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Financial Aid vs. Scholarships

There are some critical differences you should know.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available for eligible students to use toward paying educational costs while enrolled in a degree-seeking program. Using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will be considered for three types of financial aid: Grants, Work-Study and Student Loans. Separate application forms are not required to be considered for these types of aid. Apply early and apply annually to be considered.

Need-based financial aid eligibility is determined by the FAFSA and the availability of funding. You must qualify each year to receive need-based awards. Need-based awards include, grants, work-study, the Federal Subsidized Direct Loan, and the Federal Perkins loan. For the most part, a grant or gift aid does not need to be repaid. You earn the work-study award through on-campus or off-campus employment. A Subsidized Direct Loan means that the federal government subsidizes (pays) the interest while you are in school. The same goes for the Federal Perkins Loan, plus, the Perkins Loan does not deduct an origination (processing) fee that the Subsidized Direct Loan does.

Follow the steps on the DO page to apply for financial aid, submit required forms, accept your awards, and complete loan requirements should you accept the loan award.

According to federal financial aid regulations, the total financial aid award cannot exceed the Cost of Attendance. The Financial Aid Summary in the UCDAccess is where you can view the Cost of Attendance.


Scholarships are gift aid that does not need to be repaid. These opportunities typically require an application and may have specific eligibility requirements related to a students':​

  • Academic merit, grades, test scores
  • Financial need-This need is often defined differently than by the FAFSA guidelines
  • Community Service, work history and preferences such as:
    • gender
    • first generation (neither parent has a four year degree)
    • race and ethnic identity
    • community involvement
    • major or minor degree program
    • age
    • special talents and hobbies
    • memberships in organizations

​To apply for CU Denver scholarships, visit ScholarLynx​.