How to Use Scholarship Money in College

Did you win a scholarship? Congratulations! This cash can go a long way to helping you pay for college, especially if it’s a full ride. So how should you spend it? The answer to that can actually depend on the scholarship’s terms and conditions, but, in rare cases, you could be allowed to spend it on anything. Here’s how to use scholarship money in college.

College student researching financial aid on her laptop at campus.

In Many Cases, It’s Decided For You

Most scholarship money will never enter your personal bank account or come as a check in the mail. Instead, the program will send the money you received directly to the college or university you’re attending, to be put towards your tuition and approved expenses, such as room and board or books. They do this to ensure the money is being spent on college, rather than other items or expenses.

What If They Send the Money to You?

If the scholarship program sends the money to you, what you can spend it on depends on the terms and conditions you agreed to. It’s absolutely essential to read these terms before you buy anything. You may be able to spend it on:


In most cases, even scholarship money that is sent directly to you can only be spent on tuition. And even if the award program gives you an option on what to spend it on, tuition may be your best bet. It will help you cut down on debt, interest, and the cost of college in general.

Other School-Related Expenses

If your tuition is already paid for, such as you won another scholarship that gives you a free ride, you should try to use the money towards other school expenses. This could include room and board, travel and transportation-related to college, books, materials, campus food or groceries, and more.

What Should You Not Spend the Money On?

It’s usual that a scholarship program will dictate what you can or can’t spend the award money on. You don’t want to go against this requirement or you could be on the hook to pay the money back if you’re ever caught. However, what if you’re given absolute free reign with the money?

It’s still a good idea to spend it on tuition and school-related costs. Your future self will thank you when you have less debt to pay. You shouldn’t use the money on

    • Vacations, including Spring Break
    • Unnecessary clothing/accessories
    • Excessive take out
    • Leisure items like video games, dorm decorations, or hammocks

How to Use Scholarship Money in College

The fine print will come with almost any scholarship or award you win during your college experience. Do not skip reading the terms and conditions. Qualifications don’t always end after you won the award. You could be required to spend the cash on something specific or you may be required to maintain a certain GPA to keep receiving the money. Failing to read the terms and conditions could mean you have to give up the award and pay back all the money granted if an error is made in your spending.


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