5 Prestigious Merit-Based College Scholarships


In the world of scholarships, students can earn money for a variety of reasons. They may be skilled at sports or have a special talent, or even secure funding based on the color of their hair. There are even scholarships that are awarded to students based on the luck of the draw. But, out of all the scholarships students may be eligible to receive, none may be as rewarding as those based on academic achievement. To some, winning merit-based college scholarships is affirmation that all those long nights of studying and giving up their free time to hit the books was really worth it. It’s definitely something to brag about on college applications and résumés, not to mention the occasional family get together. For those who aren’t afraid of a little competition, there are several scholarships available this fall to those who have excelled in school. Students should be warned, the application process is not easy; but, if they come out on top, the rewards are great. Here are just a few programs that are currently seeking eligible candidates.

1. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation

Each year, thousands of students apply for this prestigious award, but only 2,000 students are named semi-finalists. From those, 250 will be named finalists and must complete a grueling interview process. In the end, 150 students will be recognized as Coca-Cola Scholars and each receive a $20,000 scholarship. The remaining 100 finalists (not named as Scholars) will each be given a $1,000 scholarship. Students must meet the following eligibility requirements to be considered for the award:
  • head of the classCurrent high school senior attending a U.S. school
  • U.S. citizen; U.S. national; U.S. permanent resident; refugee; Asylee; Cuban-Haitian entrant; or humanitarian parolee
  • 3.0 GPA or higher
Students must plan to graduate and pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. college or university. Winners are selected based on their academic achievement, leadership skills, and dedication to service. Applications must be received no later than October 31.

2. Boettcher Scholarship

Graduating Colorado high school seniors may be nominated by their school counselors for this renewable, full-tuition scholarship. A total of 40 students will each receive funding to help cover their tuition, fees, living expenses, and books. Students will also be invited to attend annual events, participate in campus enrichment programs, and have access to additional grants for study abroad or other special learning experiences. To be considered for this competitive scholarship program, students must meet the following minimum requirements: It is also highly recommended that students take the Competitiveness Quiz. In general, scholarship recipients have an average score of 32 or higher (ACT), 1390 or higher (SAT), and rank in the top two to three percent of their classes. Winners are not only selected based on their scholastic ability, but also their leadership and involvement, service to their schools and communities, and their outstanding character. To be considered, students must complete the online application (accessible by invitation only through high school counselors) and submit an official transcript and test scores by mail no later than November 1.

3. Churchill Scholarship

Each year, a minimum of 14 one-year scholarships are awarded to college seniors who plan to pursue either a Master of Philosophy, a Certificate of Post-Graduate Study (limited fields) or a Master of Advanced Study in Mathematics. Study is completed at the University of Cambridge, and students must be between the ages of 19 and 26 while participating in the program. Although an official minimum GPA is not required, past Churchill Scholars have had a GPA of 3.7 and higher. Selection is very competitive, and winners are chosen based not only on their academic achievement within their selected career fields, but also their knowledge of the sciences as evidenced by their awards, prizes, research, and letters of recommendation. The Churchill Scholarship is valued between $45,000 and $50,000, and covers all university fees. A living and travel allowance is also included. Students who attend a participating institution should contact their financial aid office for an application form. Schools may only nominate two students for consideration. The application and all materials must be received by November 11.

smart student4. Guistwhite Scholarship

The Guistwhite Scholarship is awarded to two-year college students who plan to pursue their baccalaureate degree. Up to 20 scholarships valued at $5,000 each are granted annually. To be considered for this merit-based award, students must meet the following eligibility requirements:
  • Be an active member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
  • Be enrolled at a community college
  • Have a minimum of 30 college credits completed in the last five years
  • Be on track to earn a bachelor’s degree
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.5 or higher
  • Expect to transfer to a 4-year college/university in 2015
  • Have a record free of probation, suspension, or other criminal charges
Winners are selected based on their academic achievement, leadership accomplishments, engagement in Phi Theta Kappa programs, and commitment to their colleges and communities. Applications are available beginning October 1 and are due in early December (TBA).

5. Truman Scholarship

This scholarship program was named after former President Truman and provides funding for graduate-level studies. Students must be pursuing a master’s degree in one of the following public service fields: public administration, public health, social work, education, public policy, and international affairs. Upon completion of their degree, students must also agree to commit three years of public service in exchange for the $30,000 scholarship. Students must be nominated by their institution through a Truman Scholarship Faculty Representative. Approximately 600 students are nominated annually, but less than 65 receive funding. Typically, one winner is chosen from each state. To be considered for the award, students must meet the following criteria:
  • Be a full-time junior or senior (3rd year in college)
  • Be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national from a Pacific Island
Although academic achievement is considered, Truman Scholars are selected based on their record of campus and community service, commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, probability of becoming an agent of change, and likely acceptance to graduate school. Financial need is not considered. Applications and supporting documentation must be submitted by February 3.

Other Merit-Based Funding

A few weeks ago, many high school seniors were notified of their selection as National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists. These 16,000 students have some of the highest scores out of more than 1.5 million who took the PSAT/NMSQT® last year. Those who are selected as finalists (February) will compete for a variety of scholarship opportunities, including corporate-sponsored awards and the $2,500 National Merit® Scholarship. There are also 52 colleges that offer full-tuition scholarships to semi-finalists and finalists. Many other schools offer smaller awards to those who are recognized through the National Merit Scholarship Program. It’s true that hard work does pay off, but that does not mean that students with less than perfect academic records should throw in the towel when it comes to scholarships. With thousands of programs available each year, there really is something for everyone.

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