cost of tuition, the money will typically be sent to a student’s institution as a credit.

Below are some other typical education-related expenses and an overview of how scholarships might cover those costs. 

Scholarship Money for Tuition

Some college scholarships will only allow you to put the prize money toward postsecondary tuition fees. As mentioned previously, money in this case will be sent to your college or university registrar or financial aid office. A credit is then applied to your account.

Scholarship Money for Education-Related Expenses

Other types of scholarships are awarded to students to help bring down education costs outside of tuition. Typically, things like books, supplies, or items related to a degree program qualify.

Education-related expenses is a broad category. If you have any questions about where you can spend the scholarship money, you can always get in touch with your financial aid office or the scholarship provider.

Scholarship Money for Dormitory Costs

One of the other major categories for scholarship money is living costs. This includes paying for housing and meal plans.

As you may know, living in a college or university residence can be expensive. The cost of renting a dorm in tandem with food costs can add up. For this reason, certain scholarships exist exclusively to help with these expenses. If you’re not able to live at home as an undergraduate or graduate student, scholarships for living expenses can be a great way to keep your monthly bills low. Consequently, these scholarship prizes also help students avoid credit card and private student loan debt.

Scholarships for … Anything?

Not all scholarship awards will have terms and conditions on prize money. In other words, you can spend the winnings on anything you want.

In these cases, private scholarship money is usually sent to students by cheque or electronic means and then the student decides what happens from there. Again, if you want to know how much flexibility there is with scholarship money, check the terms and conditions. This is where you’ll usually find the answer.


  • Scholarship money is usually delivered to students by cheque, electronic deposit, or as a credit to your institution’s registrar/financial aid office.
  • Rules on spending scholarship money are posted in the prize’s terms and conditions or eligibility requirements. Check the fine print when conducting a scholarship search.
  • The most common conditions on scholarship money are that it must be spent on education costs: tuition, education-related expenses (e.g., books), or living expenses (e.g., dorm costs or meal plans).
  • Not all scholarships for college have restrictions on how you spend the money, so check the fine print.