What is the difference between scholarship and fellowship?

Both “scholarship” and “fellowship” in general assume a “financial aid” for students and researchers, or any individual with an interest to search, find and research something new. “Scholarships” and “fellowships” are instituted by a University, a research center, academic institution, laboratory, government or a foundation.


Main difference between scholarship and fellowship


The most important difference between “scholarship” and “fellowship” is that the term “scholarship” always means that there is a “financial aid” available. So there is no “scholarship” without “financial aid”. If there is “scholarship”, then a “financial aid” is included as a “tuition fee”, as a “per diem”, as a “living allowance” or in any other shape, but there is always money included. In case of “fellowship”, though in most cases a “financial aid” will be provided, but the term does not necessarily suppose a “financial aid”.

For example, if someone receives a “scholarship” to study at Ohio University or to do a research at NASA that means the person has for sure received money to study or to do a research. When MIT or Harvard announce “scholarships” for undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate students, for researchers or journalists, that always means the University or research institute or the foundation is going to fully or partly cover some of the costs.


But the “fellowship” first of all is the status, only then a “financial aid”. “Fellowship” is a status within the University or research institute and it may or may not include a “financial aid”. Cambridge or Oxford sometimes announce a “fellowship” and only provide a desk with a computer at the library. For that particular position often apply many renowned researchers or public figures, who are ready to pay for all other costs themselves, only to receive the announced “fellowship”.


“Fellowship” may be granted as a status within an academic institution and that’s it, nothing more, no salary, no financial aid, just status. With that status the person may be accepted as a fellow of certain college or department and have access to some of library and research facilities.


Other differences between scholarships and fellowships are


“Scholarships” are available from the very early stage of academic career. Even before University career and undergraduate studies one may apply for a “scholarship” in the school, but no fellowships are available for that stage.

The same is true for undergraduate studies. All “financial aid” available for undergraduate students in the University is called “scholarship” and only in rare cases, when related to research activities it may be called “fellowship”.


From graduate level “financial aid”, which is called a “fellowship” may be available for students who are particularly interested in some specific research area.


“Scholarships” are granted to student level and above, and the “fellowships” are mainly for experienced individuals to apply. For example, if you search google for “scholarships for journalists” you will mainly get results about “financial aid” to study in the University at any level, but if you search “fellowships for journalists” you will get first of all results about programs for experienced journalists to conduct some investigations and do some research.


In many instances scholarship and fellowship are used interchangeably, cause some confusion, and sometime mean the same thing or something different. Hopefully this short introduction about the differences of scholarship and fellowship is helpful.