If you’re a current or prospective college student, you’ve probably wondered how you’re supposed to pay for your college tuition. The price of a college education is often pretty steep, and the idea of paying such a huge sum can seem overwhelming.

Thankfully, there are options out there to help you fund your higher education journey. Despite there being a number of options out there, for new — and sometimes even senior — college students, it can be a difficult space to navigate. Having a clear understanding of the different ways to pay for your college tuition — such as grants vs loans — can help make it easier to decide which route is right for you.

What Is the Difference Between a Grant and a Loan?

For many, understanding the differences between payment options like grants, loans, scholarships, and other public assistance options may seem difficult at first. Each comes with its own unique characteristics, and it can be difficult to understand which is right for you.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between grants and loans to make the process of funding your college career a little clearer.


You’re probably familiar with the concept of scholarships. Basically, a grant functions in the same way. A grant is a specific amount of money that an institution — such as a school, the government, or a private donor — awards to a student for the sake of funding their education.

Grants don’t have to be paid back, and they can ultimately save you thousands of dollars if you’re lucky enough to receive them. Whereas scholarships are typically awarded to students for their academic excellence, grants are typically awarded to students for other criteria, such as income levels and background.


Unlike grants and scholarships, loans are a sum of money that you as a student can borrow now and pay back at a later date. There are government loans available to college students as well as loans from private institutions. Factors to consider why taking out a college loan include interest rates and payment options.

An important distinction to keep in mind when you’re considering taking out a loan is the difference between subsidised loans and unsubsidised loans.

Subsidised loans are loans that don’t begin accruing interest for a set period of time. For you as a college student, this typically means that interest won’t start accruing on the loan until a couple of months after you graduate. Different lenders will offer different terms, so it’s important to have clarity about how long this period will be before taking out a loan.

Unsubsidised loans are loans that begin accruing interest as soon as they’re taken out. As a college student, this means that interest will be accruing on your loan while you’re still completing your program. As such, it’s usually in the best interest of college students to take advantage of any unsubsidised loan options they have available to them.

How to Apply for Grants and Loans

Though having clarity around the differences between grants and loans is helpful, it can sometimes feel overwhelming getting funding if you don’t know where to start. As such, a few simple tips can help make the process easier. Here are some tips that can help start applying for grants and loans.

Contact Your Advisors

If you intend to apply for grants and loans, your first stop should be to see your school’s financial services advisors. These professionals are experts when it comes to navigating college applications and paperwork and can be an amazing resource to college students.

In addition to walking you through the process of applying for grants and loans, financial service representatives at your school may also be able to help you find grants, scholarships, and loans that you didn’t even know existed.

Make Sure You Have All of Your Necessary Documents

When it comes to applying for grants and loans, the amount of paperwork can seem daunting and overwhelming. Just the prospect of having to sift through drawers searching for the right documents can be enough to encourage you to procrastinate — and as a result, maybe even miss important deadlines.

Having all of the necessary documents handy before applying for grants and loans can make the whole process feel more accessible and less overwhelming. In addition, it can also help make your application process more efficient, saving you time and energy.

Utilise FAFSA

Free application for federal student aid — often abbreviated as FAFSA — is an amazing resource for college students to apply for various forms of student aid. By taking advantage of this resource, you may find out that you qualify for more student aid than you thought.

FAFSA will help you determine if you’re eligible for student aid such as grants and subsidised loans that can ultimately make your collegiate pursuits a much cheaper affair. Filling out FAFSA information forms takes only a matter of minutes, and it’s straight-forward website makes it a no-brainer when it comes to applying for grants and loans.

Don’t Let College Tuition Stop You from Getting an Education

The seemingly huge price tags on college programs can seem like a daunting force to be reckoned. For some, it may even seem like a significant enough reason to forego a college education altogether.

Being aware of the options available to you — such as grants and loans — along with the unique characteristics of these options, can make getting funding for college less of a challenge.