What to Use Your Scholarship Money On

By Lorena Roberts on September 14, 2017

If you’re lucky enough to pull some scholarship money for your academics, then you’re in a good spot. The average undergraduate debt is sitting at around $30K. So you’re pretty lucky if you’re getting help for school.

But what should you spend this scholarship money on? Well. The most important thing to remember is that there are rules about what you can and cannot spend certain funds on. So before you do anything at all, you should look into the stipulations of the money that’s been given to you.

Here are some of the biggest academic bills you should try to pay off first with your scholarship money.


1. Room and board

Typically, when you are given scholarship money, it is supposed to be used to pay on your university bill. If you’re living on campus, it’s easy to use your scholarship money to pay for your dorm or on-campus apartment.

However, if you’re living in an apartment off-campus, this may be a bit harder to justify. You should contact someone at the scholarship office or the contact person for the organization who awarded you the scholarship before you try to use that money to pay your monthly rent or cable bill.

2. Tuition

Another big bill from the university is obviously your tuition. There’s pretty much no way that the scholarship you have received couldn’t be used for tuition, but you should check to make sure it’s okay just in case.

Being able to pay off your tuition through scholarship money is an incredible feat. You should be really proud of yourself. As I previously mentioned, the average undergraduate is coming out of college with around $30,000 in student loan debt. Congratulations on your academic achievement — way to go!

3. Books/accessories

We all know textbooks are freaking expensive. If you’ve received any scholarship money, it’s going to be tempting to use it to pay for your textbooks and access codes. Before you use it, though, you should definitely check in with the scholarship committee to ensure that’s an acceptable way to use the money.

4. Groceries

If you still have scholarship money left over after you’ve paid off what you need to, it’s time to set some scholarship money aside for your groceries. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to check the stipulations of your scholarship.

The way I suggest saving for groceries is to figure out about how much you spend per week or bi-weekly at the grocery store. If you’re spending around $250 per month, and one semester is five months, you’re looking at around $1,250 just for groceries. This doesn’t include eating out with your friends — keep that in mind.

If you’re going to use your scholarship money for groceries, I would suggest budgeting to ensure you don’t blow it all in the first month on going out to bars and potato chips and dip. Be careful and budget wisely. Don’t waste what you’ve worked so hard for.

5. Take yourself on a vacay

If your refund from the university is totally yours, in cash, to keep and do with what you want because you received so much scholarship money, you should consider taking yourself (and maybe a friend or two?) on a little road trip. This could be a good way to spend the money you rightly earned through your academic achievements. Be proud of yourself.

If this is how you’re going to spend your scholarship money, be wise about where you go and who you take with you. It’s tough to make this decision. Think about what you’re going to value after you graduate. Is it worth spending hundreds of dollars on an expensive hotel, or roughing it in hostels with your two best friends? Use the money to make memories. That’s the best thing you can leave college with.

6. Invest the money for the future

If you’re anything like me, you’re trying to save as much money as you possibly can. If you receive so much scholarship money that you’re just overflowing with funds, well, first of all: lucky you. And second of all, be smart about how you spend it. Maybe think about investing it? Or sticking it in the bank to draw (a tiny bit of) interest while you finish out your degree.

All in all, it’s your choice what you spend your scholarship money on. But the advice I can give you is to ensure you take care of your biggest bills first and then wisely spend the rest. Always make sure to check the stipulations of your scholarship, or else you’re going to get yourself in a sticky situation. 

If you’re looking for more scholarships …

Contact the scholarship office at your school, Google search “how to get college scholarships,” sign up for every scholarship search engine you possibly can, and look in places you wouldn’t think to look. A lot of churches and organizations will sponsor college students. So look into your local community organizations, make contacts, and get that scholarship dough. 

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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