Guide to Merit Scholarships
Scholarships are a great way to make college more affordable. Here, we outline what you need to know about merit scholarships.
Are you ready to find your fit?
Scholarships make one of the best funding sources, allowing students to lower costs and graduate with less debt. Merit-based assistance provides funding no matter a student's need, making these scholarships accessible to many learners. U.S. students receive more than $22 billion in merit-based scholarships each year. On average, merit-based scholarships award about $5,000 per student.
Our merit-based assistance guide highlights scholarship qualifications, aid types, and strategies to increase your chance of getting merit-based scholarships.
What Is a Merit Scholarship?
Scholarship foundations, private companies, nonprofit organizations, and individual colleges all offer merit-based scholarships. Some awards cover just tuition, while others apply to other college costs, including textbooks and living expenses.
People often misunderstand merit-based scholarships, thinking they only go to straight-A students and other high achievers. In fact, the number of available scholarships means many students can receive merit-based aid. Debt.org reports over 40% of merit-based scholarships going to students with a GPA below 3.5. Deciding on the most reasonable scholarships to apply for can increase students' chances of getting funding.
What Types of Merit-Based Scholarships Are Awarded?
Students apply for different types of merit-based scholarships and merit-based assistance. Academics, athletic performance, extracurricular activities, and artistic skill all help students get scholarship offers. Some scholarships serve students of specific backgrounds. This list highlights some of the major scholarship categories.
How Do I Qualify for a Merit Scholarship?
Merit-based scholarships typically consider an applicant's GPA, test scores, and other academic criteria. However, these factors often serve as basic qualifiers to narrow the applicant pool. Strong grades and test scores alone may not secure the most prestigious scholarships. Many application committees also consider extracurriculars, community service, and essays.
When applying for merit-based scholarships, students should research carefully and focus on awards where they meet all qualifications.
How Can I Apply for Merit Scholarships?
All merit-based scholarships maintain their own application requirements, typically found online. Read all application instructions carefully and pay attention to deadlines.
In general, scholarships may ask applicants to submit personal information and high school or college grades. More selective scholarships may require additional application materials. Common supplements include personal statements, proof of community service, and recommendation letters from teachers.
What Merit Scholarships Can I Apply For?
Hundreds of different organizations, businesses, and foundations offer scholarships each year. Finding available awards can overwhelm students, but online scholarship databases make it easier. Popular sites that list scholarships include Scholarships.com, Fastweb, and Cappex.
Many colleges offer their own scholarship programs, providing partial or even full tuition coverage. Less selective colleges may offer generous scholarships in order to attract top students. More selective schools also offer scholarships, though students usually face much stronger competition for them.
How Many Merit Scholarships Can I Get?
While students can theoretically earn unlimited scholarships, winning significant merit-based assistance could impact other financial aid offers. Known as financial aid displacement, colleges reduce aid offers to students because of their other scholarships.
Some private scholarship programs work with recipients to reduce financial aid displacement, but not all schools do this. Students should ask college financial aid offices if they practice either full or partial award displacement.
How to Increase Your Chances of Obtaining Merit-Based Scholarships
Students face serious competition when applying for many merit-based scholarships. Planning and preparation helps applicants increase their chances of getting merit-based assistance. Keeping up good grades, doing extracurriculars, targeting the right schools, and staying organized all help students earn scholarships.
Do this for you
Explore your possibilities- find schools with programs you’re interested in and clear a path for your future.